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Publishers call for BBC iPhone apps to be blocked

NPA says free BBC apps will stifle competition

The Newspaper Publishers Association is calling for the BBC Trust to stop the BBC launching a number of mobile phone apps.

The BBC announced this week it was planning to launch two Apple iPhone apps; one that would allow mobile phone users to watch live coverage of the World Cup on their handset, and one bringing live and on-demand video and audio news stories to mobile phones. The apps are expected to be available by May.

The Corporation also revealed it plans to roll out a version of the apps for BlackBerry and Android-based handsets later this year.

The BBC plans to allow Apple iPhone owners to watch live news and World Cup coverage on their handsets

However, the NPA said that the commercial space for apps would be "distorted" by the BBC's offerings.

"Not for the first time, the BBC is preparing to muscle into a nascent market and trample over the aspirations of commercial news providers," said David Newell, director of the NPA.

Newell said the apps were not, as the BBC claimed, an extension of its existing online service, but an intrusion into a very tightly defined, separate market.

"We strongly urge the BBC Trust to block these damaging plans, which threaten to strangle an important new market for news and information," he added.

The BBC Trust, which regulates the corporation, said it was aware of the plans but they had not been referred for approval.

"The BBC Executive has advised the Trust that it is satisfied that these plans to deliver BBC News, Sport and iPlayer content via smartphone apps fall within the terms of its existing BBC service licence and that the plans do not constitute a significant change to the service."

Newell also said he wanted to bring the the issue to the attention of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as well as MPs on the Media Select Committee.

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