Internet access may be considered a basic human right, but, according to the BBC, catching up on Sherlock is not. Mobile device users in the United Kingdom may soon be required to pay the same license fees as TV owners in order to access live streaming service from a number of different sources - most notably, the BBC.
The £145.50 “TV License” fee allows users legal access to programming for a year. If you’ve watched live television in the United Kingdom at any time since 1946, you know what I’m talking about. A TV license is mandatory for every television owner in the country, and has been for over fifty years. However, the rise in popularity and use of smartphones and tablets as TV watching mediums has not gone unnoticed. The BBC will require a TV license for any device used to watch live television, beginning in just a few months, so your days of setting your kids up with a tablet playing Blue Peter may be numbered. This could be a last-ditch effort of struggling TV companies to recoup their losses as more and more would-be customers move away from traditional television services to more modern technologies like streaming.
Caught in the past
The current system of payment was developed in a world before streaming and on demand services were even an idea. The concept behind it was that everyone who watches programs produced by the BBC would have to pay to see them. This concept has been heavily diluted however, with the advent of the iPlayer and other streaming services, which cause as much as 150 million pounds per year in lost revenue to slip through the loophole. With the help of government-backed programs and funding, the BBC hopes to close this loophole as soon as possible.
Moving into the future
BBC executives know that this won’t be an easy fight to win. By taking inspiration from popular paid streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon, the BBC will attempt to close off iPlayer access to those who haven’t paid the license fee, possibly by requiring all users to register an account before accessing content and downloading other apps. The corporation will also need to encrypt its channels in order to prevent less-law-abiding users from sidestepping security systems and accessing programs for free, or even making them available on popular piracy sites. John Whittingdale, UK Culture Secretary, explained at the Oxford Media Convention, "When the licenselicencellion. The broadcast corporation made significant changes in their internal structure, including taking BBC 3 completely off the air in order to cut costs. There is little doubt that BBC executives are hoping this new, stricter policy on collecting fees from mobile device users will bring in more revenue, and help steady them financially, as they adjust to the rapidly changing entertainment industry.
The question now is whether the BBC’s plan will work as they hope, or result in a costly backlash from a public who has become used to streaming free media on demand. Consumers may shun the BBC in favor of other free and lower-cost streaming services like Hulu and Acorn TV, or user generated content on live-streaming apps, like YouTube. Or, instead of spending money, they may opt to use their phone to generate a little extra cash instead. If their consumer base doesn’t respond well, the BBC could face even bigger challenges, but all that still remains to be seen. Although the BBC iPlayer loophole is still closed, there are still ways you can legally watch TV and not pay the License fee.
Author: Kayla Robbins