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iPlayer users should pay licence fee says BBC director general Tony Hall

Currently, only people who watch BBC TV as it airs must pay the licence fee

People who only watch programmes on the BBC’s catch-up service iPlayer should be made to pay for a TV licence, the organisation’s director general has said.

Currently, only those who watch or record BBC programmes as they are showing have to pay the £145.50 a year fee, meaning that on-demand programmes on iPlayer are free to watch.

Addressing the audience at the Oxford Media Convention, Tony Hall said: “One of the advantages of the licence fee is that it's flexible and has adapted over the years. It started as a radio licence. Then TV. Then colour TV. And then the relatively simple change to the regulations in 2004 to cover the consumption of live TV on new devices such as computers.

“When it's adapted itself so well over the decades, why would you suddenly give it up?” he asked.

"When and how best to take the next step is, of course, a matter for the Government.

“Our view is that there is room for modernisation so that the fee applies to the consumption of BBC TV programmes, whether live on BBC One or on-demand via the iPlayer," he said.

It is estimated around 2 per cent of UK households do not have a TV set but watch programmes using the iPlayer.

Lord Hall added that the corporation had become more efficient, citing figures that around 300 fewer people will be employed by its core finance team by 2016 when compared with 2006.

He also said that moving BBC Sport from London to Salford saved more than £2million per year on football coverage and said the corporation was "in the final stages of a budget process to find an extra £100 million of savings" that would be announced next month.

His speech comes before the licence fee's renewal in 2016, and the publication of the BBC's Royal Charter to set out its role, functions, and structure, in 2017.

Additional reporting by PA