Changes on the way for France's TV licences as viewers switch to streaming services

A French minister has proposed a plan to extend TV licences to set-top boxes - but not everyone's in favour.

A plan floated by a French government minister that would require TV viewers to buy a licence for set-top boxes as well as TV sets has already met with opposition - from a fellow minister in Manuel Valls' cabinet.

In a video interview with French media outlet L'Opinion, France's minister responsible for digital affairs, Axelle Lemaire, said she would not be greatly in favour of the plan, describing the measure as both difficult to implement and ineffective.

Lemaire was asked for her view on the subject after France's minister for culture Fleur Pellerin advocated a plan to extend licence fees to owners of connected set-top boxes, often part of triple-play offerings - where TV, broadband, and home phone services are taken from the same telco.

Such a move would form part of efforts to address the changing habits of TV viewers, who increasingly watch television programmes and films on screens other than their TV sets, with content streamed over the internet rather than via traditional antennas.

Pellerin has nonetheless ruled out the suggestion that such a tax should be levied on tablets and smartphones.

Lemaire said such a measure would apply to less than two percent of French households, as 98 percent already have a TV set. She added that the measure would also have a particular impact on younger people who choose not to buy a TV set.

She further questioned how it could be ascertained whether or not a box was being used for TV services. "It is absolutely possible to buy a box and not use the television service, but how do you verify that?" she asked.

Pellerin meanwhile has said that the option is now on the table. Prime minister Valls and president Francois Hollande are expected to make a decision on the matter in the coming days, according to Le Monde newspaper.

In France, triple-play services via connected set-top boxes are provided by a number of operators including Orange (Livebox), Numericable-SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free.

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