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BBC Hovers On iPhone Apps Due To Apple Terms

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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”:

6 Responses to “BBC Hovers On iPhone Apps Due To Apple Terms”

  1. The Phazer

    "BBC News is open source, paid-for (at least in the UK) by the TV Licence."

    No it isn't, and lots of material the BBC shows isn't even it's copyright, which is why iPlayer programmes aren't freely downloadable for example. Or many of the stills on the BBC News website might be available to a "proper BBC app for offline reading but not available to a third party app that just takes the RSS feeds (which aren't full text anyway, again probably for rights reasons).

    There are plenty of reasons for the BBC to want to do an app. I'd love to see a BBC iPhone version of the Chris Moyles visualisation widget for example, and given Apple won't licence out Fairplay or allow Adobe AIR, an app is the only plausible way the iPhone would get iPlayer downloads any time soon (even then the SDK might make it tricky, but possible).

  2. Anonymous

    Actually you're all wrong. The part of the iPhone license the BBC objects to is that they have to give Apple unlimited rights to use their logo and brand in any way they see fit. That's fine and free PR for johnny appmaker ltd, but the lawyered up BBC will never agree to it.

  3. Lex wrote: "Apple’s terms sound typically tyrannical, though! "

    Your argument, I feel, lost a good chunk of its credibility when you throw up an unsubstantiated (by you) final snide comment as such.

    I would have preferred that you had taken a bit of trouble to point out exactly how Apple's policy stated in the above article was tyrannical.

    Would you happen to know the context or the background model of the developer fees before Apple came out and offered it's 'revolutionary' developer deal for the App Store platform? Where it was not unheard of if not the norm to charge in excess of 50% by the carriers alone and leave the rest between the mobile platforms and the developers to figure who gets the bigger crumbs.

    Apple will host your App, will pay for the server and connection and also pay for your transaction fees, all for a set percentage fee, if not free if your software is free. Only thing it is asking is, if you charge, it gets 30% of it, which is, apparently, more than reasonable to most developers out there as they have experienced far worse in the past. Now Apple would like to keep the 30% handling and processing charge even if the consumer didn't feel the particular App lived up to its billings and would rather a refund. That's the problem or the failure of the App maker, not Apple's delivery system. Why would Apple be liable to pay for the hosting, servicing and transaction fees when it had to cough that up regardless of the final outcome? Just because the consumer was refunded the money doesn't mean Apple gets refunded the utilities bill, the transaction fees etc. The App maker/programmer doesn't stand to lose a physical product, just a lost sale. Apple will stand to be the only loser in that case for somebody's else mistake.

    Continuing on that, the other clichéic, misinformed and thereby misused adjective employed by you in a negative connotation regarding Apple, was 'typical.' I feel, there is hardly anything typical about this fine innovative company of the our generation, other than its brilliance maybe, and of course the 'typical' reactions of the jealous shills and the ill-informed it's-oh-so-geek-du-jour-to-bash-the-company-with-a-fruity-logo forum cowboys.

    Why can't we have snide comments that are also logically progressed and deserving for the recipients?
    Oh right!

  4. James R

    While the BBC thrives its UK competitors continue to come under increasing pressure, and as such the BBC has to walk a fine line between continuing to exploite its content for commercial purposes (outside the UK) with managing the preception that it has an unfair advantage as its commerical success is fueled by tax payers money.

    Lex – agree with you to a point. The BBC should be getting compensated for revenues made through 3rd party apps, however control of brand and sensitivities realted to public perception make this a tougher decision. However, 'ulimited liability' when you're dealing with tax payers money makes the other side of the coin problematic also.

  5. Lex makes agood point by saying that "it needs to be careful of its impact on this thriving new commercial environment".

    If I remember correctly, the BBC had to close down large portions of its online service because it was replicating (and stifling) commercial competitors. In terms of preserving the license fee, the BBC always has to be careful not to become too powerful.

    Article about closing of some BBC web properties:

  6. BBC News is open source, paid-for (at least in the UK) by the TV Licence. So if third parties are providing free and paid-for apps, is there any need for the BBC to produce its own, provided it receives appropriate attribution for its content?

    I'm normally a supporter of the BBC's online activities, but part of its remit is to encourage innovation and open access. In this case, it's such a dominant force that it would probably stifle both by producing its own applications.

    There may well be areas outside of news where the BBC can innovate on the iPhone or other app platforms, but it needs to be careful of its impact on this thriving new commercial environment.

    Apple's terms sound typically tyrannical, though!