BBC Tries ‘Dollar-A-Week’ Radio Mobile App In U.S.

The public-service BBC’s app plans may be on hold in its native UK until its regulating body checks for anti-competitive effects – but, outside of Blighty, the profit-seeking BBC Worldwide wing is pressing ahead with its latest mobile download.

The BBC’s boldest step yet in to chargeable content, BBC Listener is a radio app offering over 20 documentary, magazine and discussion shows on-demand, plus access to archive programmes from the last decade.

Here’s the bold bit – after the $2.99 download fee, BBC Listener uses iPhone OS 3.0’s in-app subscription feature, requiring uses pay $12.99 per quarter for continued access.

There’s potentially a decent U.S. market of public radio afficionados keen for serious news and analysis, and forms part of BBC Worldwide’s big U.S. push. Most of the shows are from BBC Radio 4 – the intellectual station that some Americans I know cite as the world’s only credible objective news source of any scale.

But BBC Listener may not be all that good value – many of the shows contained within are available as free downloadable podcasts, as well as for web playback, no matter where in the world listeners are. For example, here’s BBC World New America reporter Matt Frei’s Americana show, all 51 episodes of it.

Maybe some users will be happy to pay to have all this wrapped inside a single app, but there’s another stumbling block – NPR in the States does at least as good a job at radio news and documentary, and all its apps, like its podcasts, are free.