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Watching iPlayer to require TV licence

The BBC iPlayer TV licence loophole will be closed “as soon as practicable”, the Culture Secretary has confirmed. John Whittingdale said the licence fee, which currently applies only to live TV viewers, will be extended to those watching shows through the online catch-up service.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, 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.

He continued: “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 there would have to be an order drafted and agreed by Parliament on the licensing change which he would try to get “passed as soon as we can”.

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