back to article BBC iPlayer to require TV licence

Watching BBC iPlayer may soon be illegal if you do not possess a TV licence if proposals under consideration by the government become law. As it stands, any UK resident viewing a live broadcast - be that on their TV, games console, mobile phone or fondleslab - must pay the annual licence fee of £145.50. But it is not necessary …

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BOOOOOO!

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There are really people who don't own TV's?

Really? Bring on the down thumbs - of course they should pay. You can't get Virgin's catch up without a subscription, nor Sky's.

Or...the beeb could just launch an ad supported version, which thank Odin I wouldn't have to put up with as I pay my dues. I'm sure AdamW would just love a few extra haircare ads as a restful break in his viewing.

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I own a TV connected to a pc, but only watch programs on iplayer (not live) I have never felt the £145 to be good value due to the endless repeats.

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Anonymous Coward

... I can't not pay for license because for one reason or another my household watches broadcast TV, in that sense I don't see why my license fee money should support these non-paying viewers, who are essentially watching the content the license payers are funding. Non paying catch-up viewers are nothing short of 'TV benefit spongers' when painted in that light.

This has too many similiarities with the Music Biz hanging on to it's outdated distribution model and pricing and the war on piracy, the BBC (and other TV broadcasters) need to start thinking of different pricing and distribution methods. Either throw in advertising and ditch the license fee or offer a reduced fee for watching catch-up services.

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I do not own a TV and I do think that iPlayer should require a TV licence for TV

With my conspiracy hat on, I thought iPlayer was softening us up for a BBC tax on the internet, eventually "but I don't watch iPlayer" cutting about as much ice as "I only watch ITV"

Requiring registration, using a TV licence number*, for TV streaming/catch-up would weaken the case for technology bias and DRM. While we all know get_iplayer works it's not supposed to work.

While I would be willing to buy a radio licence, there isn't one. I wouldn't be too pleased to discover that I lost the right to catch-up on radio.

*though would it cover roaming when not running off a battery, as the TV licence doesn't but people don't tend to carry a TV around with them.

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@AdamW

I didn't say I had a problem with you watching the TV service I pay for for free per se. Simply that you should be subjected to advertisements. What's the problem?

I'm amazed at your response quite frankly - you're saying you feel it's OK to not pay, because you only like certain bits. I'm assuming when you get liquorice allsorts from Sainsbury's you refuse to pay on the grounds you are not going to eat the blue ones or something?

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So AdamW

You're more than happy to watch BBC programming, but expect everyone else to pay for it.

If more folk paid, maybe there would be less repeats... Content isn't free to make Ya'know.

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WTF?

So you only watch repeats by choice, but you don't think you should pay towards that?

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Facepalm

Yes there are...

I don't own a TV. I don't have a need to. I will happily support a pay-as-you-watch TV licence that tops out at the annual maximum on those rare occasions that I simply *have* to watch a BBC programme on iPlayer (not live, of course). Ad-supported is also perfectly acceptable, but unfortunately the BBC is not *allowed to*.

Sadly, knowing UK TV Licencing, Channel 4, ITV, Five and all the other commercial channels will be lumped into the same legislation even though they don't get a penny of the licencing fee.

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Anonymous Coward

"I don't see why my license fee money should support these non-paying viewers, who are essentially watching the content the license payers are funding."

The license fee is required to *receive or record live TV services*. That's ANY live TV services, regardless of medium. That's literally all there is to it. It just so happens that the BBC gets the money.

As catch up services are not live TV in any sense of the word, the license is not required.

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Anonymous Coward

Only a matter of time

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of a license fee, if we have one it seems only fair that you need one to watch catchup services as well.

Isn't there already something about having a computer or a smartphone capable of receiving the 'live' BBC iPlayer streams needing a license, or was that just all BS?

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You need a license if you receive broadcasts, not if you are merely capable of receiving them. The equipment does not require a license.

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Anonymous Coward

Incorrect

Actually licencing does say that if you have equipment with the capability of receiving television signals then you need a licence, irrespective of whether you actually use it.

In the old days if you had a B&W TV and a video recorder you needed a colour licence as the video received and used colour, even though you could only see B&W.

There is an interesting loophole as items which are battery powered do not require a licence. :)

Most licence avoidance detection is done by looking for prenises which dont have a licence registered. By law, retailers have to give licencing your name and address when you purchase equipment capable of receiving TV signals.

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Anonymous Coward

Sir, you are quite wrong. From the TV licensing website - "You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it's being broadcast". Thanks.

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Stop

Sneaky...

"By law, retailers have to give licencing your name and address when you purchase equipment capable of receiving TV signals."

Bought a new TV from Comet (I needed one quickly!!) got a letter from TV Licensing within 2 days basically saying "pay us £140 now, or we'll fine you £3000"

How do they know i didnt just buy it to play Xbox on?

F*ckers

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Facepalm

Which is why another law to cover iPlayer is stupid

The law is a hammer. The requirement to license live TV broadcasts is the nut.

You do the math.

It is rather irritating.

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What a Jeremy Hunt!

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Meh

Surprised it's taken so long

Going to be interesting to see how they plan to police it though

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Anonymous Coward

They'll do it the same way they do for TV, they will send round the TV Dectector van with it's bod in the back who's pointing a parabolic microphone at your home, if they can hear a TV broadcast and your not on their database, goodbye telly, hello £1000 fine (or is it £3000, I can't remember).

Although you'd have to ask the more technical bods that frequent El Reg on whether a parabolic can be defeated by a pair of headphones?

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@Anonymous Coward

They will need a better detection method as there are plenty of reasons you would hear TV coming out of a house that is not on the database. Like people who are using netflixs, love film or any of the other streaming services will make it sound like you are watching TV, when you are not anything broadcast. Unless even using these services needs a licence as well, which I would never support.

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Anonymous Coward

They probably listen to the the microphone audio while flicking through the channels on the telly in the van.

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@AC

That works fine for detection of people watching live TV, who should be paying. It does nothing about non-live TV as you could be watching anything. Which was the original point of the post above...

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Anonymous Coward

@ph0b0s

That's my point though, they use the dectector vans for basic snooping, anything they aren't sure of when comapring it to their non-registered address database they will just knock on your door and ask to look around, you can obviously refuse, but that means they can then go to the police apply for a warrant to gain access to the premises if they think it's worth it.

All in all though their policing of the whole system is very basic and still largely relies on the parabolic, database and doorstep enquiries/premises visits.

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Meh

Account

Can't they just set up some kind of user account tied to your TV licence. Want to watch iPlayer? You need to log in.

No law changes necessary.

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YP
Meh

hmmmm

This will be great if I can now watch BBC programs whilst working abroad, after all i pay the bloody license fee why I can't I watch it on a computer when abroad?

It will suck big time if they don't do that and also remove access to radio.

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Happy

You mean like anyone who has a Linux box at home and knows their way around SSH tunnels can? ;-)

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Sounds fair enough to me and potentially far easier to police than any other method of watching BBC content.

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And yet...

I can happily listen to BBC radio without a license... doesn't make a lot of sense

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No such thing as a Radio Licence though, in the sense of a TV Licence.

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Difficult one

I dislike the compulsory part, but Aunty produces some of the best Telly in the world (though DeadEnders is on the low end of the scale)

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Does that mean.....

they will be obliged to make the sodding thing work properly?

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How will they catch people?

It's difficult to see who is the "criminal" here. If I was suitably fondled-up and lent my slab to "a friend" who happened not to have a TV licence, am I at fault? If so, then by extension does that mean the friend wouldn't be allowed round to my house to watch my TV, too? If it's their fault, then any licence-less passer-by who happens to look over the shoulder of a slab-watcher becomes a crim? Or (worse) does the mere act of owning a mobile-content capable device, but no TV licence, now make you a suspect - irrespective of if you ever wanted to watch mobile TV.

Either way, given that a lot of iplayer content is watched on the hoof, will we have to have iplayer-police stationed on every street corner, checking the credentials of anyone who happens to be staring at their mobile device while going about their business.

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Pint

So. where can I sign-up?

I'd probably pay ~$250 a year if I could watch all the BBC TV shows over the Interweb here in Canada. Maybe.

Then again, maybe I'll investigate those proxy services.

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Jeeze

Canadian TV must be really bad!

or have you not seen the exchange rates lately?

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Pay per view?

Or charge for bundles (e.g. an entire season / series) or content type (e.g. sport)?

I do not have a TV, and watch the occasional program via iPlayer catch-up. If I had to pay £145 per year for the privilege, I would not bother - I wouldn't miss it sufficiently to pay that.

However, if I could pay £10 for a selection of BBC comedy, I'd be tempted - even though, of course, some of that figure would need to go towards subsidising less popular programs.

However, it would need to be on a log-in basis, rather than charging everyone who has an Internet connection, for that way lies madness.

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Obvious Solution...

...scrap the Licence Fee altogether, and just fund the BBC out of general taxation. Save paying Crapita a fortune for chasing and criminalising (mostly) single mums.

Or, as has also been suggested, have a login tied to your licence (which also solves the watching from abroad problem).

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That would be my preferred solution.

The TV licence is a ridiculous anachronism from the days when few people owned a TV, those who did were generally wealthy, and the BBC was the only station - it made sense for the viewers to pay.

A flat rate tax on owning a TV is no longer fair. It is generally the better off who benefit more from it (they are more likely to have more TVs, bigger TVs, internet access) whereas the poorest pensioners quite often have one crap telly and no computer. But it is the pensioner who gets fined if they don't buy a licence, did you ever here of anyone getting fined because they have 5 TVs on one licence? Just as much against the law.

When you have a public facility which almost everyone in the country uses, the fairest and most efficient system is to pay for it out of general taxation.

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FAIL

> did you ever here of anyone getting fined because they have 5 TVs on one licence?

Nope! That's because the licence "... covers the installation and use of TV receivers at the premises specified on the licence." (according to www.tvlicencing.co.uk)

Don't disgree with the Beeb being funded out of general taxation, except those pesky MP would want to interfere even more

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Anonymous Coward

No outrage in that

Getting rid of the licence fee would make it harder for governments of all hues to ritually beat the BBC with a stick. Nothing fuels daily mail style collective outrage among X-factor watching types like having to put their hand in their pocket - an instant mob full of feral rage to back you up for when you announce plans to so neuter the BBC that they can't savage your particular flavour of cabinet dickhead when they screw up in an arrogant, self serving and deceitful way.

I'm surprised they don't impose conditions on the licence fee renewal like sacking Humphreys and Paxman - although Auntie has defence in depth in that its dramas are frequently as cutting and pointed as its news programming.

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Have the rules changed? A licence used to cover up to 4 TVs.

Can't see how this makes things any fairer. Household with three grown up children, 5 salaries coming in and a TV in every room pays *exactly* the same as a single person who occasionally watches iPlayer on their laptop?

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WTF?

Eh?

"did you ever here of anyone getting fined because they have 5 TVs on one licence? Just as much against the law."

Complete drivel - a License covers the address for as many devices as you like, but doesn't cover lodgers rooms, flats in the same building etc.

Business Licenses cover up to 15 devices. If you they more than 15 devices then you need an additional license for each additional 5 devices.

Also those bemoaning the plight of the OAPs... Those over 75 get it for free (Although I personally think this should be 65, the same as the bus pass), and those in a care home get it for £7.50

http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/tv-licence-types-and-costs-top2/

And by the way - it's HEAR not here.

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"did you ever here of anyone getting fined because they have 5 TVs on one licence? Just as much against the law"

Are you sure about that? My understanding is that a TV licence licences the property, not the TV therefore you can have as many TVs as you like. The only exception is if the proeprty is rented by multiple people with individual tenency agreements. In this case each bedroom is a 'separately occupied place' and requires its own licence (if they have aTV in there of course).

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Agree with the license fee or not, this was an obvious step to keep the status quo in the digital, on-demand age.

The argument of whether there should be a compulsory license fee is, of course, an entirely different (And far more inflammatory) one.

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Happy

Good Value

The BBC is still good value and this won't make any difference to the vast majority that already pay their TV license.

No other company will send 4 camera teams to the Arctic for 4 months to get the shots needed for something like 'Frozen Planet'. The Beeb may (and hopefully) will make a profit by selling the programme to other networks abroad but I can't see any other production company risking that sort of cash. Most things made by for profit companies seem to appeal to the lowest common denominator and are designed for a quick turnaround and to make some quick cash.

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The commercial arm of the BBC actually makes a fair profit from selling shows like frozen planet to other broadcaster abroad and from DVD sales etc, and also owns half of what UKTV that owns Dave, Eden, GOLD etc.

I see the main people getting screwed over by the requirement to have a license for the iplayer will be students. I know my ex would watch all her TV on catchup on iplayer, 4od etc as she didn't have a license for live TV in her halls of residence.

I do use get_iplayer to download shows as the beeb feel that android users should run flash to get the iplayer so its the only way i can get them on my phone as i refuse to install flash on my phone

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@Mark, I agree with you. As a student, as I have a very tight budget I don't feel it's money well spent to watch one or two shows a week live so tend to watch it on catch up. After graduation, assuming I have a job, I really wouldn't care about the TV license, especially if I was starting to settle down, move out of parent's house, etc.

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How this will work..

1. Impose a tax on people who only have Iplayer.

2. Claim there is not enough resource to police the tax.

3. Put up the BBC Licence fee to cover the "shortfall"

Or to put it another way: more stealth tax from the criminals in the big yellow building with a giant clock tower on the front.

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Anonymous Coward

Do you think that one day this place may be technologically advanced enough for a login at The Register to be known by Hardware ? Or is that asking too much ?

Why do they still collect this obnoxious tax. The cost of the BBC per individual is surely negligible. Why not save the cost of collection and the chasing up of licence dodgers, and the immoral persecution of those without TV by simply funding it from general taxation and have done with it. No complications, no confusion, just simplicity. Or is that too complicated for those in power to work out for themselves ?

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Yes, it is too much, because Hardware is at reghardware.com and The Register is at theregister.co.uk. While there are solutions that can wangle cross-domain cookies, it's a generally poor idea and involves jumping through many hoops to circumvent a security method designed to help your cookies not be stolen.

Funding it from general taxation would actually be more unfair than the current system; right now it is possible to not own a licence (if you don't own a TV, say) but funding it out of general taxation means everyone pays the same amount, not those who use it pay an amount instead.

A better solution would be to go with a login. Though, there are several different strands of iPlayer that would need updating (web streaming/Flash player, PC desktop, Wii, iPad... and probably more that I've forgotten)

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