June 13, 2006 6:12 AM PDT

BBC to Brits: Need a license to watch us online, too

The United Kingdom's television-licensing authority has responded to criticism from Silicon.com readers over its warning that people watching online BBC broadcasts on a PC face stiff fines if they don't have a TV license.

TV Licensing, or TVL, issued the warning last week on the eve of the World Cup finals in Germany, which the BBC is broadcasting live online as well as on TV.

That provoked a furious response from many Silicon.com readers. "If the BBC chooses to broadcast on an international medium, why should the national license payer subsidize this?" said one IT consultant, who wished to remain anonymous.

Other readers claimed that a pure Internet feed not involving a tuner and received by a computer is not covered by TV-licensing legislation and therefore does not require a TV license to watch it.

But TVL told Silicon.com that the definition of a "television receiver" is contained in Regulation 9 of the Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 and covers any apparatus used for the purpose of receiving--by wireless telegraphy or otherwise--any TV program service.

TVL said this means that the TV-licensing regulations cover Internet broadcasts on PCs, PDAs and mobile phones but said this would not be an issue for most people, as it is covered by the standard household TV licence.

"A valid license entitles the license holder and anyone who lives with them to watch live television on any device at that address, for example on a television set or on a PC, and on any device powered solely by its internal batteries, such as mobile phones or PDAs, away from home," a TVL representative said.

The same single-license rule also applies to businesses, except hotels, which have different licensing requirements.

The TVL spokeswoman was unable to give a breakdown of prosecutions by device but said it has caught and fined license fee evaders using PCs to watch TV in the past.

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.

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13 comments

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TV? or is that TV?
> any TV program service

I wonder if internet feed can be called TV at all.

The problem of the TVL people is that they intentionally throwing into the pot two different things: TV as medium to receive content and TV as content.

Traditional laws used all over the Europe, relate to TV as to medium, but not content. I think the laws has to be refined to reflect the difference between TV as medium and TV as content.

Obviously, since TV (as content) over internet doesn't have such high maintainance price, if any licensing applies, it must be magnitude cheaper compared to traditional TV (as medium) license.

P.S. We alreading hearing voices, claiming that podcasts are in fact radio and that (as everything else) taxed in Europe heavily too.
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
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Empire-building? Them?!
From the article "people watching online BBC broadcasts on a PC face stiff fines if they don't have a TV license."

Yet if I own a TV, I require a license regardless of whether I watch the BBC. Given the convergence of devices that technology now provides, surely this is no longer a TV license, but a miscellaneous-electronics-devices-that-can-recieve-any-moving-images -originally-intended-for-tv license??

This must be the case, since the quote states that most people need not worry, since they will be covered by a TV license, suggesting that even if I don't have a TV, I still need a license to cover my PC, mobile, etc?
Posted by wingslikeshieldsofsteel (7 comments )
Link Flag
But retail stores don't ask for home address for PCs without TV tuner cards
Apparently, major retail stores like Comet in the UK currently only ask for your home address to pass onto the TV Licening authority if you buy a device with a TV tuner in (e.g. PC with tuner card, DVD/hard disk recorder, Freeview set-top box or, of course, a TV). They *don't* ask for PCs that don't have a TV tuner card!

However, if you read the law and follow it strictly, then every PC bought in the UK that can connect to the Internet (and pretty well *every* PC has a built-in ethernet or modem), plus *any* device that can be used to receive Internet data (e.g. dial-up or ADSL modem) now requires a TV licence! Yes, welcome to the crazy world of Brits and our "mad" TV licencing scheme...
Posted by rklrkl (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The price of commercial free TV and Radio
Personally when I lived in the UK I found it very enjoyable to watch TV and listen to the radio without the annoyance of commercials breaking up the show every 10-15 minutes.

An hours worth of TV was an hours worth of TV, not 40-45 minutes.

The TV license is expensive, but when you compare it to subscription costs, not overly. You get 2 commercial free TV channels, 4 commercial free radio stations, local radio in just about every large metropolitan area - not to mention free televised access to major sporting events, the money the BBC invests in producing top quality content and at the local level in community projects.

Is the fee too high? That's subjective, and I do think it should tied to an income-based model, but overall if you do overpay, it's not by much.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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confused on the other side of the pond
Someone please educate me. So in the UK you need a license to watch TV?
Posted by ccblue (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: Confused on the Other side of the pond
Yes, they do need a license. There are exceptions but I believe it generally works out to US$240 a year. The fine for not having one can be huge, about $1800 US dollars. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/index.jsp" target="_newWindow">http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/index.jsp</a> has more info as well as info on the vans they use to enforce the law.
Posted by dpeters11 (92 comments )
Link Flag
Slight mistake in translation
From what I understand from reading this story on the BBC new
web site it's not necessarily that content from the TV is being
played through the Internet - it's because the content is being
shown in real-time; ie, when it's on the TV, it's streamed online
(I assume a few seconds delay for encoding etc but so it makes a
difference).

This is what's causing the "problems" as you're effectively
watching TV, just through a broadband pipe rather than a TV
aerial.

As regards the £180 or so us Brits pay each year to the BBC - we
get 8 TV stations (BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, BBC News 24, BBC
Parliament, cBeebies and cBBC), 10 national radio stations (Radio
1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4, Five Live, 6Music, Five Live Sports
Extra, BBC 7, BBC Asian Network and 1Xtra), 20 or more local
radio stations and.... well isn't that enough? Not bad for £15 a
month really.

RB
Posted by ross brown--2008 (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The BBC is out of line!
The BBC is out of line!

The BBC is so out of line, license fees arent charged to the Southern Irish who pick up British TV signals.

Even in the UK to be charged by owning a TV because it has the POTENTIAL to pick up a signal is ludicrous. Ive been reading around and it seems like the BBC allows someone to own a TV and if all they do is watch DVDs etc then no license fee is needed... however they charge anyway because people are too dumb to fight the law.

European law allows freedom of information, this means that if you only use the TV for watching DVD movies or video from a library then you shouldnt need to pay a license.

The fact that the BBC thinks at some point it can create a PC license is even more ludicrous. So now I cant have access to the internet until I pay the BBC...

If I was a good lawyer man Ild set up a good court case and get this archaic law banned.

I think I need to get a slingbox!

BBC TV license ...you really are the worse thing about Britain!
Posted by newscientist2000 (3 comments )
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