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The TV licence could be replaced by a TV tax that everyone has to pay, even if they don't watch telly. A committee of MPs has put forward the idea as an alternative way to fund the BBC.

If you only watch catch-up or on-demand online, you don't have to pay the TV Licence. It's only if you watch live TV that you have to shell out.

As people are increasingly turning to catch-up and on-demand services, the BBC has to find alternative sources of funding.

The TV tax – proposed by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee – would be similar to the system used in Germany.

According to BARB (Broadcaster Audience Research Board), 96 per cent of UK residents qualify to pay the licence fee.

"In the short term, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model is becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain," said John Whittingdale, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee.

"We also consider it anachronistic that it is a criminal offence to evade the licence fee, it is completely out of step with non-payment of other services and penalties."

He added: "We recommend that as a minimum, the licence fee must be amended to cover catch-up television as soon as possible."

Instead of evading the licence fee being a criminal offence, the BBC should encrypt its channels and put iPlayer behind a paywall, the committee argues.

It wants to see the new system put in place within 15 years, but notes a rollout would take years.

The licence fee currently costs £145.50.

A BBC spokesperson said: "This report confirms the importance of the BBC in national life and recommends maintaining and modernising the licence fee, something we have said is necessary.

"We're grateful to the committee for endorsing our record for efficiency and maintaining the quality of programmes and services, and note members overwhelmingly voted against moving to a subscription funding model."

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