The director general of the BBC has said iPlayer viewers should be forced to pay a licence fee.
Tony Hall wants to close a loophole, which means almost half-a-million will stop being able to watch the public broadcaster’s shows for free.
The current £145.50 licence fee is only applicable to those who watch shows as they are broadcast and does not cover people watching them on catch up online.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Lord Hall, said he wanted to adapt the fee to the digital age.
However, it could be difficult to enforce as commentators believe the BBC would be unable to find out exactly who is logging on through phones and tablets because of data protection laws.
He said: "One of the advantages of the licence fee is that it’s flexible and has adapted over the years. It started as a radio licence. Then TV. Then colour TV.
“And then the relatively simple change to the regulations in 2004 to cover the consumption of live TV on new devices such as computers.
“When it’s adapted itself so well over the decades, why would you suddenly give it up?
“When and how best to take the next step is, of course, a matter for the Government.
“Our view is that there is room for modernisation so that the fee applies to the consumption of BBC TV programmes, whether live on BBC One or on-demand via BBC iPlayer.”
Extending the licence fee to cover on-demand shows would mean a change in legislation unlikely to be considered until 2017.
Lord Hall said just two per cent of households, the equivalent of 500,000 homes, were currently using the loophole.
But the BBC fears that number will only rise in the future.
Lord Hall said most viewers were happy to pay the licence fee and said BBC surveys had shown some would even pay more.
He said: “They actually pay around £12 a month. On our most recent surveys people, on average, are willing to pay between £15 and £20 a month.”