The ABC, which is currently using an outside company to develop iPad and iPhone applications that will deliver news, sporting information and information on ABC programs, is still refusing to acknowledge that as a Federal Government-funded organisation, it could take business away from commercial organisations.
Yesterday in the UK, the BBC, with whom the ABC has a close relationship, bowed to pressure from the newspaper industry and agreed to assess whether its plans to launch free iPhone and iPad applications would damage commercial rivals. In Australia, the ABC has been accused by commercial media organisations of “trying to disrupt the commercial landscape by building empires with public funds.”
An ABC source told Smarthouse that the ABC “has every intention of delivering content to both Apple iPhones and iPads as well as Google Android based devices”.
According to The Times, the BBC planned to launch the smartphone services, including news and football World Cup coverage and the iPlayer catch-up service, in April. However, the BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, said that it had ordered executives to postpone the plans.
Fairfax Media CEO, Brian McCarthy’s criticism of the ABC Open initiative, which was announced by Mark Scott late last year at the Media 140 Conference, involves the ABC delivering content online and in the future to a multitude of devices.
McCarthy claimed that the ABC venture would force newspaper closures in Australia. McCarthy said the ABC Open network “threatens to undermine the viability of the excellent service commercial media organisations such as Fairfax Media and Rural Press have provided to regional and rural Australia for decades”.
The BBC Trust said in a statement yesterday: “The Trust has today written to the BBC executives to advise them that we will be carrying out an assessment of their plans to deliver content via dedicated smartphone applications. The Trust’s decision follows representations from the industry.
“This assessment will consider whether or not the plans constitute a significant change to BBC services and will examine the plans in four areas: the extent to which the change is likely to affect users and others; the financial implications of the change; the extent to which the change would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity; and how long the activity will last.”
The Trust previously had waved the proposals through, on the ground that executives had told the internal regulator that the applications did not “constitute a significant change” to the broadcaster’s services.
The ABC did not return our calls on this issue.