The UK government has closed a loophole that had allowed users of the BBC’s popular catchup service iPlayer to watch the service for free. Starting September 1, anyone who uses the BBC iPlayer musy pay for a TV license, the £145-a-year charge that fund the BBC.
While it is a legal requirement for all households who own a TV to pay the license, a loophole had existed allowing those who only watched the catchup service and did not watch live TV to be exempt from the fee. The government now is shutting that down. The move is likely to make the BBC £150 million a year, which is what the loophole is estimated to have cost the broadcaster in unpaid license fees.
The government had pledged to shut the loophole during negotiations last year with BBC execs that saw the broadcaster agree to pay the £750 million worth of free licence fees for the over-75s. The new changes apply to anyone who watches the BBC or iPlayer, even through third-party platforms such as Sky or BT. It does, however, apply to catchup services ITV Hub or Channel 4’s All4.
“As of 1 September 2016, a change in the law means you need to be covered by a TV licence to download or watch BBC programmes on demand – including catchup TV – on BBC iPlayer. This applies to all devices. The change will not affect the huge majority of households which are already licensed,” said a TV licensing rep. “Fewer than 2% of households only watch catchup – and only those watching BBC iPlayer as part of their catchup and on-demand viewing will need to buy a licence from September. You will not need a TV licence to download or watch programmes on demand from other providers, such as YouTube, Netflix, ITV Hub, All 4 or Demand 5. All unlicensed households are being mailed and a publicity campaign will happen before 1 September.”