Viewers of the BBC’s online catchup service, iPlayer, will have to pay to watch programmes from 2017.
The government has announced that online viewers, who currently use the iPlayer service for free to catch up on shows that have already been broadcast, will have to pay the same licence fee as TV users, which currently stands at £145.50/year.
You will only have to buy one licence fee regardless of whether you watch the BBC online and/or via a traditional TV set.
But it’s worth noting that if you watch other channels’ catchup services online, you won’t need to pay a licence fee - this is only payable if you watch live TV via a traditional TV set, if you watch live TV online, or if, from 2017, you watch iPlayer online.
Licence fee set to rise
The licence fee itself, which has been frozen since 2010, is also set to rise.
It will increase in line with the consumer prices index (CPI) rate of inflation for five years from 2017/18.
It’s estimated that this means prices will rise to £148 in 2017/18, £151.50 in 2018/19, £154.50 in 2019/20, £157.50 in 2020/21, and £160.50 in 2021/22 – in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) projections.
The Government says this increase is necessary so that the BBC can “continue to provide high quality, distinctive content for all audiences”.
Those aged 75 and over will continue to get the licence for free until the end of this parliament, although there’s no guarantee what will happen after this. Those aged 75 and over will also be able to make voluntary payments towards the licence if they wish.
The government is also going to investigate whether to introduce some form of verification process to use iPlayer. It says this will improve enforcement and allow BBC content to be ‘portable’ – meaning licence fee payers could watch programmes abroad, something that isn’t currently available.