This story has struck me as a surprisingly long time coming. For those of us here in the UK we can avoid playing the statutory license fee and still watch our favourite BBC shows via the BBC iPlayer. Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said that the TV licensing iPlayer loophole will be closed "as soon as practicable". This certainly looks like it's marking its territory in taking the first steps to become a subscription only service. Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention he said:
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 interesting part here is that quite often the BBC does not make its popular programs available immediately. The last series of Top Gear aired on the BBC wasn't available on the iPlayer until 24 hours after its first showing. So really the BBC could avoid all of this nonsense just by delaying putting its programming content online for a period of time.
"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."
Viewers of other catch-up services, such as 4oD and ITV Player, will not be required to purchase a TV Licence as long as they don't watch or record live TV
Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed to Telegraph Money today.
So what does this mean for the British television viewing public right here, right now?
Well at the moment nothing is going to change, you can still watch BBC iPlayer and the plethora of other streaming services for absolutely free, as long as you aren't watching it live or recording its for later.
In the future it very much looks like there is going to be a subscription fee to access BBC iPlayer. This will probably have an impact on other streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon as the BBC would no doubt look to make whatever money it can from its most popular shows such as Sherlock (iTunes), Top Gear both Old and new, Dickensian (iTunes) and so on.
Right now the rules are pretty simple to avoid having to pay for a TV licence. You must not watch any live TV programme, no matter what the broadcaster, on any device. This includes a mobile phone running a data connection.
Secondly you must not record any programs as they are being transmitted. This includes any repeats of shows which have already been transmitted. Basically if it's coming over the airwaves you're not allowed to access it until it's available on demand.
So what are your thoughts on this, would you be happy to pay the BBC for a subscription to the iPlayer service or do you think that with all the cuts to BBC has had to endure that there really isn't anything of quality worth paying out for?
Let's just hope they don't get wind of one of my favourite apps Get BBC iPlayer which downloads and converts BBC programming seeking watch it on your Apple device