TV licence 'outdated' as viewers tune in online

Fears for TV licence as viewers turn to catch-up servicesPic: Getty

There are fears that the TV licence could soon be a thing of the past as more and more viewers turn to free online catch-up services to take in their favourite shows.

According to new figures, internet viewing has risen by a third since 2012, and the BBC's iPlayer website alone received a record three billion requests for free programmes in the 12 months.

Currently those watching live BBC services via their TV pay a standard licence fee of £145.50, but by turning on to catch-up, they can legally avoid paying the fee.

The Daily Mail reports that some half a million households across the UK now exploit this legal loophole by waiting until popular shows such as Top Gear, Doctor Who and The Voice are available for free online.

Indeed some shows, including BBC3's Bad Education and special mini-episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who, were only available on iPlayer, and the Beeb's head of online TV content, Victoria Jaye, has announced that even more shows will premiere online this year.

And with so many more homes now equipped with tablets, laptops and smartphones, it is thought millions could soon stop paying for the licence altogether. In December 2013, for instance, millions chose to catch the Christmas specials of Doctor Who, Mrs Brown's Boys and EastEnders online rather than live, with the number watching on tablets doubling to 20 per cent.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, told the Mail: "The model for the licence fee is long out of date thanks to technological advances.

"It's time to reform this out of date tax so as to ease the burden it places on households while ensuring the BBC has a fair and sustainable source of funding."

What do you think? Should the licence fee be scrapped? Leave your comments below...