BBC Licence Fee to be extended to catch up services?
While most of us still quite like the BBC, the days when the Beeb was the most dominant broadcaster in the country are now gone- even despite the might of BskyB, we are more likely to be a nation of Daves these days. Nevertheless, we are all required by law to cough up £145.50 a year for the privilege of having the BBC, even if we don’t watch it.
Savvy viewers among us know that under the current TV licensing rules, last updated in 2004, provided you never watch live TV, you don’t need a licence. Note that this applies to watching any live TV, not just BBC content. Also, TV that is recorded and watched later (eg Sky+ or TiVo) counts as live, even if you don’t watch it for two months. Therefore you only escape the licence fee if you exclusively watch iPlayer/4OD type content.
However, this may be about to change. Despite previously insisting they were completely not bovvered by the catch up watchers as most viewers still watch live TV and therefore cough up the £145.50, the BBC's director general has now commented that it is “worth considering” revised licencing rulesto close the ‘loophole’.
The BBC has previously said it had no plans to alter the licence fee arrangement. But in an interview with the Daily Mirror, DG Tony Hall said: "I think the Licence Fee has plenty of life left. But it has always moved with the times, whether it be scrapping the old radio licence or introducing a new colour licence. It could be modernised again – so it applies to watching BBC programmes both live and on iPlayer. This is for the Government to decide, but worth considering."
Currently fewer than 2% of households only watch on-demand telly, around half a million viewers, and the BBC admit "this is growing only slowly". Nevertheless, it’s been over ten years since the rules were last updated, and with technology moving apace, with most TVs now capable of streaming iPlayer style content, the BBC are probably already counting the extra cash. Half a million more licence fees would be a nice little earner.