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Apple is coming under increasing pressure from European publishers and politicians to rethink plans to force iPad and iPhone digital newspaper subscriptions to be processed through the iTunes store.

The technology giant has contacted newspaper groups informing them that, from 1 April, tablet newspaper applications must offer readers the option to subscribe using the "in-app" iTunes payment mechanism. Until now, papers have been free to direct users to their own site to collect subscriptions revenue.

A question has been tabled in the European Parliament about whether Apple's move is anti-competitive. Ministers in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy have taken a keen interest in the issue.

The European Newspaper Publishers' Association, which represents more than 5,000 national and local titles in 23 European countries, argues that publishers should have the freedom to choose their own payment systems for digital newspaper subscriptions and the possibility to negotiate pricing levels.

ENPA executive director Francine Cunningham told that the group's members were hopeful of finding "an amicable solution with Apple" without taking legal action.

Forcing subscriptions to go through the iTunes store would not only give Apple a 30 per cent commission on all takings, but the ENPA said it would also mean that newspapers would no longer have access to any demographic data about their subscribers.

The group said in a statement: "The business model of newspapers is dependent on publishers and editors knowing their readers. It is essential that this close connection is maintained. Without direct access to their subscribers, this vital bond between newspapers and readers would be broken, to the detriment of both."

Three other trade bodies - the International Newsmedia Marketing Association, the European Online Publishers Association and magazine industry body FIPP - have already spoken out about the plans are planning to meet in London next Thursday to discuss their next move.

Apple has declined to comment on the issue.

Image by Davvyk on WikiHow. Some rights reserved.

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