Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The BBC launches “spy program” to catch illegal TV viewers


A new spy program has been launched across the pond. The BBC is tapping the best and brightest masterminds of high-stakes espionage to investigate one of the world’s greatest threats: people who watch television illegally. According to The Telegraph, the BBC is going to deploy wifi-detecting vans to “sniff out” those depraved folks who are watching BBC programs without paying the licensing fee.

Currently, people who watch or record live programming on television or online need to buy a £145.50 (or about $190 American) license. Starting September 1, viewers who use the online iPlayer service for catch-up viewing will also have to pay the fee—a change the BBC lobbied heavily for. The spy vans are the BBC’s way of enforcing this new law. The technology being used by these vans is usually only available to crime-fighting agencies, but under the Regulation Of Investigatory Powers Act, the BBC can legally use these snooping vans to detect fee evaders.


Of course, the BBC is insisting that its internet spies won’t be able to access other browsing habits of viewers, that they’re here for one thing and one thing only—busting those tv-stealing baddies. Sir Amyas Morse, the comptroller and auditor general of the National Audit Office, which issued a report leading to the new snooping program, wrote in a report: “Detection vans can identify viewing on a non-TV device in the same way that they can detect viewing on a television set.” There you have it—illegal iPlayer viewers will soon meet their match. And we can think of at least one premium cable network on this side of the pond that would like to get its hands on this technology.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter