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Television United Kingdom

Government To Bring Forward Law To Close BBC 'iPlayer Loophole' ( 100

An anonymous reader notes an effort in the UK, as reported by the Guardian, to clamp down on the so-called "iPlayer loophole" which allows BBC programs to be time shifted in a way that avoids paying the television tax. From the article: In a speech on Wednesday, culture secretary John Whittingdale also asked whether popular BBC1 programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing were "distinctive" enough and launched a new initiative on the devastating impact of adblockers on the newspaper industry. After the speech at the Oxford Media Convention, Whittingdale said closing the loophole could not wait for legislation was passed to renew the BBC's royal charter by the end of the year. Instead, it would be done "as soon as practicable" through secondary legislation that could be put before parliament as early as this summer.
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Government To Bring Forward Law To Close BBC 'iPlayer Loophole'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Input license number to view. Fixed!!

    • Hmm...I couldn't find in the article that described exactly what the iPlayer loophole was...?

      What is an iPlayer?

      • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:23AM (#51637035) Journal

        Hmm...I couldn't find in the article that described exactly what the iPlayer loophole was...?

        I think that the loophole is that, as long as you don't watch programs as they are broadcast, you are legally allowed to watch programs using the iPlayer (VoD system) without buying a TV license (~$250/year).

        In the UK, if you have equipment capable of receiving broadcast TV signals, you are legally obligated to buy a TV license (irrespective of what you actually watch).

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Slight correction, it's not a requirement just to own equipment that can receive broadcasts (e.g. a TV), only to actually receive them. You can have a TV as long as you don't use it to receive anything live, so iPlayer, Netflix, games consoles, DVD players etc are all fine.

          • Slight correction, it's not a requirement just to own equipment that can receive broadcasts (e.g. a TV), only to actually receive them.

            Wrong. Use is not required for you to break the law, only installation of equipment (with some exceptions for people who install TVs on delivery or demonstrate, test or repair TVs).

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )


              "Section 363 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to install or use a television receiver to watch or record any television programmes as theyâ(TM)re being shown on television without a TV Licence."

              Note that you have to install AND use to watch our record for it to be an offence. This is reiterated here:


              • Except that's not what the law says:

                363Licence required for use of TV receiver

                (1)A television receiver must not be installed or used unless the installation and use of the receiver is authorised by a licence under this Part.

                (2)A person who installs or uses a television receiver in contravention of subsection (1) is guilty of an offence.

                See, "installed or used"

                • But what does "installation" mean? Simply plugging a TV into the mains without connecting an aerial or tuning it in would presumably not count as installation of a television receiver, as in that state it wouldn't *be* a television receiver.

                • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                  It clearly says "unless... authorised". Not watching broadcast TV is authorisation under the current rules.

                  This is well established. You don't have to rip the receiver out of your TV. No one is ever prosecuted for installing a TV and then only watching iPlayer/DVDs/games on it.

      • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:26AM (#51637051) Homepage

        iPlayer is the BBC's online catch-up/live TV service. It's integrated into set-top boxes and smart TVs as well as being available from computers (either with Flash or HTML5 (in beta)).

        The loophole is that the wording of the TV licencing laws mean you only need a TV licence if you're watching live broadcasts/streams. If you're happy to wait an hour or two for the whatever was just on TV to become available on the on-demand service (which it will be for 30 days or so), no licence is needed.

        Not everything that is broadcast makes it to the on-demand service - films, foreign imports, some sports, etc.

      • iPlayer is the BBC's onDemand/live streaming service.

        TV in the UK is funded by a TV licence. You pay a certain amount per year for the right to watch broadcast TV. You have to pay it even if you only watch non BBC channels.

        You don't need to pay it if you only watch iPlayer's onDemand service.
    • by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @12:23PM (#51637523) Homepage Journal

      Combine that with dropping GeoIP restrictions on iPlayer, and they might suddenly find that a lot of foreigners would start paying their license fee.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Input license number to view. Fixed!!

      Plus, now there will be a direct link between the IP address and the license number, which is linked to the household so they will have a clear tie and easy tie in to their internet tracking databases. Great.

      N.B. this being a UK discussion, I do not feel I should need to put in <sarcasm> tags.

    • by RDW ( 41497 )

      Input license number to view. Fixed!!

      What worries me about this is that the BBC might enforce it by finally adding some effective DRM to iPlayer, breaking the excellent third party get_iplayer tool that is by far the best way of managing BBC programmes.

  • Most people who use iPlayer already pay the TV license. Those that don't probably will find other ways of not paying.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They will simply introduce a levy on the ISP and had the suitcases full of cash directly to the newspapers and the BBC. That way the price of broadband goes up and everyone that abandoned the newspapers and the BBC because it was all drivel and bilge and we wanted to send a message (as much as save a buck) will only have the current 'democratic' method of effecting change. The politicians become more 'relevant, the newspapers become ever more the mouth pieces of the state and the BBC struggles on on only

    • They already fairly successfully limit the iPlayer to UK ISP's only, with VPNs regularly being cut out of the loop - so all they have to do is enact a law requiring ISPs to release details of subscribers who access the iPlayer service.

      Since a residential TV license is for the premises, then its pretty easy to check to see if the address of the internet subscriber matches an address in the TV License database. There are some edge cases (students et al), but that would cover 99% of access.

      • I don't think that will work. Best they can do is a login password system like sky have. This is also open to abuse though.

        • Why dont you think it will work? An ISP knows about traffic that is being sent to iPlayer (typically, most ISPs actually have peering directly with the BBC for iPlayer, so that makes it even easier). A broadband connection has a physical subscriber address where the service is provisioned - does that physical address have a TV License, yes or no? If the answer is "no" then it gets passed to enforcement. Covers the vast majority of iPlayer users, so the BBC gets to concentrate on the minority such as detecti

          • Physical subscriber addresses change all the time. It isn't the ISP's job to keep track of anyones subscription services. What if a subscriber wants to watch iPlayer while out on a 3G or 4G network from his mobile device, or while away from home. They have paid - so why shouldn't they be able to? What if you connect to your friends WIFI and use iPlayer, but he doesn't have a license? Trying to swat VPN's is like a game of wack-o-mole. And this doesn't even consider the privacy implications. The pl

  • Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:12AM (#51636965)

    Ad blocking isn't one of the root causes of the newspaper industry dying. There are several reasons but that's not one of them:

    1) The internet allows for competition from non-print sources like blogs. What once required a printing press, subscribers, and delivery now only requires web hosting. Many of the barriers to entry are gone.

    2) Classifieds are obsolete. There are far better ways to buy and sell things such as Amazon, Ebay, and Craigslist. There are definite advantages including secure payment systems, protection of the buyer and seller from fraud, and most importantly they reach a far wider audience.

    3) Ads are awful. It's necessary to block ads because they're so intrusive, frequently deceptive, and often serve drive-by malware. If users were presented with safe ads that weren't overly intrusive and deceptive, I wouldn't feel the need to block them. I'm not opposed to text ads, banners, and animated GIFs provided they're not deceptive and clearly identify as ads. Fix the ads and people will unblock them. Ad blocking is a consequence of this, which is one of the actual root causes.

    4) The journalism has declined. Instead of newspapers hiring reporters to cover news in other places, most of the non-local news is syndicated from other outlets, at least in the US. That includes things like the AP and Reuters. It's cheaper, but there's not a need to pay for a newspaper when that content can already be found for free at other places online.

    • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by seth_hartbecke ( 27500 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:40AM (#51637179) Homepage

      The AP put newspapers on the path to death decades ago.

      If you think about it, The Associated Press was basically an RSS feed of news items for many decades before things like the internet existed. Small papers found that they could subscribe to this feed, and then fire reporters. It kept their papers full of ink, but the AP had hollowed out their organization.

      What we realized when the internet happened is: our local hard working news paper wasn't really all that hard working. They were essentially an RSS aggregator, with a few local style pieces tossed in.

      What newspapers didn't see coming was technology being able to so easily replace their RSS aggregation functions and cut them out as the middle-man.

      What we need to ask ourself is: not how do we save newspapers. How do we support quality content generators and reporters?

    • Yes but blaming ad blocking allows you to say it's someone else and continue on knowing that you are perfect so most people prefer that option than to actually looking at the root causes of the problem and fixing them. A quick two second slogan which means that you don't have to do anything is much better even if it doesn't solve anything. Look at how people vote.

    • The main reason print newspapers are dying is that the news media turn around time has gone from a day or half a day to minutes - you can no longer wait until the next edition of the newspaper to break a story, it has to be on the web as soon as possible or its already old.

      This is why we have headlines on news sites which are literally "Breaking News!" and a five or six sentence which acts as a place holder until the actual article is written. On the BBC News website this means you get a banner alert at th

    • >> I'm not opposed to text ads, banners, and animated GIFs provided they're not deceptive and clearly identify as ads.

      Add "and do not interfere with viewing the content." That covers popups. floatovers, and tons of other intrusive things.

      >> The journalism has declined.

      One thing you didn't point out; fact checking and verification of sources has fallen off so much as to render most content worthless.

      Even major outlets, such as the New York Times, have become incredibly sloppy, publishing a great

      • Even major outlets, such as the New York Times, have become incredibly sloppy, publishing a great deal of blatantly garbage content, that five minutes of checking sources and facts would catch.

        Thank God we have slashdot.

    • I have no problems against internet Ads with one exception: news web sites. Washington Post and a number of the other big guys insist on playing loud obnoxious (and embarassing) video ads with no easy way to mute, or bugs so they keep reviving. News sites are the reason all my Ads are now blocked. Its pure irresponsibility
  • So there is a way to save money and someone shuts it down? Go figure. Good thing I don't pay my taxes either.
  • I like today's /. quote at the bottom of the page. It's the first helpful, or intelligent, thing anybody's said all day.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:38AM (#51637163) Homepage

    whilst timeshifting BCC broadcasts is indeed an egregious offense as it robs our government of revenue, Id like to bring it to the attention of my fellow britons that there is a far more nefarious. There has been report of a man -- perhaps multiple people -- who have found a way to use timeshifting to skirt the fundamental laws of quantum thermodynamics and causality. they do so in what seems to the naked eye to be merely a police box...but inside this device ALSO violates several casual laws of general thermodynamics as well.

    I cannot abide by such a lawless scoundrel galavanting about our nation. Whats next? he'll decide the laws of gravity no longer apply to him? that death no longer impacts him? as if he were some sort of "lord" of time?!?! outrageous.

    • Not bad, not bad. Definitely reminiscent of something that would appear in the Daily Mail letters page. However if that was your goal then you failed in the first line because to a true Daily Mail letter writer, the BBC is a socialist front that doesn't deserve a penny of public money.

  • Now I won't be able to not watch the BBC on the internet either!

  • Hey BBC, I understand this loophole problem is costing you £150m a year. We'll look into it for you but you have to do something for us. We want you to shoulder the cost of seniors not having to pay the license fee (costing £750m a year). Glad we agreed on that!

    So they are going to bring in a draconian, half thought out (I'm being generous here) law to save £150m a year that won't work while giving up £750m to buy votes. Sounds like typical politicians.

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      The BBC were constantly having a sly pop at the govenrment about funding this and funding that. The gov eventually got fed up with it and essentially said "Ok then, you do it if you think you can do better!" and gave them responsibility for funding pensioners.

      But remember , the BBC don't *have* to do it, its optional. They can tell the pensioners to get lost and spend the money elsewhere - the ball is in their court. So lets see what those bleeing heart lefties do now they have to put their money where thei

    • Hey BBC, I understand this loophole problem is costing you £150m a year. We'll look into it for you but you have to do something for us. We want you to shoulder the cost of seniors not having to pay the license fee (costing £750m a year). Glad we agreed on that!

      That is already going to be happening. Please do keep up at the back.

  • by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:52AM (#51637269)

    The current situation with the BBC illustrates the stupidity of accountant driven businesses. Contrary to all the doom and gloom stories you might have heard, the BBC is actually very profitable in terms of making programs with the revenue received from TV licenses. The problem is that it has a massive pension liability that is not ring-fenced from it's normal operations (WTF?). If the pension fund's investments lose value in a year, this loss is booked against their operating profit, making them look like they are losing ridiculous sums of money. What a crazy scheme.

    If the equity markets crashed, we might even end up with a situation where the BBC ceases to exist as a broadcaster, and all your license fee just goes towards paying historic BBC worker's pensions.

    Anyway that is my rant about them. I actually think they produce some excellent programming.

  • Why not charge ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashping ( 2674483 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @12:26PM (#51637567)
    Why can't they just require a login for the iPlayer ? If you have a TV and you pay the license fee, they can send a free login code. If not, you can pay on-line. That would also solve the problem of people living outside the UK who may be interested in watching the shows on-line.
    • by TonyJohn ( 69266 )
      I quite like this because it has the possibility to raising extra revenue for the BBC.

      I suspect there are two objections, firstly it has the tendency to turn the BBC into a commercial operator - it has an incentive to make programs which are popular for the non-UK audience. Secondly, the TV licence is actually for a property (strictly "dwelling" iirc) rather than a user, whereas a login to iPlayer could be used anywhere. If you are being pedantic the login provides more flexibility.

  • "a new initiative on the devastating impact of adblockers on the newspaper industry."

    BTW there's a Greasemonkey script available to deblock the anti-adblocker on Wired Magazine.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near