The reasoning behind Apple’s decision to announce the UK pricing of its iPod battery replacement scheme following two months of obfuscation became a little clearer last night, when battery problems in the music players were investigated by a BBC TV programme.

UK consumer advocate show Watchdog took Apple to task over battery life.

“If you bought your iPod before May last year, the built-in battery was supposed to last for up to 12 hours without the need for recharging. But the owners of many of these older models [have found that] the music has been fading a lot more quickly,” Watchdog reported.

It put forward multiple cases in which internal iPod batteries had failed, sometimes within a year, leaving music lovers disappointed and frustrated by their ‘Apple experience’.

Answering its US critics - but not before a class action had begun – the firm has agreed to give as many as 1.3 million owners of iPods acquired before May 2004 financial compensation or free replacement batteries.

The compensation has been offered to US iPod owners whose music players’ batteries failed to hold a charge.

Citing this as partial evidence that iPods have a problem, Watchdog asked why Apple has not extended the courtesy to iPod owners outside the US.

Apple yesterday revealed that Europe - and particularly the UK - are two of its most critical growth areas.

Watchdog also observed that Apple has failed to acknowledge that this problem exists. “Apple say they’ve sold more than 21 million iPods and that battery issues have affected very few,” the report noted.

“They also tell us that all iPods come with a one-year guarantee and if it’s out of warranty you can buy a replacement battery from £49.”

Watchdog, a prime-time programme, may have picked a good moment to broadcast criticism of the company - Apple CEO Steve Jobs is presently in Europe.

Macworld has been pursuing Apple for two months in order to acquire a definitive response as to the price of iPod replacement batteries.

Many consumers consider Apple’s attitude toward them to be somewhat cavalier, following multiple global reports indicating battery disappointment.

Jobs yesterday revealed Apple’s competitors want to “kill” the company. Sony is one such competitor - and it’s taking the battery battle up against Apple.

Sony will ship its new Walkman range of hard-drive- and flash-based music players in November in the UK. The flash-based versions of these devices offer up to 50 hours’ playback.