The popular BBC iPlayer function has, up until now, been open for anyone to use but the loophole in the system that allows even those without a TV license to watch programmes on-demand or via streaming will finally be closed on September 1. The government have stepped in to put a halt to people being able to access the iPlayer without having a television license and the new rules will come into play on September 1, forcing anyone wanting to make use of this feature to pay for a license.
Big Changes for the BBC
Many of the people using the BBC iPlayer features without a TV license live abroad and it is the expat community that may feel the pressure of these changes the most, along with students, people on benefits and anyone living on a restricted income. The old rules allowed people without a TV license full access to the iPlayer features and, as only live programmes needed a license to be viewed meaning that anything that was streamed or viewed on-demand was exempt from the rules.
It is the first time in the 90-year history of the British Broadcasting Commission that an outside source has intervened to alter their regulations and this isnt the only change to be implemented, as the government also announced plans to bring Ofcom in as a third party regulatory party to police all of the programmes shown on the BBC. This modernisation of the system has been a long time coming but the BBC refuse to be knocked down, as they insist that only a mere 2% of UK households will be affected by the new rules.
BBC Crackdown on VPNs
Since the introduction of the popular iPlayer feature, the BBC have been forced to crackdown on the use of VPNs that can be installed to allow people outside the UK to use the iPlayer in a bid to stop those without a valid license from being able to watch BBC programmes. Unfortunately, the government decided that their efforts were not enough and have now changed the regulations so that after September 1 2016, anyone wanting to use the iPlayer will need to provide proof of their TV license number.
There is a lot of concern that the number of people using the BBC iPlayer will drop as the new regulations are introduced but it is hoped that it will simply open up new doors to help the BBC work more closely with their viewers to find a solution: Peter Zaborszky from BestVPN states, If the BBC starts to ask for license fee numbers, it is likely to massively decrease the usage of BBC iPlayer by people who shouldnt be using it. The BBC has been quite active in cracking down on VPN use anyway. However, it could be a really good way for the BBC and expats living abroad to work together so that they could still enjoy BBC programmes while also paying for them.
Other on-demand services such as Netflix, ITV Player, My5 and All4 can still be watched without a license and the changes will also affect Virgin, BT and Sky and will involve all types of devices that can be used to stream BBC programmes such as PCs, laptops, smartphone and tablets.
New Rules, New Opportunities
The new regulations mean that people will need to buy a TV license if they wish to use the iPlayer and as many BBC-users already own a license, the effect this new rule will have remains to be seen but many predict that students, people living on restrictive incomes and expats will be the hardest hit.
Updated 2017, February:
Here’s a list of VPNs that should work for BBC iPlayer.