UK government rules that all BBC iPlayer users will need a TV license from 2017

New changes will ensure that everyone who uses the catch-up service will have to do so legally

New government changes to the law mean that no-one will be able to use BBC iPlayer without first buying a TV license.

Announced today as part of a new Royal Charter for the BBC, the move is designed to help the BBC recoup millions in lost revenue. This is partly blamed on those viewers who’d used a loophole to watch programmes on the online catch-up service without having to first prove they’d paid their TV license in full.

These changes in law, which were introduced as part of the Conservative government’s long-awaited White Paper, will come into effect from 2017, meaning that users will need to have paid their TV license in full before accessing the BBC’s online service.


The reason for these changes were explained in the aforementioned White Paper: “In order to improve enforcement and allow BBC content to be ‘portable’ for UK licence fee payers (so they could gain access while on holiday in Europe, something which is currently not offered) the government thinks there is a case for iPlayer to require verification— i.e. access should be conditional upon verification of licence fee payment — so that individuals in other countries, and those in the UK not paying the fee, cannot access licence fee funded content for free.

“The government will discuss verification and other options with the BBC and look at the best way of implementing this, including through regulations if needed,” it continued. “It will be up to the BBC to determine whether this is an appropriate means of charging international viewers.”

At this point in time it’s unclear how that verification will be enforced, with the method currently a subject of debate among ministers and industry experts.