13/05/2016

Should we pay to use the iPlayer?



One of the things included in the government’s latest incursion into public service broadcasting is the idea of including the iPlayer in the BBC’s licence fee. Apparently an increasing amount of people- reckoned to be more than a half a million- are watching BBC programmes on the iPlayer without having paid the licence fee creating a potential loss of revenue for the Corporation. I’m not sure how they know this. Can the BBC actually know if someone watching the iPlayer on a phone for example belongs to a household that have not paid the fee? Aren’t they encouraging this anyway by increasing the amount of original programmes on the iPlayer? They’ve spent years trying to get more people to use it! Could they not forsee this when they first launched the thing? 

It’s difficult to imagine how they can force people to pay the fee if they do avoid it by watching stuff on the iPlayer. For a start you only need a licence fee per household at the moment; thankfully we haven’t arrived at the scenario where every single person who watches TV needs to pay it which would be even more expensive than Sky. In which case why are they using this principle for the iPlayer?  The licence fee covers more than one television but what about other devices? You can watch the iPlayer on a phone or laptop or tablet or pc. Not everyone has yet assimilated all of their media onto one device yet and what if they did? And what if that device wasn’t a television?
So how could it all be introduced? Maybe they could have a registration code you had to use to watch the iPlayer? This would be assigned when you pay the licence fee though the payee would have to make sure everyone in their household was aware of the code but then again it’s like having to remember another password and there are enough of them already.
The only real way to do it is by charging a separate fee to use the iPlayer which of course might also hit those who have already paid the TV licence or people who don’t pay the licence themselves but live in a household where someone else does. See how confusing it could all get? Yes it would be more passwords but even then one person could pay and others use it- after all isn’t that the way the licence fee works? 
Of course the simple answer is for the BBC to stop loading things into the iPlayer like it’s the future of television. After all they have just put a whole channel on it! It has even been suggested that this may be the thin end of the wedge regarding online content. If this system does happen and works it might spur other content owners to start to believe they can generate additional income from viewers in this manner. How long for example before subscribing to a YouTube channel involves actually paying something? Perhaps one day you’ll even have to pay to read blogs…..
Course, the whole idea might turn out to be one of those Conservative government ideas that is later withdrawn because nobody has actually thought it through, something which frequently happens most recently with the `all schools must become academies` policy. It is part of more meddling with the BBC presumably in exchange for an 11 year licence fee extension. If you missed it being reported you can of course catch up with it on the iPlayer – but watch out for government scanning drones checking whether you’re a licence fee payer!

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