BBC Television Licensing vans have been spotted in Penarth – as new regulations come into force as from today requiring all people who watch tv programmes on iPlayer via computers or other devices to hold full TV licences.
The vans appear to be pinpointing addresses for which there is no record of a TV licence. They pause outside the address – possibly checking for the wi-fi radio signals emitted by all wireless internet hubs. Each check takes only 30 seconds.
If there is no valid TV licence on record for the premises BBC TV licence investigators will call to interview the householder
The BBC Licensing vans are – controversially – indulging in what is classed as “covert surveillance”. The Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office says “where the BBC still suspects that an occupier is watching live television but not paying for a licence, it can send a detection van to check whether this is the case. TVL detection vans can identify viewing on a non‐TV device in the same way that they can detect viewing on a television set. BBC staff were able to demonstrate this to my staff in controlled conditions sufficient for us to be confident that they could detect viewing on a range of non‐TV devices”.
The new rules covering the so-called “iPlayer loophole“, came into effect this morning . Previously, only viewers who were watching shows as they were actually being broadcast required a licence. That meant it was legal to watch content after broadcast via the catch-up service without paying the annual £145.50 licence fee.
The new rules are expected to affect younger people who are judged to be more likely to watch tv programmes on smartphones or tablets than via traditional television sets.
The BBC says “The vast majority of households – around 94% – are already licensed so this change will not affect them. ”