BBC iPlayer Prompts Rethink of TV License

New ways in which people are accessing television content—such as the BBC iPlayer—could force a rethink in how the TV licence is paid according to the BBC's independent regulator, the BBC Trust.

In a report on the way the TV licence fee is collected the Beeb's independent regulator said issues created by recent advances in the way people access television content need to be taken into account.

The report said: "Legislative change is likely to be required in order to reflect technology changes in the licence fee regulations."

People who only watch television via the BBC's online on-demand TV service iPlayer are not legally obliged to pay for a TV licence.

The BBC Trust added that it regularly reviews the impact of new technology on audience behaviour but has so far found that online on-demand viewing tends to supplement television rather than replace it.

But the Trust acknowledges the view from some quarters that online technology could undermine the licence fee as households elect to forgo live television entirely.

There is evidence that some groups are switching to internet streaming as the sole method of watching TV. For example BBC Executive research has found that 40 per cent of students in halls of residence use their laptop as the main way to watch TV.

BBC Trust research suggests there is general confusion around the need for a TV licence with one out of three people surveyed saying it is unclear when a licence is required—especially when using TV-receiving equipment on PCs and mobiles.

"Many were unaware of the different laws surrounding watching on-demand television, which does not need a licence and live streaming of material as it is broadcast, which does require a licence," the report said.

In addition, many did not know that live streaming of material as it's being broadcast does require a licence.

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