Watching BBC Online?... New Laws May Require License!

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 4:08pm.

New laws could be introduced to force computer users who watch television online to pay the license fee, it emerged yesterday. The Internet boom means that millions are now choosing to watch TV via their laptop or PC.

But this change in viewing habits is already leading to suggestions that collection of the compulsory license fee could be made impossible as households start ditching TV sets for  computers.

Yesterday a review by the BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, into the collection of the TV tax admitted it was unclear how many will switch entirely to Internet streaming as their 'sole method' of watching.

The BBC was recently accused of heralding the end of the licence fee by broadcasting flagship channels BBC1 and BBC2 live on the internet. Viewers are meant to own a license if they are watching television 'live' online but do not need one for using TV catch-up services, such as the BBC's iPlayer.

BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons yesterday played down the issue, saying there was little evidence that people were deserting TVs to watch solely online.

But the Trust's report said it was 'clear' this was already happening in 'some segments' of society. Research showed that 40 per cent of students in halls of residence use a laptop as their main way to watch TV.

The study also admits some people may 'take the opportunity' to 'forgo live television entirely' by watching catch-up services like BBC iPlayer. The report said: 'Legislative change is likely to be required in order to reflect technology changes in the license fee regulations...'

It added: 'There was some confusion surrounding the need for a licence fee when using TV receiving equipment on PCs and mobiles. Around one in three consultation respondents said it was not clear when a license was required, or mentioned some areas of confusion.

'Many were unaware of the different laws surrounding watching on-demand television, which does not need a license and live streaming of material as it is broadcast, which does require a license.'

Any change in the law, however

Yesterday's review also found that the BBC can be too heavy-handed and 'accusatory' in chasing up license fee payments from viewers. Feedback from market research had shown that the 'tone' in which it dealt with the public in its initial letters was 'too harsh'.

Only 33 per cent of people who responded felt that the content of the letters had been 'clear and concise, polite but firm'. But the governing body also said that TV Licensing, the body which collects the license, should improve efforts to target 'hardcore evaders'.

Sir Michael said the BBC should 'improve the tone' of its early dealings with people, especially those who do not have TVs. Households that do not own televisions have reported being hounded with letters, home visits and legal proceedings even though they do not watch television.

Former Fleet Street editor Charles Moore, a regular guest on BBC panel shows, has been particularly vocal about the tactics used by the quango which collects the cash after he received a stream of letters addressed to his London flat where he does not own a set.

But Sir Michael also used yesterday's publication to attack former BBC stars like Noel Edmonds who have publicly spoken out against the license fee. In a thinly-veiled attack on Edmonds, who boasts he does not pay his license, the BBC chairman suggested his position - and others like him - was 'objectionable'.

He said: 'The majority of the British public pay their license fee, why should they have to carry the cost of the few famous that are unwilling to pay their license fee. It is particularly objectionable for people who have made their reputation in great part by the BBC and continue to draw some of their income from it.'

The BBC's management has responded to the report welcoming the findings and will look at making the payment system easier. Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'The license fee collection regime is a classic example of a target regime that has gone abysmally wrong.

'The BBC outsourced the collection of the license fee and gave their contractor stiff targets for adherence, without thinking about what the consequences would be in terms of the damage to the BBC's reputation.

'The BBC has always tried to distance itself from what it sees as the grubby business of collecting people's license fees, it's high time they started treating the general public like customers.'

Paul Revoir - March 31, 2009 - source DailyMailUK

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 4:08pm.