The Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the national press, has today called on the BBC not to "strangle" the important and developing market for news apps on mobile devices by launching its own iPhone services.
The members of the NPA claim that the launch of free BBC news and sport apps, announced this week, will undermine the commercial sector’s ability to establish an economic model in an emerging but potentially important market - and will reduce members’ ability to invest in quality journalism.
The NPA will raise its concerns with the BBC Trust, the DCMS and the Media Select Committee. It will ask the BBC Trust to block the launch, and argue that any BBC iPhone apps would constitute not an extension of an existing service but an entirely new service in a particular market, and should therefore be subject to a Public Value Test.
Newspapers argue that the BBC's existing online presence is a key obstacle to the development of sustainable advertising and paid-for models for online content provision. The emergence of news apps on mobile devices represents a potentially significant opportunity for news organisations as they look to establish new digital models, the NPA says.
David Newell, director of the NPA, said: “Not for the first time, the BBC is preparing to muscle into a nascent market and trample over the aspirations of commercial news providers.
“At a time when the BBC is facing unprecedented levels of criticism over its expansion, and when the wider industry is investing in new models, 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.
“The impact of the BBC’s existing online presence is well known. However, this is a very different and particular case. 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. This is not, as the BBC argues, an extension of its existing online service, but an intrusion into a very tightly defined, separate market.
“The development of apps for a niche market does not sit comfortably with the BBC’s mission to broadcast its content to a wide, general audience. In other words, this is not about reach, and we believe the BBC’s efforts - and the considerable investment - would be better directed elsewhere.
“We strongly urge the BBC Trust to block these damaging plans, which threaten to strangle an important new market for news and information.”
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
You can contact me with stories, ideas and comments by email at email@example.com You can also follow me on Twitter @jonslattery