back to article pledges licence fee 'rethink' over heavy catch-up use

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 …


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  1. EddieD

    Not rocket science

    Why not ask for your TV license number when you first use catch would be relatively trivial to check for concurrent use.

    1. JAK 1

      the licence is for the household not the user

      so in a family of four they have one licence. All 4 people are legally allowed to watch telly online, your method of licencing would restrict that.

      Unless we have to notify the BBC of how many people are living in the house at any one time....

      1. Joe 3

        Re: the licence is for the household not the user

        Sigh. Do you really think that there's no possible technical solution to this?

        Did you stumble upon this site by accident? I thought the Register was read by intelligent people.

        On a personal note, I'd be happy for it to go down this route. It's great now, getting all these BBC programmes for free, but I understand that the money has to come from somewhere. Perhaps there should be a per-programme fee payable for those who don't want the full-access license?

        1. JAK 1


          Of course there is a technical solution to the problem, I don't believe I stated that there wasn't. I was merely pointing out that forcing registration and monitoring concurrent connections would need to take in to account the numbers of people in the household.

          This would then cause issues with students away from home, as if they already have the code to access the content they are unlikely to sign up for a new licence whilst at uni

          and get over yourself you patronising fool, there are many idiots on this site and comments like yours just go to prove the point

      2. Mitch Kent

        Fair use

        5 connections = fair use, 50 gets flagged. Not that hard a workaround?

      3. David Simpson 1
        Thumb Down


        It wouldn't since all the computers in the house use on internet connection and one IP.

    2. Steve X
      Thumb Up


      Like many other web services, you could sign up for an account with your TV license number & address. Accounts found to be shared get closed. Would even avoid all the messing about over geolocation of IP addresses, if you have a license and take your laptop on holiday you can still access the content via your "license account".

      1. Tom Chiverton 1

        No ?

        But if you lock a licence number to an address, and only allow use from one IP at a time, I can't do what I can do now, and watch iPlayer from the train (thanks Virgin)...

        1. Chad H.

          Mobile Use

          Currently you're permitted to use a mobile TV (or laptop for live stream) on your TV license anywere, on the provision that it isnt connected to the mains....

          So, is this locked iPlayer going to have to poll my PC to determine if a PSU is connected, and lock me out if it is?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crapita are already easy to ignore

    Doesn't make any difference because it's voluntary as it is.

    Capita just send a threatening letter every month, which you ignore. Then they send a salesman round every year or so and you just don't answer or refuse to say a word and shut the door.

    They can't do anything.

    1. streaky
      Black Helicopters


      I wish more people knew this, the world would be a better place. The detector equipment they claim to have purchased (at extremely high cost one should add), clearly doesn't exist and just goes into the BBC Yacht fund. If it existed they'd show it off, with the caveat the use of the equipment is just plain illegal in the civilised world (using thermal cameras to see people sitting round a warm TV or whatever).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Crapita hold the TV licensing database and operate the call centre. The threatening letters are designed by an ad agency in London called 'proximity' and are printed and mailed by a company based in Bristol, now called 'Orchestra'*. I once had the misfortune of working for the latter of these.

      *This is one of those companies that seems to find the need to change its name every few years or so. Surely nothing to do with whitewashing reputation...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    So anything with a screen... going to be redefined as a Television Receiving Apparatus?

  4. pikey

    It's not Free...

    We have already paid for it though the licence fee, what does it matter how its' watched.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      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".

  5. Eden

    It's really not value for money...

    I've not watched TV in years because it's all crap, certainly not Live TV.

    And as for trying to keep up with technology, good luck! what constitues live? and what's to stop websites simply setting up streams that are delayed by the neccesary time period to remove the "live" qualification and nullify the need for licence =p

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Big Brother

      Oh but...

      Imagine if the goventards brought in a law that said all video-streams watched via a network constituted live TV to get round yours and other loopholes. Sounds crazy I know but these people do do some crazy shit!

      Can you imagining needing a TV licence to have a webcam chat with your Australian aunty or to watch Youtube or god forbid to use Chat Roulette!

      Wouldn't surprise me if the idiots do come up with such a stupid law/regulations as a way of stopping people like us who probably only ever watch Top Gear on iPlayer "getting away with it". It's not a licence for a computer - oh no - its just a licence for using a computer really! So that Mr Cu, I mean Hunt cant be accused of breaking any promises can he!

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Oh but...

        You wouldn't need a licence for Chat Roulette, just peril-sensitive sunglasses.

  6. MrBrie

    Turn it into a refund / TV is becoming irrelevant

    The license fee is, essentially, a tax.

    I never quite understood why there has to be yet another paper pushing factory for it.

    As over 95% of the population is using it, just turn it into another tax already.

    Add a tick box to the tax form for "License fee refund" for the less than 5% of people that need it, and presto.

    You can try to fleece the students or pensioners, but if there's no money to be had, you won't get it off them anyway. Sending them ever more threatening letters won't help -- and actually going to collect the money will cost more than the license fee is bringing in.

    There's always the chance that piped TV is rapidly becoming irrelevant for students in halls -- proper internet connection, torrents-a-go-go and you get all the video-on-demand (without commercials too!) you ever wanted -- and that content is quite possibly not made by the BBC so they shouldn't get money for it either.


    1. Steve X

      Not a tax

      There's a very important reason why it isn't a tax, and shouldn't be bundled into general taxation.

      By having it as a separate charge, it gets voted on separately by *Parliament* (note, not by *Government*). That is to prevent the government of the day from applying pressure, along the lines of "Hey, BBC. If you insist on broadcasting that programme on Iraq / expenses / climategate / whatever, you might find that the licence fee will go down next year". As a single line-item in the budget that sort of thing could get through. It's unlikely that even an unhappy but principled government backbencher would risk the wrath of the party by voting against the whole budget over the TV licence. Budget votes tend to be considered as confidence votes.

      Keeping it as a separate debate is the best way to avoid that sort of monkey business. At least it then has some chance of being an open debate, with a non-whipped vote by all of parliament.

    2. Lamont Cranston

      I like this idea,

      as it's very much taking payments from those who can afford it (particularly if it were levied at a % based on your level of income). Then again, perhaps it is those who cannot afford it (non-taxpayers) who consume the most content (not that that should matter, of course)?

      1. Gaius

        A bit like

        When The Sun said it would support the Tories and the next day Sky "mysteriously" lost the right to broadcast the cricket. Well what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Is a tax...

        "The television licence fee has been reclassified as a tax, because the licence fee is a compulsory payment which is not paid solely for access to BBC services. Previously, the licence fee had been classified as a service charge. This reclassification means that the BBC will move from the public non-financial corporations sub-sector to the central government sector, effectively moving from one part of the public sector to another."

        Funding from general taxation would save 70 million pounds per year and cease to criminalise the very poor who are disproportionately suffering from this regressive and inefficient tax.

      3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Nice theory, but short on a few facts

        It currently works like this..

        Government of the day set the licence fee by Statutory Instrument, which by convention gets past. So the Government sets the amount the BBC gets already, and Parliament waves it through.

        The BBC then collects the money via Crapita et al, and pays that money into the Treasury's central slush fund, aka Consolidated Account.

        The Government then decides the amount the BBC gets via the Appropriations Act, which includes amounts for the DCMS to give to the BBC.

        So basically any Government is already free and able to decide both the amount of the licence fee, and the BBC's budget by convention.

        (and the last government showed exactly what can happen if the BBC tries to be too independent with the Gilligan affair. DG & governors removed because they'd offended their paymasters)

    3. Chad H.

      A bit like Australia.... Where ABC funding becomes a political football

      In Australia the ABC is funded by Tax, and the result is a starved service thats expected to do too much with too little - Because any time they say something that the Cabinet doesnt like, a few extra million is lobbed off the budget; Whereas the BBC i relatively stable by long term license fee agreements.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's blindingly obvious

    Every household that pays the license fee gets a PIN which is inputted to iPlayer when you want to watch something. No PIN, no free TV. Job done.

    1. King Jack
      Thumb Down

      East to get round

      Then the pins in their 1000s are posted on the internet. Back to square one.

    2. David Simpson 1


      I'm already sick of "ticking this box some how proves you're over 18" I really have no interest in putting in a PIN every time.

  8. ParkaMark

    Abolish TV License Fee and Introduce Broadband Tax?

    Maybe if the government actually caught up with the times, they would realise that abolishing the TV license fee and then adding a broadband tax might actually allow for proper high speed fibre deployment in this country within the next 10 years, as opposed to their pitiful 'everyone will have 2Mbits by 2015' statement. 2Mbits? by 2015? That will be like modem having a 14.4 modem in 2015 given the way in which the Internet is evolving going and being used.

    They never seem to look 1 cm past the end of their nose do they? I would be all for a broadband tax in conjunction with abolishing the TV license fee as most stuff on TV is pointless crap anyway - much better to just pick off the few select programs I do actually want to (and have time to) watch via a catch-up service, like iPlayer.

    1. heyrick Silver badge


      So people who make use of their broadband, but do not make use of iPlayer, will get shafted by this taxation...

      And what the hell sort of logic do you think getting rid of the TV licence and taxing broadband will aid the infrastructure? The BBC will be paid for how? Oh, wait, you didn't bother to look more than 1cm from your wallet.

  9. Graham Dresch

    Rethink ?

    The only 'Rethink' required is to accept that the licence fee can no longer be justified.

    The argument that 'we have some of the best tv and broadcasting in the world' is utter nonsense,

    The licence fee has been revealed as just another tax which is clearly being rejected by an increasing number of people.

    The rules on licences cannot be any clearer: if you watch online, you do not need a licence.

    what is unclear about that ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Notes & Queries

      "The only 'Rethink' required is to accept that the licence fee can no longer be justified."


      "The argument that 'we have some of the best tv and broadcasting in the world' is utter nonsense,"

      Wrong (and I know what you're thinking, but really even the current UK broadcast channels are miles ahead of the crap the rest of the world puts up with).

      "The licence fee has been revealed as just another tax which is clearly being rejected by an increasing number of people."

      Um. In your head, perhaps. It seems in fact that what's being rejected is paying for things. I don't think freeloading has dramatically increased in recent years; it's always been with us.

      What's always amusing about the anti-licence fee zombies is their unswerving belief that they don't pay for other channels or that they get to choose which they pay for. Ask anyone in the marketing department of, say, Coca-Cola or Nike and they'll tell you that everyone that buys their stuff is paying towards the marketing of the product whether they want to or not, and that includes TV advertising. Want to try not paying that at the checkout at Tescos?

      For some reason paying for your TV that way is not a tax but paying for it in a more targeted and, ultimately, fairer way is.

      "The rules on licences cannot be any clearer: if you watch online, you do not need a licence."

      The rules on licences? What are those?

      "what is unclear about that ?"

      Why people insist on believing this nonsense, that's what.

      1. david bates

        Rules on licences?

        Las time I checked those are the ones printed on the back of the licence. Its been a while as I dont do anything that requires a licence.

        I dont do 'catch-up TV' either, as hotel-based research suggests that most of it is dross, and PC based viewing is not my thing.

    2. max allan


      > The rules on licences cannot be any clearer: if you watch online, you do not need a licence.

      Wrong : if you watch live streaming from the iPlayer (or whatever) online you DO need a licence. If you watch it a day or so later, then you don't.

      So, even watching live American live streamed TV would require you to buy a UK TV licence.

      Except if you watch that on a "mobile device" in a premises without a licence, but have one for your home. Until you plug that device in to the mains to charge it, whereupon, the entire premises needs a licence.

      Beginning to see the unclearness now?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Read the fscking law before commenting, FFS

      > The rules on licences cannot be any clearer: if you watch online, you do not need a licence.


      > what is unclear about that ?

      Nothing. It's just plain wrong.

      If you watch *live* TV you need a license. Doesn't matter if you use your TV, your mobile phone, or if you stream it via your PC.

      If you watch *delayed* TV, i.e. from a catchup service like iPlayer,. you don't need a licence. It's treated the same as watching it on a DVD.

      That's the crux of the issue under discussion. If a large number of people start watching via catchup services, and don't bother to watch live, then uder current legislation they don't need a licence, and so the income from the licence fee goes down. The government are trying to find a way to avoid that loss of income.

      Clear now?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        You still need a icence for watching 'delayed' broadcasts...

        Remember when video recorders came in, people connected them to monitor and claimed they didn't need a license because they didn't have a television?

        Even if you have no television set, you still needed a license is you had a video recorder.

        And you needed a colour license even if you only had a black and white television connected to a video recorder because the VCR could record in colour.

        Complete madness.

        I'll happily buy a PC monitor, attach it to my generic (non-Sky, non-Freesat) satellite receiver, and point my dish at a different cluster. Not much worth watching on British TV these days. Better off with a subscription to Love Film.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Joe 3
          Thumb Down

          Re: You still need a icence for watching 'delayed' broadcasts...

          Not true. You need a licence for TV-receiving equipment, which a VCR is. Just because the tuner is in the VCR instead of the monitor doesn't mean you can't receive live TV pictures.

          If there's no aerial and no signal with such a set-up you'd be fine.

        3. David Simpson 1
          Thumb Down


          Your video has a tuner which receives a live TV stream and records it to tape.

          It's the receiving of the live TV stream which you pay the fee for so videos classify and PCs don't, unless you watch the live stream from iPlayer etc.

  10. Martyns

    What short memories

    Why is this even a question? People outside the UK cannot access BBC iplayer and "computer monitors" have always been included in the license requirements. I know that because for at least 5 years I did not have a TV yet still had to pay the license fee because I had computers in the house.

    While TV Licensing are quick to assume that because a house has bricks it must also have a TV it seems daft to waste any further time considering whether a computer can receive iplayer or not.

    Oh wait a minute! We have a MASSIVE defecit don't we? This could be a cool way to bring in a few million to cover the extra layer of management the BBC has agreed to scoop off of the civil service list.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You've been shafted

      You do NOT need a TV license just because you have computer monitors in the house. You should have argued that point forcefully.

      If you tell TV Licensing by letter that you do not have any equipment that is capable of receiving live broadcast, and that you do not watch television, period, you will be ok.

      I have had to make that point to TV Licensing to the point where I threatened them with legal action if they ever contacted me again without my permission because I don't own a television and that it is not illegal to not own one. Their threatening letters can be considered harrassment, and you can get a restraining order if they continue.

      TV Licensing responded with an apology and stopped their letters immediately.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Top Gear?

    The stupid thing about the way the licence fee is run is that the BBC can outdo commercial TV quite easilly when it wants to. Top Gear for example may be an expensive show to make, but I doubt it troubles the licence fee payer. The show is licenced to other countries and sold to may others, that brings in a big chunk of revenue. Then there's all of the merchandising around the show. If the BBC have any sense at all they'll be using the income from Top Gear and other similarly successful shows to fund the sort of minority interest shows that simply can't be self funding.

    Of course they probably just use it to pay bonuses (boni?) to executives.

    1. Jacqui

      @Top Gear

      "The show is licenced to other countries and sold to may others, that brings in a big chunk of revenue."

      But this all goes to bbc's commercial arm. The BBC's licence money pays for the production and advertising/promotions (see the DrWho america push) but BBC worldwide (a seperate entity) reaps the rewards and a lot of muckety mucks end up with high value shares and pension funds.

      The BBc is a big con - it is run on a shoestring by poorly paid technical people working on one year contracts. The managers get mutli-K expenses and can put hotels, limo's and new clothes on expenses when invited to BBC and third party awards/events.

      I stopped watching TV some time ago - but we still get the illegal BBC extortion letters, nasty doorstep callers, fake market researchers asking about of (nen existent) TV habits and odd "marketing" phone calls. Any other company using such dirty tactics would have been exposed by now but aunty beeb can do no wrong.


      By the way BBC, we did plan to go "TVless" for just one year then buy a new set - a sort of test to see how much mroe we could get done without a "goggle box". The problem was your nastygrams and enforcers have made sure we will never replace the TV until the licence is killed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Bitter much?

        And wrong as well. BBC Worldwide revenue goes back into the corporation to keep the licence fee down. And there's no such thing as shareholders. Its all very well dissing the beeb, but the alternatives are worse; try living in Ireland where the incumbent provider has used every lever to block digital tv development to stop commercial rivals (not one but two digital tv consortiums have been seen off), charges more than the UK for the licence fee (for a much poorer service) and STILL has tv ads. You don't know you're born.

  12. John Savard

    Obvious Solution

    The UK should abolish license fees, and support the BBC on a reduced level from general revenues, requiring it to get most of its money from the sale of TV commercials just like what I believe you refer to as "ITV" or "Channel Four" - although these terms may be out of date.

    This is what we do in Canada, but with the full American system of commercial announcements - so that the CBC does not need to resort to pledge breaks (a quaint American custom with which you might not be familiar, considering that you don't get the American stations, most specifically PBS, over there on cable or over the air across the border).

    1. Lamont Cranston

      No, no, no, no, no.

      The BBC's independance, from both government and commercial sponsors, it what makes it worth having.

      OK, so most (if not all) of the TV output is utter dross, but if I had to put up with commercial breaks in the middle of the Today Programme, well, it doesn't bear thinking about, really.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          The trouble is that the audience for lots of minority shows doesn't necessarily add up to a majority (or even a significant minority). That's the blessing and the curse of the BBC's independence.

      2. Martin Milan

        General taxation.

        No - take it from general taxation.

        This way, everyone pays according to their ability to pay.

        I agree with you that one of the BBC's main strengths is it's independence - and that independence is easily protected by simply having a Select Committee of Parliament decide on the BBC's funding each year...



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