UK.gov pledges licence fee 'rethink' over heavy catch-up use
You can't watch that for free!
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.
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In terms of the BBCs independence from commercial interests you get consumer shows that are truly unswayed by the whims of manufacturers. All manufacturers can do is make hollow threats. Take Vauxhall as an example (that was GM at the time for Merkin readers). Clarkson gave one of their cars an appalling (but I think deserved) review and Vauxhall retalliated by saying they would no longer allow Clarkson to review any of their cars. That's all they could do. If TG was on ITV they could have threatened to withdraw advertising from the channel, had it been on Sky they could have threatened to withdraw advertising from all the groups media. Even the sanctions they made failed to work as TG simply stopped featuring Vauxhall products for a while. Only an idiot would consider that not having your cars featured on the most popular motoring show was a good idea. In that respect the BBC is independent and it works.
In terms of political independence, not so much. Up until the last decade or so political meddling in the BBC was limitted, but that all changed with the last government. The BBC cowtowed whenever Blair snapped his fingers. And this current situation shows that the current government think they should have control over the BBC. They really really shouldn't. This is nothing but an attempt by Cameron to suck up to the dirty digger and garner some popularity.
If Aunty has any sense she will come back with some spin of her own. All they have to do is point out that licence fee cuts will mean a reduction in the sort of minority shows that commercial TV does not do and public opinion will turn against the government in pretty short order. Most people have a show on the BBC that they like to watch simply would never appear on a commercial channel. Even if they don't there are certain shows that they like the idea of even if they never get round to watching them. Threaten people with those sorts of cuts and they won't be happy. Politicians may think they are masters of spin, but they don't even come close to what the media can do in that respect. If the BBC want to win this one they can.
Not quite right
You don't need a licence for a computer monitor or television used for a console device or, indeed, any piece of equipment capable of receiving a broadcast television signal unless it is actually being used to receive a broadcast signal. Check the telecommunications act; it's very clear.
Reading is so hard
"We have already paid for it though the licence fee, what does it matter how its' watched."
Jesus, try to keep up. The point is what to do about people who haven't got a licence and therefore haven't "already paid for it".