Feeds

UK.gov pledges licence fee 'rethink' over heavy catch-up use

You can't watch that for free!

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The government has pledged to 'rethink' the licence fee because so much television is watched via catch-up services on computers, which does not require the payment of the licence fee.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ruled out introducing a licence fee for PCs but has said that his administration will need to find a way to stop people consuming material paid for by the licence fee for free.

"What we've said very clearly is that we accept the principle of the licence fee, the idea of a household tax to fund broadcasting that is ring-fenced," culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC television yesterday. "We think that one of the reasons we have some of the best TV and broadcasting in the world in this country is because we have these different streams of income including the licence, including subscription income and including advertising.

"The way we collect it may have to be rethought because technology is changing, a lot of people are watching it on their PCs," said Hunt. "We're not going to introduce a PC licence fee and that is something that I do need to have discussions with the BBC to see what their ideas are."

The BBC's governing body the BBC Trust expressed concern last year about the increasing number of viewers watching catch-up services and said that rules on licences should be clearer.

"The technological advances of recent years have seen significant developments in the ways in which people may choose to access television content, not least the BBC’s own iPlayer. In the immediate term, there needs to be clearer communication on the legal requirements for a TV," it said in a review of licence fee collection.

The Trust said that while there was no immediate danger to the BBC's income, changing viewing patterns could become a threat in the future.

"Some commentators have ... predicted the licence fee will be undermined by new technology," it said. "The licence fee collection is currently heavily reliant on the fact that almost 98% of households still use television sets (although this number has declined very slightly in the last year from 97.61% to 97.37%) and that viewing on new technologies tends to be supplementary to viewing on television.

"It is not yet clear whether households are likely to switch to internet streaming as the sole method of watching television, avoiding the use of a dedicated television set. It is clear, however, that this is happening in some segments – research for the BBC Executive shows that 40% of students in halls of residence use a laptop as their main way to watch TV," it said.

"Legislative change is likely to be required in order to reflect technology changes in the licence fee regulations and the Trust has therefore not explored this further within this review," said the Trust last year.

Television watchers must have a TV licence if they watch live television, whether on broadcast networks or streamed over the internet. A home licence covers users for any watching on a wireless device. If that device is plugged into the mains electricity then the premises must have a licence or the viewer is committing an offence, the TV Licensing Authority has previously said.

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.