The BBC iPlayer loophole will be closed as soon as possible, the UK government has declared.
The current TV Licence fee includes the watching of TV live, whether through a traditional television signal or via the Internet, but the legislation, which was written years before the advent of VOD, does not cover the use of catch-up TV services. That means those who use BBC iPlayer to watch things after they have been broadcast do not require a TV Licence.
However, that loophole is about to be closed. Last year, the government and the BBC reached a controversial new agreement that would see the corporation charged with covering the cost of providing free licences for over-75s. While this cost weighs heavily on the Beeb’s coffers, though, the government promised in exchange to update the TV Licence to reflect modern viewing behaviour.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: “I will be bringing forward, as soon as practicable, secondary legislation which will extend the current TV licensing regime not only to cover those watching the BBC live, but also those watching the BBC on catch-up through the iPlayer.
“When the licence fee was invented, video on demand did not exist. And while the definition of television in the legislation covers live streaming, it does not require viewers to have a licence if they watch BBC programmes through the iPlayer even if it is just a few minutes after transmission. The BBC works on the basis that all who watch it pay for it. Giving a free ride to those who enjoy Sherlock or Bake Off an hour, a day or a week after they are broadcast was never intended and is wrong.”
Whittingdale said legislation still has to be drafted and approved for the change, but that it could be done as soon as the end of the current parliamentary session, which ends in July.
“We are happy to have reached an agreement with the Secretary of State on how to close the iPlayer loophole,” a spokesperson for the BBC said. “Its swift closure will help give the BBC funding certain