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Society president hits out at decision on BBC apps

The president of the Scottish Newspaper Society has hit out at a ‘wrong-headed’ decision to allow the BBC to launch smartphone applications for news, sport and iPlayer.

Michael Johnston, who is also Scotland divisional managing director at Johnston Press, made the criticism after the BBC Trust said a Public Value Test was not required before the corporation set up the apps.

He said: “We are disappointed by the Trust’s decision which we think is wrong-headed and represents an unacceptable distortion of the market place.”

The BBC Trust decided to allow the move following an assessment of the plans, despite newspaper organisations raising concerns about the impact on apps by commercial media organisations.

Mr Johnston said The Scotsman, which he is managing director of, had launched its first news app in April without any public subsidy – which had been bought by around 5,000 users so far at £1.79 per quarter.

And the Newspaper Publishers Association was among those lobbying against the introduction of BBC apps because of the potential impact on newspapers.

NPA director David Newell, who is also director of the Newspaper Society, said: “The launch of BBC mobile apps represents a significant change to the BBC Online service and we believe it will have a significant and negative market impact upon the viability of the business models of commercial news organisations in the app market.”

The proposals were approved by the BBC Trust after an assessment which looked at the potential impact, the financial implications, whether it would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity and the duration of the proposed apps.

In response to industry concerns, the Trust concluded there would be some overlap between BBC apps and free apps, but the impacts ‘may not necessarily be large’, particularly as BBC content was currently available to mobile users through their web browsers.

BBC Trustee Diane Coyle, 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.”


Donnacha DeLong (28/07/2010 10:31:33)
The biggest threat to the newspaper industry is not the BBC, but the incompetence of the people who run the big newspaper groups – Johnston Press in particular. You don’t win by shutting down people who might be competition, you win by trying to be better than them. Johnston Press have no idea what that means.

Sly Dig (28/07/2010 12:53:20)
Substitute the word work for market in Michael Johnston’s quote: “Is wrong-headed and represents an unacceptable distortion of the market place,” and you would get the perfect description of what his company has done to many subs desks.

Steve Jobs (28/07/2010 13:12:46)
If Johnston Press had these apps already up and running with quality local journalism, they wouldn’t be worried about the BBC. What happened to the “Newsroom of the Future”?

sub (28/07/2010 15:05:06)
stick to pet shows lad