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Legal alternative to the British TV licence

Combined online payment and licence fee
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It's illegal to watch the BBC iPlayer without a TV licence in the UK and IP addresses outside the UK are blocked. This is an unsatisfactory and silly situation which stops the BBC from getting revenue from potential viewers. This is a possible solution, whose details would be expressly communicated to iPlayer users and licence payers.

UK residents would be encouraged to renew their licences online with a discount. On renewal, their IP address is recorded.

When a user connects to the iPlayer, their IP address is compared against a list. If it corresponds to that of a licence payer, they are charged for viewing but the fee is deducted from their TV licence for the following year in proportion to the mean TV viewing hours for a UK resident.

If their IP address is in the UK but not on the list, they consent to a user agreement and are given the option to pay by debit or credit card or to receive a periodic bill by post, charged at double the rate a licence payer views at.

If the IP address is outside the UK, they enter into a similar agreement with the relevant subsidiary of BBC Worldwide in their jurisdiction, but charged at the same rate as a licence payer in the UK.

The pricing structure is such that a viewer who also pays a licence can go into credit on their licence bill if they watch enough TV on the iPlayer. This is another incentive to pay the licence fee. A viewer outside the UK can also build up credit which they can redeem against BBC Worldwide products sold in their country.

This has a number of advantages. It enables viewers outside the UK to watch BBC TV in the UK, it legalises watching the iPlayer without a licence in the UK, it encourages viewers in the UK to buy a licence and it provides the BBC with extra revenue.

I can see a couple of drawbacks. It penalises UK residents without an internet connection but with a TV licence, it could be circumvented with a proxy, it wouldn't work for countries without a BBC Worldwide subsidiary and it doesn't take blind users and owners of black and white TVs into account. Also, how many people have identifiable IP addresses?

nineteenthly, Jan 30 2010

Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 692 The Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 http://www.opsi.gov...2004/20040692.htm#9
(2) In this regulation, any reference to receiving a television programme service includes a reference to receiving by any means any programme included in that service, where that programme is received at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is received by members of the public by virtue of its being broadcast or distributed as part of that service. [pocmloc, Jan 30 2010]

Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1967 http://www.opsi.gov...ukpga_19670072_en_1
In essence, licensing is specifically limited to television sets. Computer equipment is specifically excluded (section 11(1) & 11(2) in pocmloc's link), so you can watch the iPlayer to your hearts content on your PC and the BBC can whistle for the license money. Furthermore, purveyor's of PC's do not fall within the data gathering requirments of the act so, whilst they have a reasonable idea of who owns a TV, they haven't got the foggiest about who owns a PC so they couldn't enforce the act on PC owners even if you were obliged to pay a license fee. Which you aren't. [DrBob, Feb 02 2010]

From the TVLA site http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/faqs/FAQ103/
Remember, i'm not just talking about the archive. I also mean the streaming service, which is part of the iPlayer. [nineteenthly, Feb 02 2010]


       It's only material currently being broadcast that requires a license - streaming pre-recorded programmes through iPlayer is legal without a license.   

       The license is required to receive broadcasts - so there are plenty of other things you can legally do without one, such as owning a TV, having it in your living room, connecting it to a VCR, watching videos etc. -as long as- you don't receive a broadcast.
pocmloc, Jan 30 2010

       [poc] - are you sure about that? Whenever I've bought a TV in the last few years, the shop has asked for proof of address, and has recorded the information.   

       I think a simpler solution would be to keep iPlayer content free to all UK locations (as it is now). Very few households (too few to worry about) will want to watch iPlayer but will not want to watch broadcast TV, so it really only comes down to catching people who are evading paying the licence and are watching broadcast TV illegally.   

       For overseas locations, sure, have a pay-per-view system.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2010

       Sorry, i didn't make myself quite clear. I wasn't just talking about the iPlayer. The BBC have stated that it's illegal to use it without a licence, but until recently they've assumed the number of people without a TV but with broadband is very small and not worth the effort of pursuing to prosecute. They may be wrong of course, legally and practically, but part of what i had in mind was the live streaming service. Because i'm not a TV viewer, i don't know how people watch TV nowadays, but i assume they don't watch much live TV because - well - why would you?   

       Our solution to the licence problem was to Araldite over the aerial sockets of all TVs in the house and write to the TV licencing people, which we did five years ago and have never received a visit.
nineteenthly, Jan 30 2010

       I think the vast majority of TV watched in the UK is broadcast TV, with internet (including iPlayer) being a much smaller share. So, the BBC's assumption that most households have (or should have) a licence is probably correct.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2010

       As alluded to above, the IP address is a bit of a wild goose chase. IP addresses are issued by your ISP - which may be, for example, in the US- and is not a useful indicator of identity. Sure, you can use it to guess where an end user is located but that is only a guide - there have been cases of UK users with US ISPs being locked out.   

       Another issue that complicates matters is that the current UK television licence is on a per household basis - not per person or per "account" - and reflects the ability to receive live broadcast content.   

       Furthermore, the non-UK access to BBC content is not just to stop those that haven't paid to watch it - it is really to try and maintain distribution boundaries of proprietary content. For example, HBO or some other big production company do not want US nationals to get access to premium shows through the BBC iPlayer. As such, they licence to the BBC on very specific terms.   

       This whole discussion could get very messy with 'what ifs' and scenarios: the current digital distribution technology and the regulatory and legislative framework are all a 'best effort' at the moment.
Jinbish, Jan 30 2010

       Yes I am sure. However the Licencing authority is a private company with a vested interest in intimidating people into paying, so they don't advertise the specificity of the law... they just use big scary adverts saying 'we know if you're being naughty'.   

       And yes. [Ian] has it - the overseas restrictions are to do with the Beeb's contract with the programme makers rather that anything to do with TV licenses. I suppose the programme maker is hoping to sell the programme to each country seperately, and doesn't want the first customer destroying this potential revenue stream. And in-house productions are similarly sold abroad quite lucratively.
pocmloc, Jan 30 2010

       (By messy, I mean: "Why pay a licence fee if I don't actually want my money spent on show X?" naturally leads to the idea of paying for what you want to watch. This in turn leads to some kind of direct accountability (pay on demand). Such a concept is fine but is contrary to the licence fee paying for a national broadcaster. See what I mean - can of worms!)
Jinbish, Jan 30 2010

       If you are in Geosynchronous orbit over Rugby or Droitwich, you can pick up all the BBC output with very basic equipment.   

       The downside is that you have to be over Rugby or Droitwich .... we aren't.
8th of 7, Jan 30 2010

       OK, [8th of 7], so your solution is to move Earth round so Rugby and Droitwich are on the equator? Typically Borg, but also reminiscent of the practice of moving a TV aerial around until you get a good picture. If they were on the equator, the quality of programming would presumably go down because we'd all be outside enjoying the skin cancer.   

       [MB], really? What's the motivation for that? I mean, i'm sure it's true but it strikes me as rather strange behaviour. That may have shifted because the BBC were making noises about paying closer attention to who was watching it.   

       I had a feeling it might be a bit difficult to pin IP addresses down. Are they mainly static nowadays? Isn't it odd, though, that in a supposedly global economy and free market we still have the likes of DVD regions?   

       I see what you mean about paying for what you want to watch, but i would sort of go the other way on it. I have no interest in watching what i see as trash, but if i had a TV licence i would be paying for that, which might be fair enough.   

       I have to admit that i'm now very out of touch with most of what's on TV, so i'm only talking really from a technical/legal point of view rather than in terms of taste. I am aware of what my teenage daughter watches at her friends' places and it seems to consist largely of padding and not a lot of content. X-Factor and some kind of documentary about someone who's allegedly famous seem to be her favourites, but i can't see the appeal. I suppose i might be willing to pay for that, but mainly because i don't feel i have the right to judge someone else's taste in TV.
nineteenthly, Jan 31 2010

       - Unnecessary. it is not illegal to watch the iPlayer without a TV license unless you do so by using a television set instead of a PC.
DrBob, Feb 02 2010

       Not so, apparently. The BBC have explicitly stated that it is illegal to watch the iPlayer in the UK without a licence. Moreover, the TV Licencing association have also specifically stated, after i made enquiries, that it is in fact illegal. They have also stated that they don't currently pursue people.   

       There is a fair amount of controversy on this issue. I would say that whatever the Act says, both the BBC and the TV Licencing Authority interpret it as saying that you have to have a licence to watch the iPlayer. I will post a link in a minute.   

       It's possible that what the BBC and TVLA say wouldn't stand up in court, but i don't want to be the person to test that. As it stands, i have a letter from the TVLA stuck to the wall behind the TV which states their position on this, so that if we get visited by an inspector i can show them.
nineteenthly, Feb 02 2010

       //whatever the Act says, both the BBC and the TV Licencing Authority interpret it//

They can interpret it anyway that they like, 'teenthly. Does't make it correct though and, even if they are right in their interpretation, they have no way of enforcing it. Even if they prove that your are an 'unlicensed' iPlayer watcher the simple response in court would be to point out that they are not enforcing the law equally for all PC users (how the hell are they going to enforce licensing for wireless internet access for example?). Case dismissed m'lud!
DrBob, Feb 02 2010

       I don't think the world works that way. Not many people would have enough money to throw at a lawyer to win that case when the TVLA could throw more. There are people out there who are pursuing some kind of line of argument concerning the licence fee but the details elude me for the time being. Such people film the inspectors when they came round because of their underhand and heavy-handed tactics. There are videos on the web somewhere about this. If you don't do that, it'd be your word against theirs, wouldn't it?   

       I'm going to stick with my letter from the TVLA stuck to the living room wall, thanks.
nineteenthly, Feb 02 2010

       Bah! Sissy!
DrBob, Feb 02 2010

       You've got to choose your battles, and i'm already fighting two particularly intense ones.   

       In any case, legal or not, this is a way the BBC could generate revenue without the licence fee.
nineteenthly, Feb 02 2010

       //BBC could generate revenue without the licence fee//
They've already got a very busy commercial wing - which they run the risk of criticism from the private sector and being accused of abandoning their public service remit. Thats not to say that the proposed idea has a negative effect, necessarily, it's just that charging for programming is potentially the thread that pulls out the whole national broadcast jumper.
Jinbish, Feb 02 2010

       {slightly on-topic aside} I once got a renewed TV licence and a threatening letter from the TVLA sent to me simultaneously at the same address {/so-ta}
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 02 2010

       True, [Jinbish]. I think there needs to be a bit of a reality check here though. I can see the point of public service broadcasting being funded by a licence rather than taxation because it might help independence from both advertisers and the government, but given the existence of both YouTube and video streaming from broadcasters in, for example, Romania, it no longer makes sense to do it this way.   

       [MB], did they come in the same envelope?
nineteenthly, Feb 03 2010


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