End User internet media

TV license fee for internet watching

In my mind the clock has started ticking ever so quietly for the end of TV Licensing.  A review of the TV License fee by the BBC Trust looks at the issues associated with collecting TV License revenues for the BBC.

The report says “The licence fee collection is currently heavily reliant on the fact that almost 98% of households still use television sets (although this number has declined very slightly in the last year from 97.61% to 97.37%) and that viewing on new technologies tends to be supplementary to viewing on television.”

However “research for the BBC Executive shows that 40% of students in halls of residence use a laptop as their main way to watch TV”. iPlayer.

With almost half of all children leaving school now attending an University of some description this suggests that in time a large proportion of the population will move to watching TV online. 

This will present huge issues in collection of the license fee and will almost certainly join the regulatory debate that includes how to police illegal P2P music and video downloading.  Business models in the media industries are bound to have to evolve.


The report covers the problems with collecting the License Fee and specifically mentions the difficulties of proving whether a household has a TV or not.  The Davies household, after 20 or so blissful years of isolation,  got a TV for the first time ever 4 years ago following demands from our increasingly vociferous daughter.

Around 6 years ago we did a house swap with some Californian friends who, horrified at the lack of a TV in the house (how do you keep the kids quiet?) borrowed one and took out a license.  They went home and cancelled the bank payment standing order which triggered a stream of increasingly threatening letters demanding money.

Initially we ignored these but eventually complained to our MP, Gillian Merron, who got tough with the TV License Authority (or whatever their name is) and sorted it.  My issue was that I was offered two means to tell them I didn’t have a license, either by paying for a premium rate phone call or for a stamp.  As a fascist anti TV type this was objectionable to me.

Imagine how I felt when I eventually bought a TV and had to ring the same premium rate number to pay for a License.  I could feel the surprise, nay contempt,  at the other end of the phone of the call centre agent who could clearly see my record of complaint on this subject.

One of the many side benefits of when the kids eventually leave home is that I will be able to get rid of the TV again and, no doubt, renew my battle with the TV Licensing Authority.  Unless, that is, they introduce draconian measures that say if you own a computer you have to pay for a license!

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

4 replies on “TV license fee for internet watching”

Since the beginning of 2007 any device which is *capable* of getting Internet access requires a license in Germany. Currently you can pay the lower Radio rate, and so far they’re letting businesses get away with a single “” license / site. (Normally you have to pay per device, so if you have 2 flat screen TVs in your office for video conferencing purposes that will be 2 * TV license per month).

Grown up children living at home also require their own license, even if you only have
one TV or Radio in the home. You also require a 2nd license for your car radio if you use the car for any business travel.

For further information about how bad it can get see (Businesses are also required by law to submit VAT returns on-line)

The whole concept of “licence fee” taxation is both anachronistic and frankly, patronising.

Why on earth isn’t the whole concept of establishing a self-perpetuating bureaucracy to administer a tax, as a concept, being challenged?!

I mean, we don’t have “dog licences” any more, precisely because the concept is just ludicrous.
You may as well have a “toaster licence fee” as a TV one, with the proceeds funding bread companies to ensure that minority breads are made available even when there’s no commercial market for them…

We certainly don’t need the kind of totalitarian micromanagement of somewhere like Germany.
Surely the age where are supplicant proletariat requires entertainment profferings to be selected by self appointed “benign overseers” is at an end – we have the internet; we have freedom; we don’t need to hand over the cash and listen to patronising people “disagree” and bulldoze their worldview over us!
Naturally the privileged position of the BBC is being clung onto, despite it being perfectly clear that by producing commercial entertainment it is going against it’s original purpose of supplying non-commerically viable broadcasting of value, and in doing so, distorting the market and helping to destroy commercial stations like ITV and C4.

It should become increasingly obvious that the BBC must be split into a “HBO” style subscription channel (arguably better than the BBC in what it delivers); a commercial CNN-style channel with no disingenuous statements about impartiality; and a small educational/public service/Celtic language channel funded by the Dept. for Culture, Media, and Sport.
Everything that is good about the BBC is good enough to pay for… pay per view; subscription; or a box set/download… the very notion of a tax on the internet is offensive as well as preposterous… it’s against everything the internet stands for – freedom of choice and expression (well, as long as you host in the USA, where you’re protected by their constitution – says a lot about free expression in the UK doesn’t it!).

We don’t need licences… because licences mean more admin staff and systems… bigger public sectors… and higher tax… no thanks… we should be taxed on what we consume; not on what we earn.

More and more people need to know that they can tune out and drop out – throw your TV in the skip; get a projector and a broadband connexion with Linux or Mythbuntu, and send the TV Licencing Company a letter withdrawing Implied Right of Access… we need a national movement… they did it in New Zealand – so can we!

Freedom! (cue Braveheart scene!)

Neanderthal said:
“You may as well have a “toaster licence fee” as a TV one”

Don’t give them ideas… its bad enough we have to pay a single organisation to access the broadcast of others….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.