Trust gives go-ahead for launch of BBC iPhone apps

Corporation decides there is no need for public value test for new technology.

The BBC has been given the green light to launch news, sport and iPlayer smartphone applications as the BBC Trust swept aside industry concerns and a call for a further review of the project.

The Trust concluded today that the rollout of BBC apps did not require the scrutiny of a public value test, which figures in the newspaper industry had called for, as they would not represent a significant change to existing services.

The ruling said that apps were now likely to become a permanent addition to the BBC's suite of digital output. The first of the new apps is expected to be made available today.

The decision follows an edict passed down by the Trust in May ordering BBC executives to delay the planned April launch of apps for the Apple iPhone and other devices so that it could conduct an assessment of the proposals.

The BBC Trust concluded today that the apps launch was likely to have a "positive impact" for users as it would provide easier access to existing content.

Newspaper publishers have been racing to launch free and paid-for smartphone apps in the hope they will provide as yet untapped sources of revenue and connection to larger digital audiences.

The Trust said today the apps were likely to create "some overlap" with those free apps provide by commercial news organisations but the impact would not be large as BBC News was already available, in other forms, on smartphones.

The degree of overlap with premium or paid apps in the commercial sector was also expected to be low, the trust said.

In addition, the Trust ruled that the financial implications of the launch were low as the estimated cost of developing apps was less than one per cent of the current online budget.

Diane Coyle, the BBC Trustee who led the review, said: "The apps market is rapidly taking off as more people choose to get their news, sport and other online content while they're on the move.

"The Trust has a duty to represent the interests of licence fee payers, who will increasingly expect to access BBC content in this way, but also to listen to concerns raised by industry.

"In this case we have concluded that while the apps market is developing quickly, and we will monitor the launch of BBC apps, a public value test is not required."

The Newspaper Publishers Association had called on the BBC Trust to block the introduction of smartphone applications, saying free news and sport apps would damage the burgeoning commercial market for news applications on mobile devices.

Oliver Luft writes for pressgazette.co.uk