As internet TV grows ever more popular around the globe, its popularity and freedom of access has forced many national governments into considering whether the world of online viewing should be taxable through a licence fee.
So far, few have actually followed through on such unpopular suggestions. But it appears as though the European nation of Sweden are following neighbours Denmark in paving the way as a trend-setter, with confirmation that as of Friday, viewers will need to pay a national public broadcaster SvT (Sveriges Television) an annual licence fee in order to access the content online.
Said to be an attempt to compete with the likes of Netflix and HBO who have recently expanded into the Scandanavian market, SvT are now charging anyone that watches their shows (or radio content on Sveriges Radio or ‘educational’ broadcasting station Utbildningsradion) via mobile devices (including smartphones and tablet computers).
Currently, anyone who owns a TV set in Sweden is required to pay SEK173 ($27) per month for their household as a public broadcast licence fee, covering the entire household regardless of the number of sets. However, people who use the online catch-up services purely to dodge that payment will soon see their tactic registered invalid, with Friday’s rule changes meaning that anything that the TV content can be seen on will be classed as a ‘set’ and considered part of the household.
Fee collectors Radiotjanst will be in charge of overseeing their new regulations, supported by a 2007 law change that turned the TV licence definition ‘neutral’ (in order to leave it open to advancements in technology), and will be tasked with checking their customer database to send reminders or a personal visit to people who now need to pay.
Radiotjanst spokesman Johan Gernandt defended the plans last week, summarising: “We have started gradually with computers and Internet tablets. Nine out of 10 already pay a TV license, so they probably aren’t angry.”
Despite this belief, the news hasn’t gone down well with the Swedish public (who are amongst the highest tax-payers in the world), and media sources have questioned whether the move is worth it for what Radiotjanst have admitted will only be a minor addition to their SEK7.2b annual licence fee income.
Whether it is a progressive or a crazy move, people in Sweden hoping to catch this year’s Eurovision Song Contest for free on SvT (who will reveal their national entry in the final of the Melodifestivalen 2013 contest this weekend) would now be advised to visit a friends house, use YouTube, or just face the music and pay up. On second thoughts, maybe you wouldn’t be missing much…