BBC spends near £100,000 of public cash on Apple app

Remember when Aunty Beeb got a scoop on the government spending heaps of dosh on iPhone apps, one for the DVLA and one for the Job Centre? Tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones sarcastically and boldly asked on the website: “Is this really a great use of scarce government cash?”

This week’s Private Eye reveals that Aunty had a team of about 30 working on its own iPhone applications and has spent close to £100,000. But it was scrapped due to cost concerns and trying to save on budget. Just a couple of days after delivery vans left the printing press to distribute the mag across the country the BBC has announced that it has green lighted its own apps at the cost of the licence payer, i.e. the public, i.e. you.

There are more versions to come, with Blackberry and Android flavours on the way. Of course, the Jobsian walled garden is top priority and those apps are going live first this afternoon. There will be apps for BBC Sport and the iPlayer as well.

What’s interesting is that the Beeb has said these are third party apps and hasn’t said who’s built them. So, it’s commissioning expensive smartphone apps for the minority percentage of licence payers who own iPhones, with absolutely no transparency. It’s not answering anyone’s questions. We’ve got in touch with the Beeb which promised us an official line but so far we’ve heard nothing back.

TechEye wonders if it’s built by the same geeks who have built the for-profit, advertising based BBC iPad app which is available already in the United States. It claimed in just April this year that the apps won’t be launching in the UK.

Director of BBC Media and Technology Erik Huggers said from his bog: “We know that increasing numbers of you want to access BBC output on-the-go and the rapid growth of internet-connected mobiles and smartphones in the market means we can cost effectively provide our content and services on these devices, and this is a really important way for us to deliver online services in the future.” Because of course, the BBC doesn’t have a mobile website or anything already 

*Update – A BBC spokesperson got in touch with us on the topic of BBC hypocrisy regarding its coverage of the DVLA and Job Centre apps. She said: “Alongside covering decisions made by the Government and other organisations, BBC journalism does of course cover decisions made by the BBC management and the BBC Trust.

“Government spending on phone apps is a legitimate topic for BBC journalism, just as it is legitimate for Tech Eye to scrutinise the BBC over its News app. We know there is demand from the public for a BBC News application – the government can answer for itself over whether the range of applications it has produced have been popular or useful to the public.”