/ Technology

YouView could save the TV licence

YouView logo over the world

With conversations hotting up over whether the compulsory TV licence should stay or go, the arrival of a new sweetener could influence the debate. YouView, an internet connected TV service, has been announced.

Previously known as Project Canvas, YouView is a partnership between the BBC, ITV, Five, Channel 4, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk. The service will offer Freeview channels, on-demand TV (iPlayer, 4oD, ITV.com) and access to other websites, such as Flickr and YouTube.

The service, nicknamed ‘Freeview Mark Two’ by some, will be offered through a set-top box, which will either cost as much as £200 or could be offered for free if you sign up to broadband with BT or TalkTalk.

YouView could certainly be a boon of a TV service, playing a large part in bringing internet TV into the living room and taking a stab at the subscription packages offered by Virgin Media and Sky. Both of which aren’t too happy with the innovation, claiming it’s ‘anti-competitive’.

Added value for the licence fee?

But could this be the type of service that will add extra value to the BBC TV licence? In some people’s eyes it could even make the licence fee worthwhile.

Apart from the cost of the set-top box, you’ll be getting a service that’s usually restricted to additional subscription packages. Not only will you be able to search for your favourite programmes and watch them on-demand, you’ll be able to record entire series, and even pause or rewind live TV. Other firms could even create online ‘Apps’ for the service.

Of course, web-enabled TVs are already starting to trickle onto the market, with Google TV soon on its way. These will give you access to the same BBC iPlayer, 4oD and ITV.com offered by YouView. Plus, you can even watch the BBC iPlayer through the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, with 4oD planned for the former.

Each of the project’s partners have pumped £18m into the project, meaning that a fair chunk of the cash has come from licence fee payers, whether they want the service or not.

So is YouView actually worth it?

I think offering a web-enabled set-top box that doesn’t come with hidden or continuing costs is a great idea for those of us who don’t want to pay for a subscription, or buy another damned TV.

Loads of us have already upgraded to HDTVs and we’re being bombarded with 3D tellies. Do we really want to buy another TV just to access the internet? Watching internet TV is already well used on our computers, so why can’t licence fee payers be at the forefront of its transition to the living room?


So you still pay the TV licence?

Wonder how they will police that one?

We’re going to talk about this on the podcast which you can hear on Thursday morning at http://www.which.co.uk/podcasts/ When is a TV that you have to pay a licence fee for not a TV you have to pay a licence for? When it’s a computer…and soon we won’t really be able to tell the difference.

It beggars belief that BT are part of a consortium that’s going to promote such a service, when I think theyre as far as they are from providing adequate speeds and bandwidth throughout the national broadband network! BT have already had problems coping with the upsurge in demand, first with online gaming, then with the likes of YouTube streaming video. Note also that YouTube content is far lower resolution and frame rate than any decent TV signal (and let’s not even mention the far higher data demands of HDTV!), so if large numbers of people do start using YouView set-top boxes, you’d all better give up trying to access your favourite websites. Unless, of course, BT have some secret master plan for increasing overnight the capacity of their network. (OK, stop laughing…..! 😉

The TV licence is a bargain, even as it stands. Any added value makes it even more of a bargain.

Nittin says:
17 September 2010

In the 21st century it is ludicrous that we are forced to pay the BBC license fee even if we watch the BBC or not! After the digital switch-over in Yorkshire, I have lost all the BBC channels for over a year now and yet I pay the BBC license fee….why? Despite repeated complaints, nothing has been done. All I needed the BBC was for news and even that is biased so I don’t see the point and even if I wanted to I don’t get any BBC channels, so why should I be forced to pay when I don’t watch the BBC channels. Why doesn’t the BBc charge the people who want to watch BBC programmes, perhaps they are worried there would hardly be any takers willing to pay this much fee when there are other equally good options available if not better. This stone age compulsory fee should have long been scrapped!

You’ve ‘lost’ all the BBC channels? I don’t get that. Even if you can’t get a signal for Freeview, where you live, you can certainly get a signal for Freesat (unless you live in a very unusual situation). Everyone should have known about the digital switchover for the past several years, so there was plenty of time to prepare for it and no reason therefore to blame the BBC for your inability to receive their broadcasts. What “complaints” exactly have you made and to whom?

As for claiming that the BBC News is ‘biased’, where’s your evidence for that? Or are you simply repeating something that others’ claim? All news channels are likely to have some bias one way or another, but I’d certainly consider the BBC to be far less so than either other TV channels or newspapers, who have far more of a hidden (or sometimes not so hidden) agenda than the BBC ever would. For me, that’s due to the independence that the TV licence funding gives to the BBC, so that they don’t have to kowtow to other external pressures.

johpal says:
13 October 2010

So far as I am aware, Yorkshire hasn’t “gone digital” yet. Sure you don’t need to retune your digibox?

James Harrison says:
20 September 2010

The BT tag has issued an instant ‘NO’! When they have the monopoly on the really expensive and only option for land-line-based communication, which we have already paid for before it was sold off by the Thatch, it makes a mockery of ‘Free-Enterprise’.

Totally agree – I left BT years ago because of the appalling service and costs I experienced. The only time I have problems now is when my connection is having to use BT infrastructure

[Hi Richard, just to let you know we had to moderate this comment a little bit due to a minimal risk of libel. Thanks.]

The BBC has to get money somehow. It might be cheaper nationaly if it was assumed that every household had a TV and compute a notional contribution, but pay the BBC from governent money (taxes) directly without all the admin involved in administrating the licence system.

Loss-making newspaper owners with tv channels would adore some of these comments; it’s almost as if their newspapers wrote some of them. The BBC is one of the few remaining publicly-owned ‘jewels in the crown’ left to us. The commercial channels want a share of the ‘stone age compulsory’ licence fee. But if newspaper-owning tv channels have income problems, they should remember, investments may go down as well as up. Or perhaps Nittin would like tv to descend to the level of the US? The Murdochs of this world shouldn’t expect that just because taxpayers bailed out the banks we must do the same for them. Particularly when they are neither UK citizens nor taxpayers. Some nerve!

Ofgem has just given You View the green light, saying: “It is likely that YouView will bring benefits to viewers and consumers,” said Ofcom. “Any potential harm to competition would need to be offset against these benefits.”

Read more about the decision here: http://bit.ly/9QYnNh

Jackie says:
3 March 2011

Just to add another thought. Loads of Brits live abroad. Most of them like UK TV (BBC ITV etc) and BBC radio. Why not offer international licences for those who live abroad (whether Brits or not) and who want to see British TV and hear British radio (my sister lives in Florida and loves radio 4 and the very limited BBC TV programmes available through the US Public Broadcasting system) but many of the best programmes are not available to listen to or view because they are restrictred to UK viewers/listeners only. Why not earn extra money by providing anyone who wishes to watch or listen to BBC / ITV TV and radio, a licence key to enable them to do exactly that.? The radio World Service is great in parts but is being severely cut due to costs etc, so why not make the whole radio and TV progs available at a cost thereby winning fans and earning money?

There’s only about 3 or 4 programmes I watch on the all terrestrial channels. F1 being one of them. I say scrap the TV licence completely.

alfiesaden says:
4 January 2012

hi there – is it just me !! can any one explain why when i type in the yahoo browser “conversation.which.co.uk” i get a different site yet whe i type it in google its ok? could this be a bug in my system or is any one else having same probs ?