BBC tech chief calls for iPlayer licence fee

People who only view BBC programming through the iPlayer video-on-demand service are getting a "free ride", according to Future Media and Technology director Erik Huggers

People who only view BBC content through its online video-on-demand service iPlayer should pay for the privilege, according to the broadcaster's tech chief.

A loophole which allows those who only watch BBC programming through iPlayer to avoid paying the licence fee means that some users are getting a "free ride", the BBC's director of Future Media and Technology Erik Huggers told a Broadcasting Press Guild event last week.

"My view is that if you are using the iPlayer, you have to be a television licence fee payer," The Daily Mail quoted Huggers as saying.

"I don't believe in a free ride. If you are consuming BBC services, then you have to be a licence holder."

Despite some media reports claiming plans are afoot to charge people for using iPlayer, the BBC has refuted such suggestions.

The broadcaster said in a statement: "These claims are completely false. The BBC has no plans for charges to use the iPlayer or changes to the licence fee. In any case, changes to current arrangements would need to be made by Parliament."

However, the BBC's independent regulator, the BBC Trust, recently indicated that a rethink may be required around the TV licence due to changes in the way audiences are consuming publicly funded television content.

A BBC Trust report published last month said: "Legislative change is likely to be required in order to reflect technology changes in the licence fee regulations."

The BBC Trust added at the time that it regularly reviews the impact of new technology on audience behaviour but has so far found that online on-demand viewing tends to supplement television rather than replace it.