The days of watching BBC programmes online may be numbered after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday hinted that an online licence fee could be introduced.
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But as early as next year, when the BBC's funding levels come up for review, this may all change.
The BBC feel that many people are getting a 'free ride' by watching programmes online and think the licence fee should be increased to include the iPlayer. Fortunately, the government are not entirely in agreement.
Speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr show yesterday, Jeremy Hunt said: "What we have said very clearly is that we accept the principle of the licence fee which is the idea, if you like, of a household tax to fund public service broadcasting that is ring-fenced.
"We think one of the reasons we have some of the best television and broadcasting in the world in this country is because we have these different streams of income, including the licence fee, including subscription income and including advertising.
"Now, the way we collect it may have to be rethought because technology is changing. A lot of people are watching TV on their PCs.
"We are not going to introduce a PC licence fee. That is something [about which] I do need to have discussions with the BBC to see what their ideas are."
He added: "We haven't had any discussion at all about the level of the licence fee, that's something we'll be doing next year."
A recent survey revealed that 40 per cent of students use computers as their main method of watching TV, and that many viewers would be happy to "forgo live television entirely" in favour of watching catch-up programmes online.
A spokesman for the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "The Government should be looking for a source of funding that means fewer people are charged for programmes they don't watch or listen to.
"The first step should be to cut the licence fee and force the BBC to start operating more efficiently and cutting back on the bloated bureaucracy that consumes too much of its resources."
Do you think it is fair to charge a licence fee for online viewers? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.