The loophole that allowed viewers of recorded material on the BBC iPlayer to continue viewing without the need for a TV Licence closes today.
Legislation has finally caught up with the modern world, though it seems unlikely the BBC and the TV Licensing agency will actively pursue those who don’t get a licence, at least not immediately.
Tabloid stories that detector vans would patrol the streets checking on what’s passing over the nation’s Wi-Fi seem far-fetched to say the least and were soon stamped on.
That said, it’s still illegal and is accompanied by a £1,000 fine, which makes the £145.50 of the licence suddenly sound attractive.
The simplest of ideas would be to require viewers to enter their Licence Fee number before being allowed to view. After all there’s the BBC iD to log in and get your favourite iPlayer shows or even Facebook to make sure you get the weather forecast relevant to where you live.
As of Thursday viewers are presented with a simple question. Do you have a TV Licence? Well of course I do.
To complicate matters the not everything on the iPlayer requires a licence. If you’re a Welsh speaker you can continue to watch Pobol y cwm on S4C without fear of prosecution. The same goes for the separate services from ITV, Channel 4 or indeed Sky Go, though of course you need a Sky subscription for that.
But in the same way the BBC never wanted a smart card integrated into the early Freeview boxes, popping in your licence fee, assuming you could find it, would take the corporation to close to its commercial rival Netflix, and away from the universal service of a public service broadcaster.