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BBC’s plan for mobile news apps heavily criticised

The BBC’s plans to launch mobile phone applications for its news and sports content have come under intense criticism from The Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA).

Erik Huggers, BBC’s head of future media and technology, announced the planned launch at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, telling delegates:

License fee payers are increasingly using sophisticated devices to access information. They tell us that they want to access the digital services that they have paid for at a time and place that suits them.

The NPA have urged the BBC Trust to block the release of the applications, believing that the move would damage the upcoming market for paid-for news applications on mobile devices.

Today, David Newell, director of the NPA said that “the market for iPhone news apps is a unique and narrow commercial space,  which means that the potential for market distortion by the BBC is much greater”.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Corporation plans to launch services that would throw into serious doubt the commercial sector’s ability to make a return on its investment and therefore its ability to support quality journalism,” he said.

The NPA said it would also raise this issue with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Media Select Committee.

The initial plan is to launch the apps on the iPhone, but the BBC has said it eventually wants to operate across rival platforms such as Google’s Android and RIM’s BlackBerry.

A news app is expected to be launched in April, followed by a sports app released in time for the upcoming World Cup, allowing users to watch games live on their phone.

There is also a plan to launch an app for the catch-up service iPlayer later this year.

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