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The BBC Trust has concluded that plans to launch dedicated BBC smartphone applications (Apps), for BBC News, Sport and iPlayer, do not require further scrutiny through a Public Value Test (PVT).
The decision follows an assessment of the proposals, including the commissioning of independent research into the Apps market. The Trust decided to carry out an assessment of the plans following representations received from the industry earlier this year.
The Trust's assessment looked at the BBC's plans in four areas: the potential impact of the proposed Apps, the financial implications, whether Apps would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity, and the duration of the proposed Apps.
On impact, that BBC Apps were likely have a positive impact on users by providing easier access to online content, but would not provide any new content. In response to industry concerns, the Trust also considered that that there would be some overlap between the BBC Apps and free Apps, but that impacts may not necessarily be large; particularly as BBC content was currently available to mobile users through their phone's web browser, that a wide range of high-quality free Apps are already available and that users may choose to access a range of Apps and online content. The degree of overlap with premium or paid Apps was also expected to be lower.
On financial implications, that these were low and not significant. The estimated cost of developing Apps is less than 1% of the current BBC Online budget – substantially less than the 10% threshold at which specific Trust approval and a change to the BBC Online service licence may be required.
On novelty, that the BBC has previously offered web applications on mobile phones, and the Trust did not consider smartphone Apps to be a new area of activity for the BBC.
On duration, that the proposed Apps would in principle be unlimited once launched, meaning that they would be a permanent addition to output.
Considering these factors together Trustees concluded that the Apps would not represent a significant change to the BBC's existing Public Services and that a Public Value Test is therefore not required. The Trust also expects the BBC to make its Apps available on other operating systems as soon as possible on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
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. In this case we have concluded that while the Apps market is developing quickly and we will monitor the launch of BBC Apps, a PVT is not required."
The Trust's final decision, and independent research by Mediatique, can be found here.