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Licence fee-free iPlayers to be shut out ‘soon’: Culture sec to close loophole

People enjoying a free run of the BBC’s catch-up content without paying for it will soon find themselves locked out – culture secretary John Whittingdale has vowed to close the so-called iPlayer loophole ‘soon’. 

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Whittingdale said: “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 [when the TV Licence was created] and is wrong.” 

Currently you’re able to watch programmes on the iPlayer without needing a TV licence – provided you only watch non-live catch-up content

Related: BBC iPlayer access to be denied for TV licence dodgersBBC to ask over 75s to pay for their TV licencesThe culture secretary now wants to pull the shutters down arguing that in the long run the BBC needs to compete against the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Spotify, all freemium or ad-supported services which Whittingdale for some reason described as being ‘free’. 

Seeing as the BBC is unable to carry advertising, it’s currently unclear how this change will be enforced. Unlike free to air catch up services ITV Hub and All 4, BBC iPlayer currently doesn’t require users to create a username and password to access content; you can just point your browser at the iPlayer site or download an iPlayer mobile app and start streaming. 

It’s expected that a new versions of iPlayer will also require viewers to create a username, although whether this will be linked to TV Licence database information or people will be able to sign in with their BBC iD is unclear. 

Whittingdale added that he would bring forwards changes via secondary legislation ‘as soon as practicable.’


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