Update: Newspapers force BBC to delay free iPhone downloads

On March 30th I mailed the BBC Trust thusly:

Hello,

I’m reading a Wired Magazine article, specifically the paragraph stating:

“The Trust has today written to the BBC Executive to advise them that we will be carrying out an assessment of their plans to deliver content via dedicated smartphone applications. The Trust’s decision follows representations from the industry.

“This assessment will consider whether or not the plans constitute a significant change to BBC services and will examine the plans in four areas: the extent to which the change is likely to affect users and others; the financial implications of the change; the extent to which the change would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity; and how long the activity will last.”

And also in the Times coverage I noted one of the comments:

j mcclean wrote:
I can personally guarantee that being able to view BBC content, including iplayer, on a smartphone is not a significant change to BBC services. They’ve been giving away iplayer on Ovi for Nokia phones for months now. Nokia sold three times as many smartphones as Apple last year, so creating an iphone app is really no big deal. March 30, 2010 10:26 AM BST

…which I confirmed is true (BBC iPlayer by: BBC)

I would please like to know the timeline and expected completion date for this assessment, because as a license-fee payer – albeit one who watches astonishingly little television, but makes heavy use of analogue radio and iPlayer – I feel very strongly that the BBC’s responsibility is to make its content available to those who have paid for it, as widely as possible and if such technology has been created[1] then I feel it should be released forthwith. I further believe that the availability of the Ovi/Nokia player doubly underlines that the complaint which underlies this holdup is without merit.

So I shall be watching this matter with interest, and I would appreciate learning the Trust’s expected timeline for this assessment.

Yours Sincerely,


Yesterday, I got a response:

Dear Mr Muffett

Thank you for your email to the BBC Trust regarding the BBC Executive’s proposal to launch mobile applications for smartphones. I have noted your support for the launch of the applications.

The Trust takes its responsibilities to licence fee payers and wider industry very seriously, and has a range of options open if it feels that proposals from the Executive warrant further scrutiny. In the case of the iPhone applications, the Trust has decided to undertake an assessment of the potential significance of the proposals, and as you know has asked the BBC Executive to delay launch of the applications pending the outcome of this process.

This assessment will consider whether or not the plans constitute a significant change to BBC services and will examine the plans in four areas: the extent to which the change is likely to affect users and others; the financial implications of the change; the extent to which the change would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity; and how long the activity will last.

If the Trust finds that the applications do not fall under the terms of the existing BBC service licence, they will undergo a more lengthy public value test.

I hope this is helpful in explaining the Trust’s position.

Yours sincerely

[NAME ELIDED BY ALEC]
Correspondence Adviser, BBC Trust Unit

…which I am still considering.

It doesn’t yield any timelines, but I suppose the next thing to do – as always – is to google choice phrases from the above and see if anyone else has received this text, and then consolidate with them to get more feedback…

Ah, crowdsourcing! I love it so…

3 thoughts on “Update: Newspapers force BBC to delay free iPhone downloads

  1. Ben de Mora

    Personally, I see no point in the entire delay, regardless of whether the Nokia smartphones have already had the iPlayer available on it’s Ovi store for some months or not.

    My point is – the BBC’s media content has been delivered for some years now over the internet directly to desktops and laptops via their iPlayer, and there was ne’er an eyebrow raised when that was released for free.

    In fact, it was expected by all that the service would be free, because it is the BBC’s remit to make the content paid for by it’s license holders as available to them as possible. Were the BBC to charge for their desktop app, there probably would have been a significant backlash.

    Now there is suddenly a big point of contention with the free-on-every-other-platform-even-a-set-top-box iPhone app that might be *shocker* free??!!

    Well done on the letter, hopefully it’ll be one of many that the BBC receives in response to this daftness.

    Cheers,

    Ben

    Reply
  2. Stephen Usher

    Ben, the change between a couple of years ago and now is that there’s been a bit of a political backlash, mostly promoted (and created) by the Murdoch clan, which has meant that the BBC are being forced to rein back its services so as not to compete with commercial operations.

    I can see this only getting worse, especially if the Conservatives get into power.

    Reply

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