UK Newspapers Demand BBC iPhone App Be Blocked Because It's Too Competitive

from the artificial-scarcity dept

It's really amazing sometimes to see the entitlement mentality of newspapers -- who for years built business models on the fact that there was a scarcity of news sources out there. Now that they're finally facing real competition, rather than adapt, many seem to whine and ask the government to step in for them. Over in the UK, news publications have long been upset about the BBC, since its funded by the public, and they've been known to complain about competition from the BBC for years. So it's no surprise that they're demanding the BBC's new iPhone app be blocked. They claim that the app "will undermine the commercial sector's ability to establish an economic model in an emerging but potentially important market ... This, over the long term, will reduce members' ability to invest in quality journalism."

Really? So the newspapers are basically admitting they're too clueless to compete in the marketplace? Sure, the BBC is publicly funded, but it's just one publication out there. Certainly newspapers can create their own services that attract an audience that competes with what the BBC is offering (or is focused on areas the BBC won't do). This is basically newspapers admitting they're too lazy to compete. Technically, the newspapers are complaining that this is a "new service" that needs approval, but the BBC correctly points out that all it did was create an app out of its existing web content.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 2:49am

    Wow, how many departments does TechDirt actually have?¡

     

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    Simon Jones, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:18am

    BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

    Anybody that owns a TV, or even a computer or mobile phone capable of playing television shows, in the UK is required to buy a TV license at a cost of £142.50 a year. This provides the BBC with a very strong and consistent revenue with which to invest pretty freely in new media ventures. It doesn't really matter to the BBC if these are successful, they won't make money directly from the products, they've already made the money from everyone in the country regardless of whether they even have an iPhone/internet/next flavour of the month.

    Competitive products from newspapers and other commercial enterprise, however, have the burden of a requirement for profitability. This is where it becomes a problem regarding competition, as if I have already been forced to pay for the BBC's services, why would I choose to pay again for a popular newspaper? Even if the newspaper can make their content free they will have to support it with ads, taking up valuable screen real estate. As the BBC is publicly funded, it CAN'T even run ads against their content, which again provides another competitive advantage.

    So this doesn't boil down to free content as I'm forced to pay for the BBC whether I use it or not. It also is not satisfactory for a newspaper or other media outlet to be competitive, or even provide a slightly better experience. They have to provide something extraordinary to even get a small percentage of people to part with cash for something they've essentially already paid someone else for.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:46am

      Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

      It's naive in the extreme to think that BBC's management are not accountable for their funds. Just because they receive public funding doesn't mean they don't have to be accountable: the opposite is true. Hence BBC pay contracts being open for public consumption, whereas even banks propped up by taxpayer funds don't have to disclose.

      My point is if an initiative loses money they have to stop doing it, or agree to having a more profitable part of the business subsidise it. They can't just create ventures that lose money. They've cleverly re-purposed content and given themselves an enhanced revenue stream. Competing businesses are just suffering sour grapes they didn't do it first.

       

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      ebola, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 4:04am

      Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

      Forced to pay for it?

      I think it SHOULD be part of tax - then we could cut all the dead weight of 'TV Licence Enforcement'

      We don't pay, and we respct the law enough not to stream live on iPlayer.

      Get your facts right FIRST, then try putting an arguement forwards

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 4:56am

        Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

        Why do so many people refer to the TV license as a tax? It is not a tax, it's an enforced subscription. Just because it operates under the false premise of being a public service, that does not make it true.

        The problem with those that like the BBC is they are cheapskates. They want a subsidised subscription at the expense of everyone that doesn't.

         

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          reader rabbit, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:07am

          Re: Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

          "The problem with those that like the BBC is they are cheapskates"

          Funding sources have nothing to do with quality of output as seen by the rest of the world. Fact is, the BBC is one of a few respected sources for international news.

           

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            vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 6:41pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

            "Funding sources have nothing to do with quality of output as seen by the rest of the world. Fact is, the BBC is one of a few respected sources for international news."

            Please clarify, do you believe the perceived quality is a direct result of the source of funding or not?

             

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          vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 6:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

          "Why do so many people refer to the TV license as a tax?"

          Because that's the accurate description? I find it odd that you seem to dislike the BBC yet don't like calling the licence fee a tax. Generally those who support the BBC are the ones who don't like it being called a tax, as witnessed when the House Of Lords argued over the ONS classifying it as a tax in The Blue Book.

          Classifying the licence fee as a tax is one step towards, at the least, making those who collect it accountable for their methods.

           

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        Simon Jones, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:13am

        Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

        "we respct the law enough not to stream live on iPlayer."

        Do you also choose not to stream through 4od (or whatever it's rebranded as), Sky Player, or any other service that streams any TV at the same time that it is broadcast on ANY network whether it's license fee funded or not. Because you still need to pay the license fee.

        OK, so forced is probably the wrong word, nobody's pointing a gun to my head telling me I have to own a telly. But I do want to watch television, I want to own a nice television, this doesn't automatically assume I want to watch the BBC, or that I wouldn't be happier having it as an option on my Sky package. I'm quite prepared to pay for television, I do so to the tune of around £60 a month all in. It's just that it should be my choice whether I pay for a collection of channels, not a legal requirement.

        For the record I would choose to pay for it, I do use BBC news websites and would welcome a shiny free app to do so. But I would equally welcome an environment where there was a level playing field where I could choose to pay for BBC content, or any of several newspapers that I do think are doing an equally good job providing online content.

         

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          vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 6:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

          "For the record I would choose to pay for it"

          You highlight one of the key benefits to scrapping the licence fee. The BBC's unique qualities are not tied to the licence fee but are tied to its charter. They are the sorts of qualities that make open source so popular, that make charities work; they have clear guiding principles anyone can subscribe to. The BBC doesn't have to scrap its charter in a competitive market, really it's the charter that sets it apart from everyone else and that would benefit the market as a whole, if not ensure the BBC's survival.

           

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        vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 6:52pm

        Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

        "I think it SHOULD be part of tax - then we could cut all the dead weight of 'TV Licence Enforcement'"

        Technically it is a tax, it's just not treated like one for purposes such as collection. I choose not to smoke, but taxes on cigarettes are still tax regardless of my ability to avoid paying them by not buying cigarettes. The TV licence is, for all intents and purposes, a tax on TV equipment.

        While I'd be glad to see it treated as a tax for the purposes of collection, I'd be gladder still for it to be scrapped for the same reason that we don't have an internet tax, because it isn't needed.

         

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      Javarod (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:05am

      Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

      I suppose that then begs two obvious questions:

      1) Is the app free? If you're paying for the BBC, then you should get the app free.
      2) Does the BBC have to share the technology? After all, if they're a part of the government funded by the people, then their technology should be open source, no?

       

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        Simon Jones, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:17am

        Re: Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

        The app will undoubtedly be free, I can't be bothered looking for a reference right now, but BBC products are always free so I would stake a large some of money on that.

        The UK doesn't seem to place the same requirement for publicly funded technology to be made open source as I believe the US does. For example our postcode data and Ordnance Survey map data is just not available without paying massive royalty fees.

         

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      vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:48pm

      Re: BBC Users are forced to pay, newspapers have to charge again.

      "So this doesn't boil down to free content as I'm forced to pay for the BBC whether I use it or not."

      Well put, I'm in complete agreement. I'd rather see more analysis on the issue of the BBC licence fee than the death spasms of the newspaper industry.

       

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    bob, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:30am

    I Miss

    On the buses.
    But I'm glad I don't have to pay over $200 to see it.
    I am also happy that most media is ad supported.

     

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    Dav, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:46am

    Lets get rid of RSS and mobile browsing as well...

    I think this sums it up nicely

    "But the BBC tells paidContent:UK the apps don’t need the trust’s clearance, arguing they are not a new service because they merely repackage existing content in a new form"

    I get many of the BBCs online services on my mobile and have done for years.

    All this app does is provide your average apple user with a shiney icon which lets them do what the device coupled with a basic knowledge of how to use it can do already.

    IMHO this app just caters for those apple users who cannot seem to do anything unless it had a specalised app (for instance. "I cant use a calculator at the resturant, I MUST USE MY BILL SPLITTING APP!")

     

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    Planespotter (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 4:12am

    Oh look... the "I hate the BBC" brigade seem to have arrived!

    Forget the BBC, forget iPlayer (which the article isn't about) and re-read it again. The newspapers are unhappy with the fact that app absorbed idiots are going to get a shiny BBC news app that allows them straight access to news compared with having to open Safari and manually browse to the BBC news portal!

    FFS, the sooner this dead beat dinosaur companies fall by the wayside the better.

     

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      vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:55pm

      Re:

      "Oh look... the "I hate the BBC" brigade seem to have arrived!"

      Yes, the NPA are idiots. Unfortunately that isn't really important so people would much rather talk about the actual issue of TV licences. Funny you should mention dinosaurs..

       

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    LM, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 4:16am

    Either the NPA is extraordinarily clueless, or they are attempting to be anti-competitive by sneaky means, i.e. leaning on the BBC trust.

     

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      vivaelamor (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 6:10pm

      Re:

      "Either the NPA is extraordinarily clueless,"

      No need to continue. If they weren't clueless they would recognise that the BBC has overwhelming public support and would concentrate their efforts on showing how beneficial scrapping the licence fee would be to the public. Oh, wait, if you go that far then you'd probably have to admit that the newspaper industry has far more to worry about than the licence fee.

       

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    dwind (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 5:04am

    Thanks for the tip MS. Streisand

    I just down loaded it.

     

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    Nick Mc, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 7:14am

    BBC App

    Thanks for letting me know about this. It's always hard to find out about good new apps!
    So I just downloaded it too.
    BTW there are two versions. One is a free ad supported version. The other is ad-free and costs 0.99

    It's so shiny too....

     

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    mike allen (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 7:35am

    to rhe newspapers

    If you cant take the heat get out of the Kitchen !!!!!!

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 8:00am

    At least they have finally figured out that the internet is a "potentially important market"

    Well, that only took two decades. Good on them.

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 9:14am

    @11

    enforced subscription....
    is nothing less then enforced payment like i dunno
    TAXES...

    once agan we have someone whom thinks they are intelligent by using larger words and long syllables to confound and confuse you to thinking that he/she is intelligent.

    any time you make the populace pay something they have no choice its a tax. END OF STORY.

    put up the paywalls already....

     

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    iPhone apps, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 8:38am

    This is actually fairly astounding. How dare they even consider suing? In the States this might get tossed out as being frivolous, though I have no idea how the system works in the UK. They are acting as if the BBC has no right to compete in THEIR space, when the space is not even theirs. In my opinion, this is bad PR for them, they look foolish, petty and desperate.

     

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