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If you only watch TV on-demand through iPlayer and other services, you'll soon need to pay the licence fee regardless.

So far, viewers have only needed a licence fee if they're watching live TV. That means anyone could only watch catch-up or on-demand and save themselves the annual charge of £145.50.

But under new rules announced by culture secretary John Whittingdale, all viewers will have to pay the fee regardless of how they watch.

There was concern that around 500,000 people had been exploiting the so-called 'iPlayer loophole' to watch without spending a penny.

The announcement came as part of a government white paper. In return – as previously announced – the BBC will pay the cost of providing over-75s with free licence fees.

Whittingdale also announced the licence fee will increase in line with inflation for the first time since 2010, and it will remain in place for at least the next 11 years.

For the first time, media watchdog Ofcom will regulate the corporation.

Whittingdale said the BBC will have to produce more distinctive content to justify the licence fee, though he made clear he was "emphatically not saying the BBC should not be popular."

He added: "Commissioning editors should ask consistently of new programming: 'Is this idea sufficiently innovative and high quality?' rather than simply 'How will it do in the ratings?'"

He also called on the corporation to "give greater focus to under-served audiences, in particular those from black, Asian and ethic minority backgrounds, and those in the nations and regions."

The Beeb's new mission statement will now be: "To act in the public interest, serving all audiences with impartial, high-quality, and distinctive media content and services that inform, educate and entertain."

Source: Department for Culture, Media & Sport

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