The Government announced this week that it would close the BBC iPlayer TV license “loophole.” It would mean everyone would need a TV license, but what would that mean for families?
At the moment, the TV license is a legal requirement in the United Kingdom for anyone who watches live television. This can mean from a TV set or streaming from a laptop. Watching on playback, even if it is just a minute after airing, does not require the person to get the license. Many have used this legal “loophole,” meaning the BBC is missing out on £145.50 per person/family a year opting for this.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale says that the license fee was brought in when viewing on demand was not available. As technology has changed, the laws need to, too. He says free viewing must come to an end, especially because the BBC is now struggling. The change to the law will come as soon as is possibly, and could be within the current Parliamentary term.
Changing the TV license law has been met with an outcry from families and individuals, who say the TV license is draconian. However, not all catchup TV will be included in the new law. Only those watching BBC iPlayer will need to buy the license. Anyone watching 4oD, STV player or other on demand services will be allowed to watch for free. There are advertisements on the site that pay for these.
For families, this could change aspects of TV viewing. It is the first time there will be a different between the BBC and other networks. Before now, despite other networks not getting anything from the license fee, all those who watch or record live TV had had to pay the fee. With the introduction of a fee for only those who watch iPlayer, it could lead to a subscription-only service for the BBC, which some people have called for after this announcement.
Families will still be able to use “smart” set-top boxes that allow watching TV through the internet. People can watch on demand through their TV screens and not pay the TV license. However, watching or recording live TV will still require the license. People can also buy devices like the Amazon Fire Stick to watch on demand services that way.
Watching DVDs and Blu-Rays will remain legal without the use of a TV license. Likewise, watching downloaded programs will be free to do through the set or a device.
There are claims that this will lead to more illegally downloaded programs. Many people no longer agree with the TV license, especially since BBC programming is reportedly not what it once was. Families complain there are too many reality shows and not enough worthy drama being created with the current licensing budget. If they have to pay the fee, they want to see better programming being created. The BBC claims that people watching iPlayer for free has meant its budget has decreased considerably over the years.
It is unclear how the new TV licensing law will be monitored and policed. Many suspect that people will need to create an iPlayer account and use their TV licensing number to access the programming. Others say that an address will need to be given, as that is used for currently policing the license.
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