It is NOT the "BBC" licence fee. It is set by the Government; Department of Culture, Media & Sport. This is because the Government is obligated to provide a rounded public broadcast televisual service not bound, affected or led by advertising. This is why there is a certain amount of programming set aside for religion, children, education, science, general entertainment etc. It has always been the same - I am tired of comments ranting about the BBC ripping people off - the BBC can only bid for money - the Government holds the purse and always has done.
Also, the comment about battery powered devices is utterly wrong - you DO need a licence for receiving broadcasts on a battery powered device. Only i-player type watching is licence free but then again, you need to be very careful with what you watch this on. It is a little complex but spouting off rumours about not having to pay can lead some people into muddy waters.