The UK's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, has said that the government will introduce legislation "as soon as practicable" to close a legal 'loophole' that allows viewers to watch BBC content free of charge, without ever paying for a television licence.
Laws in the UK require that anyone using equipment to watch live TV broadcasts, on any channel, must have a TV licence in order to do so. Revenues collected from TV licensing fund the national public service broadcaster, the BBC.
However, current legislation has not been updated to account for the rise in on-demand streaming, so while watching live TV continues to require a licence, viewers can still watch all of the BBC's shows on-demand via iPlayer without one.
As BBC News reports, the Culture Secretary explained today:
When the licence fee was invented, video on demand did not exist.
And while the definition of television in the legislation covers live streaming, it does not require viewers to have a licence if they watch BBC programmes through the iPlayer even if it is just a few minutes after transmission.
The BBC works on the basis that all who watch it pay for it.
Giving a free ride to those who enjoy Sherlock or Bake Off an hour, a day or a week after they are broadcast was never intended and is wrong.
He added that he hopes to "extend the current TV licensing regime, not only to cover those watching the BBC live but also those watching the BBC on catch-up through the iPlayer" before the end of the current parliamentary session in July.
Source: BBC News