Skip to main content

There's been a lot of changes recently at the BBC – and we're not only talking about the departure of The Great British Bake Off. Earlier this year, it was announced that you'll need a TV licence to watch BBC iPlayer from September.

The BBC has now revealed that you'll need to set up an account and log in to use BBC iPlayer from next year. Some are suggesting that this move is a way to enforce the new rules about TV licences and iPlayer - we explore.      

What we know

From early 2017, you'll need to log in with a personal account to watch shows on BBC iPlayer. You'll need to log in to listen to the radio via iPlayer or to use mobile apps too.  

At the moment you can watch iPlayer without signing in to a personalised account or registering as an active user, but this will become compulsory next year.

Around seven million viewers currently have an online BBC ID account. This requires you to input an email address and password although you must provide a date of birth to comment on stories. From Tuesday 27 September, BBC ID holders will also need to add a postcode to their account to continue their access.

Some sceptics are suggesting that the addition of a postcode is to help TV Licensing keep an eye on who has a licence to watch the catch-up service. The BBC has quashed these claims by saying that although TV Licensing will have access to the postcode information, it won't use it for enforcing the rules.

The broadcaster says that it will carry on with its existing enforcement processes – such as letters and visits from enquiry officers – although these are under review to make sure they're still effective.

What this means for me

Nothing for now. The BBC has said it will be encouraging people to sign up over the next few months but there's no need to do this until the official launch date. At the moment, this is thought to be early 2017.

The broadcaster insists that it wants to make these changes to create a more tailored and personalised experience for its viewers. Inputting your postcode will make sure you see relevant content such as the local news and weather.

iPlayer is not the first on-demand service to require a login, services such as ITV hub and All 4 On Demand do so currently – although you don't need a TV licence to catch-up on TV. You are now required to have a TV licence to download or watch shows on iPlayer or risk a fine of up to £1,000 or prosecution.

There is a single exception though – this won't work for everyone but some, mostly students, could benefit from it. Under the licence fee terms and conditions, you don't need a licence to watch a battery-powered device.

This rule was bought in to stop people needing another licence to watch TV away from home. For example, for a battery-powered hand held TV used on a camping trip. And if you think about it, there are lots of battery-powered devices these days including tablets and phones.

There are certain rules that you need to follow though when using a battery powered device. You can read more about when you don't need a TV licence here

Legal Information