BBC to close iPlayer loophole and trial pay-TV

The UK government has released a white paper regarding the future of the BBC, which will see the iPlayer ‘loophole’ close. The white paper, published on Thursday, saw
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The UK government has released a white paper regarding the future of the BBC, which will see the iPlayer ‘loophole’ close.

The white paper, published on Thursday, saw culture secretary John Whittingdale agree to give the corporation a new 11-year Royal Charter, safeguarding the licence fee through to 2028.

It will put an end to the iPlayer ‘loophole’, which currently allows users to avoid paying the £145.50 annual license fee by watching TV on their computer, tablet or phone.

It will force around half a million ‘free riders’ to pay the fee by making users sign in before viewing content, although experts believe there will be an easy way around this.

Despite the 11-year commitment, Whittingdale has proposed a strict new regime for the broadcaster, stating, “This should not prevent or deter the BBC from adapting to a world in which paying for ‘top-up’ services is becoming more commonplace. Elements of additional subscription revenue should, therefore, be considered and explored.”

He added that the BBC must explore other options as the license fee “may not be the best option” for long-term funding.

The white paper contains an explicit requirement that its output must be “distinctive, high quality and impartial”. Whittingdale said he is “emphatically not saying that the BBC should not be popular” but popularity should “not [be] the primary measure of success”.

Whittingdale also called on the corporation to put a stop to it’s continued reliance on daytime programmes such as Bargain Hunt, stating that BBC1 could “have greater levels of creative ambition”, with the auction show now in it’s 43rd series.

The BBC will be able to trial an additional subscription service to ensure that those watching hit shows outside the 30-day catch up window are made to pay extra.

The corporation will also be ordered to put password controls on its iPlayer service to ensure people have to pay up.

It could also lead to BBC fans in foreign countries paying to subscribe to service.

Additionally, the government demanded that the BBC’s highest earners (those paid over £450,000) must be named publicly.

The DTG has welcomed the white paper, with CEO Richard Lindsay-Davis stating, “The BBC helped create the DTG in 1995, and as a long-term industry partner we look forward to constructively working with the corporation as it continues to innovate in technology.

“This is clearly in the interest of the consumer and the digital television industry."

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