Technology v the BBC reports that the UK’s TV license fee is becoming ever harder to justify.

Emily Chapman keeps her television under the bed. Two years ago the 27-year-old from London cancelled her TV license in an effort to spend fewer hours in front of the box. Now she and her boyfriend watch DVDs on a laptop and BBC programs through iPlayer, an online video service. That is more compelling than she expected: “Our screen time has probably gone up.”

Many Britons use online catch-up services to watch television shows they have missed. Yet for a handful of viewers—at present less than 2%—they are replacing live television. That is a problem for the BBC, which is funded mostly through a license fee on television-watching households. Current laws require people to pay £145.50 ($237) a year to view or record shows as they are broadcast, no matter what technology is used. But for the time being users of iPlayer and other video-on-demand sites need pay nothing at all.

This problem is likely to grow. People aged between 16 and 24 now spend about a quarter of their viewing time watching DVDs, on-demand or online content, according to Toby Syfret of Enders Analysis, a research firm. Mr Syfret thinks youngsters will acquire television sets eventually. But Antonella Mei-Pochtler of the Boston Consulting Group argues that people stick with the viewing habits they acquire in youth. She thinks the growth of internet-connected TVs is bound to accelerate a shift away from old-fangled channel-hopping.


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