BBC bows to newspaper concerns, delays mobile apps

LONDON (Reuters) - British state broadcaster BBC has delayed launching mobile applications delivering its news and sport free to devices like Apple’s iPhone after newspapers expressed concern about direct competition.

The Newspaper Publishers Association had asked the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, to examine proposals it feared could harm efforts by commercial rivals to succeed with their own mobile offerings.

“It is vital that these proposals are scrutinized properly to avoid any adverse impact on commercial media organizations,” the NPA’s director, David Newell, said on Monday. “We are pleased that the BBC Trust has listened to the industry’s concerns and acted to delay the planned April launch.”

The BBC Trust will now examine the proposals. It did not give any timetable, but the earliest it was likely to discuss the matter is at a meeting late next month.

The BBC, which receives a guaranteed 3.6 billion pounds each year ($5.4 billion) in license fees paid by householders, has come under fierce attack from broadcaster BSkyB and other commercial rivals exposed to a severe advertising slump.

James Murdoch, seen as the heir to his father Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire, has described the broadcaster’s scale and ambitions as “chilling.”

The amount of free content the BBC already makes available online has discouraged many newspapers from attempting to charge readers for content on the Web.

Earlier this month, the BBC signaled a retreat from some commercial operations to focus on core services, bowing to pressure from rivals and ahead of a general election almost certain to result in public spending cuts.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Dan Lalor