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Home / News / Only watch iPlayer? You’d better get a TV license

Only watch iPlayer? You’d better get a TV license

New law could be in effect as early as the summer

Catching up on Eastenders could about to get a lot more expensive – the government wants to add BBC iPlayer to the license fee.

Right now, it’s perfectly legal to watch BBC programmes through iPlayer without paying the £145.50 annual license fee, as long as they aren’t being broadcast live.

Loopholes and grey areass in the law mean that technically includes the shows currently being aired, as long as you use the “play from beginning” feature to make sure you aren’t in sync with the live broadcast.

Unfortunately for the BBC, iPlayer is massively popular with young people and students – to the point that they don’t watch anything live any more, and don’t pay the license fee.

That adds up to hundreds of millions of pounds lost every year, which would otherwise be spent on making more programmes.

Culture secretary John Wittingdale wants to change that, saying that the iPlayer was never intended to give “a free ride to those who enjoy Sherlock or Bake Off an hour, a day, or a week after they’re broadcast”.

Because of the way secondary legislation works, it’s a lot easier to rush through a change to the law than it is to create a new one – meaning it could be a matter of months before the proposed law changes come into effect.

Once they’ve been approved, it would be against the law to tune in unless your house pays the license fee. That usually means a fine, which can by up to £1000, and a day in court.

Nothing’s official yet, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re a soap addict without a TV license.

Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming