The iPlayer licence loophole closes today - and takes your free catch-up streaming with it


You knew this day was coming, so you have no excuses. All BBC iPlayer viewers must now have an up-to-date TV licence in order to stream shows, whether they're watching live broadcasts or not.

Previously, the so-called "iPlayer loophole" allowed fans of the Beeb to stream programmes through the iPlayer app free of charge, so long as it was a "catch-up" show not being broadcast live.

But the renewal of the BBC's Royal Charter has brought an end to this oversight, bringing the licence fee rules in line with modern viewing habits.

This means that, without paying the annual £145.50 fee, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law with a fine of up to £1,000.

Stingy streamers

For most iPlayer users, the changes will pass by unnoticed. The majority of UK households, some 94%, already pay the licence fee annually, and will not be affected by the new rules.

However, it's expected that younger viewers, so used to streaming on phones, laptops and tablets, may well be caught out, as a whole generation of viewers have grown up away from traditional linear TV broadcasting.

It's worth noting too that just because you've got a Sky or Virgin Media TV package, you're not automatically covered by the TV licence, even though those services have iPlayer apps built in too.

Still, you shouldn't be caught completely by surprise. The iPlayer browser app now starts with a pop-up, asking you to confirm that you have a licence before settling in for a streaming session. Whether or not you answer that pop-up truthfully is up to you...

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.