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BBC head ponders separate licence fee for iPlayer

People watching BBC programmes on its iPlayer service should pay the licence fee, according to the BBC’s director general.

Tony Hall said at a media conference in Oxford that there was room for modernisation so that “the fee applies to the consumption of BBC TV programmes, whether live on BBC One or on-demand via the iPlayer.”

At present viewers don’t need a television licence of £145.50 a year to catch-up on television programmes in BBC iPlayer, but do need them if watching something through the service as live.

Hall said: “One of the advantages of the licence fee is that it’s flexible and has adapted over the years. It started as a radio licence. Then TV. Then colour TV. And then the relatively simple change to the regulations in 2004 to cover the consumption of live TV on new devices such as computers.”

“When it’s adapted itself so well over the decades, why would you suddenly give it up? When and how best to take the next step is, of course, a matter for the Government.”

Such a move would extend the licence fee to 500,000 households in the UK that watch catch-up services but do not watch programmes live.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Hall also said that “top-slicing” of the licence fee (i.e. giving a share of it to other broadcasters) would put the BBC’s “content and services” at risk. This was seen as a rebuke to former chairman Michael Grade, who wants BBC fees shared with Channel 4.

“In the anxiety to privatise the BBC, this proposal suggests nationalising the rest of the sector,” he said.

Image: Flickr/Tim Loudon

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