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iPlayer? Cough up

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The BBC's technology chief has called for the licence fee to be extended so that people who only watch iPlayer will also have to pay.

Erik Huggers made the call as he discussed recent comments by the BBC Trust, the national broadcaster's oversight body, that the internet means TV licensing law will need to be changed.

"My view is that if you are using the iPlayer you have to be a television licence fee payer. I don't believe in a free ride. If you are consuming BBC services then you have to be a licence holder," he told the Broadcasting Press Guild on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the BBC today said that Huggers comments represented his personal opinion and were not the corporation's official position.

The BBC blocks overseas access to iPlayer on grounds it will accrue bandwidth and other costs, to serve people who do not contribute to its funding.

"I do know we are seriously looking at what is the impact on new digital technology on something we currently call the TV licensing," Huggers, a former Microsoft executive, said.

At present, a £139.50 annual TV licence is only required to view programmes as they are broadcast. While BBC does offer simultaneous streaming of its channels, the popular iPlayer is a catch-up service, with shows available for seven days after broadcast.

In April, the BBC Trust said internet viewing was not significantly affecting TV ownership, but warned that habits were changing.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport said it had no plans to change the law. ®

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