The U.K. government has altered the rules governing who has to pay the annual TV license fee, which helps fund the BBC. All users of the BBC streaming service, the iPlayer, will now have to buy the £145.50 ($192) license. Previously, only those watching live TV had to pay, allowing some to watch shows like “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” for free if they only watched on-demand content.
Closing the loophole is likely to generate about £150 million ($198 million) a year for the BBC. The TV licensing agency said fewer than 2% of U.K. households would be affected by the change in the law, which comes into effect on Sept. 1.
The government agreed to make the change last summer during negotiations that also saw the broadcaster take on the £750 million ($990 million) cost of giving licenses for free to those over 75 years old.
The move has prompted some observers to wonder whether this is the first step toward the adoption of a subscription model for funding the BBC, an option previously advocated by Terry Burns, chairman of Channel 4, a state-owned network funded entirely by advertising. A subscription model would allow the BBC to charge extra for premium content.