While many of us love the BBC iPlayer function, it has been under scrutiny for a while as the powers that be challenged the fact that it allowed people without TV licenses to be able to watch BBC programmes. The government have now intervened to close this loophole as of September 1 by changing the regulations, so that people have to pay to have access to the iPlayer. Also, for the first time in the 90 years that the BBC have been running, they will now be regulated by an outside body – Ofcom – and modernising the existing system is something that the government deemed as necessary to stop some people from being able to watch programmes without having to pay for them.

The iPlayer loophole has been mainly used by expats who live abroad and who want to keep watching their favourite BBC programmes and in keeping with the old rules, you only had to have a TV license if you watch live television. This meant that streaming programmes or watching them on-demand was possible without a license but as the non-live programmes were created by the BBC, it will come as little surprise to many that a clamp-down on this loophole has now been enforced.

The new laws mean that people want to use the BBC iPlayer function will now need to pay to own a TV license and this is likely to have an effect on all of the BBC’s on-demand services. However, TV Licensing have claimed that only 2% of households will actually be affected by this change in the regulations, as many BBC users already have a valid TV license. It is also important to note that other on-demand services such as the ITV Player, Netflix, All4 and My5 can still be watched without a license and this could spell trouble for the BBC, as it is feared that some will simply switch to their rival channels to get their TV fix. Third party services such as Virgin, Sky and BT will also be governed by the new rules and it will cover the use of all devices such as laptops, PCs, tablets and smartphones that can be used to stream programmes.

The BBC are concerned that the number of people who use the iPlayer will decrease as a result of the new laws. Peter Zaborszky from Best VPN, however thinks it will open up a new window of opportunity for the BBC to work alongside expats who want to view their programmes by paying for the privilege.

“If the BBC starts to ask for license fee numbers, it is likely to massively decrease the usage of the BBC iPlayer by people who shouldn’t be using it. The BBC has been quite active in cracking down on VPN use anyway. However, it could be a really good way for the BBC and expats living abroad to work together so that they could still enjoy BBC programmers while also paying for them.”

From students on a tight budget and those living on a restricted income to expats living abroad, having to purchase a TV license may prove to be beyond their capabilities and they will instead simply switch to watch programmes via a rival source. Yet the BBC refuse to be defeated by the new rules and instead highlighted that only those without a license will be impacted by the changes and as this represents a small percentage of iPlayer users, the future of the iPlayer looks promising.