The European nation of Sweden has this week passed a new law which will permit national public broadcaster SVT to begin charging a licence fee for online content, grouping viewers who watch content exclusively on desktop or mobile devices with those that view via traditional TV.
The licence fee for TV has been a long-standing tradition in the Swedish media industry, with the state broadcasters charging 173 krona ($25.90) per month to cover the channel’s expenditures in a similar manner to that if the BBC in the UK.
Like in the UK, though, more and more Swedes have been foregoing TV content in favour of watching online, primarily through subscription providers such as Netflix, along with SVT’s own catch-up options. While defenders of the decision will claim that it is a sensible one to make to avoid the broadcasters losing a valuable source of income, the section of the general public who would be affected by SVT imposing a licence fee online have not been as impressed, speaking out against the new ruling on social networks, while local media outlets have debated the ‘viability’ of the TV licensing system as a whole.
The ruling was made at an administrative court in the northern town of Lulea, following ‘hundreds’ of appeals against fees for users who feel they are being unfairly charged on account of the loophole of ‘TV set ownership’, which the court have looked to address, now claiming that the national definition of a ‘television receiver’ should cover any device if necessary by the broadcasters, with no regard for what the item of technology.
The court summarized the choice on their website, writing: “Even if a computer is primarily used for other purposes, one of its uses these days is to receive TV programs. Since it is the ownership of the equipment that is subject to a fee, it is of no significance to that liability whether the person maybe does not use the computer to watch TV programs.”
Arguably taking the BBC’s line of thought on the matter (that any ‘TV content’ on any device is chargeable as long as it is live) and going a step further, will the ever standard-bearing Swedes display this as another example for the rest of the world to follow, or are their plans for the national TV industry ones that emit a stance from all other countries as ‘each to their own’?