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paidContent - BBC Hovers On iPhone Apps Due To Apple Terms

This story was written by Robert Andrews.


While Apple’s iPhone App Store has clocked up a billion downloads and revolutionised the delivery of mobile services in its first year, one notable absentee on the store has been the BBC. While BBC Worldwide debuted Radio Times and Lonely Planet apps, and Livestation is distribution a BBC World News app, the public service broadcaster is still missing.

paidContent:UK understands this is due to BBC anxieties over Apple’s terms and conditions - in particular, a concern that it would be left open to “unlimited liability”. The corporation is nervous that this would compel it to set aside a large amount of money in case of actions arising from this liability, according to a source - a difficult pill to swallow in these belt-tightening times.  Auntie is now negotiating with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) for an agreement that would mean a smaller financial commitment for it, another source says.

Apple takes a 30 percent commission on any commercial apps, even if the user’s payment bounces, and commands it keeps the commission even if a user has their purchase refunded. But it’s certain any UK BBC apps would be free to end users, so it’s unclear exactly what the concerns are - and Apple’s terms haven’t proved a barrier to the dozens of other news organisations that have also launched apps.

Apple’s iPhone terms pass to developers liability for “any and all claims, suits, liabilities, losses, damages, costs and expenses arising from or attributable to the licensed applications”.

A net result of the BBC’s absence has been the appearance of unofficial apps, like those from developer Relaxaler, who repackages BBC News and Sport feeds in apps costing 1.79 a time.

BBC material already comprises a sizeable proportion of iTunes’ podcast chart and could be a big hit in app form. Interviewed by paidContent:UK in February, former BBC mobile controller Richard Titus said BBC apps were a “not yet”: People youd never think were geek people are doing this now (downloading apps). My goal is to have BBC content everywhere our audience is, and I do think widgets are one of the best ways to do that.

A BBC spokesperson told paidContent:UK: “We want to make it simple for people to enjoy and interact with our content, wherever they are, and mobile app stores are an exciting opportunity for the BBC. We’re weighing up our options and, while we are always talking with partners across the technology business, those discussions are confidential and commercially sensitive, so we can’t comment any further.”

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By Robert Andrews
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