BBC iPlayer will require users to set up an account and log in to use the service from next year, it was announced today. But the BBC insists the move isn't a way to enforce new rules which require you to have a TV licence if watching iPlayer.

From early 2017 you'll need to log in if you want to watch catch-up TV on BBC iPlayer, listen to the radio via it or use some of its mobile apps.

It comes hot on the heels of a change in the TV licence rules which means that since 1 September 2016 you must have had a TV licence to watch BBC iPlayer, even if you're only watching catch-up TV.

Previously you didn't need a licence if you were only watching catch-up TV (and not programmes live) – and you still don't if only watching catch-up TV on other services such as the ITV Hub and All 4 On Demand. See our Do I need a TV licence? guide for full info.

What do I need to do?

For now, you don't have to do anything (other than be sure you have a licence if watching catch-up TV on iPlayer).

Viewers can already opt to sign in to BBC iPlayer using the BBC ID service if they want – the BBC says over seven million people are registered for a BBC account. Changes being made this week mean you'll now have to type in your postcode when signing in. You'll also need to log in again once the site is updated (it was unavailable when we checked earlier).

The BBC has said it will be encouraging people to sign up over the coming months, but again there's no need to do this until the official launch date. At the minute we're only told this will be in early 2017 – we'll update you on this when we know more.

Users will be able to delete their account at any time.

Will the changes be used to enforce the new TV licence rules?

At the moment, TV Licensing doesn't use any information relating to the BBC ID accounts for enforcement. The BBC says requiring people to log in isn't about checking viewers have licences, but it is looking at how enforcement would work in future.

The BBC's Helen Boaden wrote in her blog: "Some of you might be thinking that this is driven by the changes to the so-called 'iPlayer loophole' which means you now need a TV licence to download or watch BBC programmes on demand on iPlayer.

"It's not – it's about giving you a better BBC. As we said earlier this month, we'll carry on using our existing enforcement processes and techniques which we believe to be adequate and appropriate.

"In fact, early TV Licensing data shows that – as we expected – significant numbers of new people have bought a licence since the new rules came into force.

"We will keep our processes under review to make sure they are effective. The Government has asked us to review whether a verification system for accessing the iPlayer will be required in the future."

The BBC has pledged to set up an area on its website, called 'Using the BBC', which will explain that it only collects the data it needs and will never sell the data.

Martin Lewis
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Why is the BBC making these changes?

The BBC says it wants to create a more tailored and personalised experience for viewers, and by having your postcode it will be able to ensure you see local news, weather and content.

iPlayer isn't the first on-demand service to ask you to sign in. You also need to sign in to services such as All 4 On Demand and the ITV Hub, though of course you don't need a TV licence to watch catch-up TV on these.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, says: "I want everyone to get the very best from the BBC. By learning about what you want and like we can take you to more of the great programmes you love, stories you might be interested in and content you might otherwise never have discovered.

"This is a real transformation – reinventing public service broadcasting for the digital age. Millions of people are already benefitting from this more personalised BBC, and by rolling it out for everyone no one will be left behind."

Does this mean I'll be able to watch iPlayer when abroad?

Unfortunately not. At the moment you can't watch it via Wi-fi when abroad (see Martin's Is the BBC Costing Brits a Fortune When They Go On Holiday? blog for more).

When asked if the new log in could change this, a spokesman said: "We are interested in being able to allow UK licence fee payers to access BBC iPlayer while they are on holiday in the EU, and last December we welcomed the EU proposing regulation to help make this feasible.

"There are complex technical issues to resolve which we are investigating and it will be dependent on what legislation is effect in the UK in the future."

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