On Tuesday, SVT CEO Eva Hamilton used an opinion article published in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper to announce the state broadcaster would soon offer its entire broadcast line-up free of charge online.
While the change will allow viewers to browse through SVT’s entire repertoire on tablet computers as well as smartphones, it also means that people who exclusively consume programmes and news via the internet will be covered by Sweden’s TV licence fee.
Currently, anyone with a television receiver is required by law to pay the 2,076 kronor ($320) annual fee, which is collected and enforced by Radiotjänst, a division of Swedish public service broadcasting.
A representative from the agency confirmed with technology magazine Computer Sweden that SVT’s move would mean the agency would start collecting the fee from people who didn’t own a television, but did own a computer or tablet device.
SVT’s Hamilton, however, downplayed the impact of SVT’s move on fee collection policies.
“There has been a law in place since 2006 that states that a person who can access an entire TV channel on any device is required to pay the fee,” Hamilton said.
“When (private broadcaster) TV4 put all their channels on the web last autumn that law came into effect.”
Radiotjänst collects some 7 billion kronor per annum which is used to part-finance Sveriges Television, Sveriges Radio and Utbildningsradio (UR).
The TV licence system does not take into account when, if or how viewers use any of the channels or services which are funded by it.
Despite the move, the actual effect of the new licencing system will be negligible, as nine out of ten Swedish households already pay the fee. An estimated 97 percent of Swedes watch television.
On its website, Radiotjänsten includes most types of technology that can receive content, although it does not mention mobile phones with an internet connection.
While iPads will be covered by the new fee, smartphones will likely be exempt.
“The spectrum of mobile phones is so broad and we don’t see their primary use as being watching a single TV channel,” Radiotjänsten spokesman Johan Gernandt told Computer Sweden.
Given the technological developments, Hamilton suggested that the state broadcaster merge with the educational channel Utbildningsradion (UR).
“With the technical demands we are facing on publishing on new platforms, it isn’t feasible to invest in developments in two separate organisations with such similar production,” she wrote.
Pooling resources, she argued, could also mean investment was diverted into higher quality programming.