The furore over how the BBC will enforce new requirements to pay the licence fee to watch catch-up, and not just live, content on iPlayer is unlikely to go away soon. Apart from anything it gives the rightwing media an opportunity to stoke paranoia about BBC surveillance and cruel enforcement.
The claims of widescale snooping seem overblown, and the BBC’s existing powers to catch those breaking the rules are, while invasive, almost certainly only feasible on a smaller scale. The BBC deliberately won’t reveal its enforcement methods, partly because it would make them easier to evade, partly because people fear the unknown. If that fear does not prove enough to make people pay, the shortfall in income will remain and probably grow.
The most obvious solution is linking access to iPlayer to a licence fee number, and the BBC has not ruled that out. But such a move would raise all kinds of other questions about the licence fee itself, and bring the BBC one step closer to being an opt-in subscription service, something to which it is resolutely opposed. It will have to hope fear of the unknown enforcement options prevails.
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