BBC iPlayer users will require a TV licence from 1st September

UPDATED 01.09.16

From today anyone watching catch-up TV on the BBC iPlayer, as well as live programmes, will need to have a TV licence (£145.50), although it remains unclear how exactly the BBC will enforce the new legislation.

If you want to watch any programme on the iPlayer you will now get a pop-up message when you press play which asks: "Got a TV licence? You need one to watch any BBC programme on iPlayer - live, catch-up or on-demand. It's the law."

You then have three options: select I have a TV licence; I don't have a TV licence; or Find out more.

There's much speculation as to how the BBC will enforce the new law, as you don't have to enter a PIN number or TV licence number if you select the first option. Suggestions that the BBC might track iPlayer usage through wi-fi or internet connections are being firmly denied, as that would involve complex privacy and legal issues.

In a BBC statement, a TV Licensing spokesperson says: "We are not going to use mass surveillance techniques, we are not going to ask internet providers for IP addresses, and in fact, we will simply use existing enforcement processes and techniques which we believe to be adequate and appropriate.

"Our current procedures enable us to catch those watching on devices other than televisions."

What exactly those "enforcement processes and techniques" are remains unclear, although it has been suggested the BBC could resort to the good old-fashioned method of knocking on people's doors and asking them if they use iPlayer, before then checking if they have a TV licence. You have been warned.

For further information how the iPlayer changes may affect you, there's a special page on the BBC website which includes advice for students living away from home.

PUBLISHED 02.08.16

The BBC will close the ‘loophole’ that allowed many users to watch BBC content for free, so long as they didn't watch live TV.

Currently, if you watch live streams of programmes through the iPlayer you need to pay the £145.50 licence fee, but anyone only watching catch-up content can avoid paying.

That’s all set to change on 1st September, when the BBC will introduce new rules, of which we were forewarned earlier this year, that say anyone who uses the iPlayer, no matter the purpose, will be required to pay the full licence fee.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale said in March this year: “When the licence fee was invented, video and on-demand did not exist. 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."

The rules apply no matter what device users watch on too, whether it be a TV, laptop, smartphone, tablet, streaming device or games console. Other catch-up and on-demand video services including ITV Player, All 4 and My5 can still be used for free.

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Max is a staff writer for What Hi-Fi?'s sister site, TechRadar, in Australia. But being the wonderful English guy he is, he helps out with content across a number of Future sites, including What Hi-Fi?. It wouldn't be his first exposure to the world of all things hi-fi and home cinema, as his first role in technology journalism was with What Hi-Fi? in the UK. Clearly he pined to return after making the move to Australia and the team have welcomed him back with arms wide open.