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iPlayer licence fee law comes into effect

iPlayer across four screens light backgroundA change to UK law requiring viewers to buy a licence fee in order to watch programmes on-demand from the BBC iPlayer comes into effect today.

The law change marks the first time that UK viewers are required to pay to access non-live BBC programming via the web – with the licence fee previously only needed by people who watch or record BBC television at its original time of broadcast.

Viewers who download or stream either catch-up or older BBC programmes on-demand will need to be covered, and the new law applies to watching on a smart TV, desktop computer or laptop, mobile phone, tablet, digital box or games console.

A licence will also be needed by viewers who access the BBC iPlayer through another provider such as Sky, Virgin Media, Freeview or BT.

“The change in law will help protect the BBC’s long term income as more viewers consume on-demand programmes and will ensure fairness for those already paying for BBC content,” said BBC head of revenue management Pipa Doubtfire.

“TV Licensing has carried out a targeted information campaign so those who are unlicensed will know about the change. In addition, an advisory notice will appear on BBC iPlayer from 1 September.”

The move comes after the UK government said it would “modernise the current licence fee system” and close the ‘iPlayer loophole’ as part of its White Paper on the future of the public broadcaster, published In May.

It also coincides with the new academic year, with recent research by TV Licensing revealing that just 22% of UK students now take a TV to university but 66% view catch-up TV – with iPlayer the most popular catch-up platform.

Recent research by Ampere claimed that British viewers who do not opt to pay for the licence fee will lose access to nearly 4,000 hours of on-demand programming, including around 2,600 hours from the past month. The 4,000 hours comprises nearly 6,000 episodes across 1,000 titles.

Households already have a TV licence they will not need to buy an additional one.