BBC TV License fee: BBC Internet License fee

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I contacted the TV Licensing authority recently to try and establish beyond doubt what the licence fee covered and whether it was future proof. It convinced me once and for all that the BBC will have to at some point operate without a licence fee and that no doubt means advertising revenue. Here is the reply I received to my enquiry:

Dear Sir

Thank you for contacting us.

A television licence is required if you use television receiving equipment to record and/or receive television programme services. Television receiving equipment could be a television, video recorder, DVD recorder/player, PCTV (computer with facility to receive television programmes), or a television card for a computer. If your lap top computer is capable of receiving live broadcasts, whether on-line, or through an aerial or satellite dish, then it is classed as television receiving equipment. This means a licence is needed to receive BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, digital television, other terrestrial services, satellite television and cable television.

If you receive programme services (as defined above), live via the Internet, BBC Online for example (Newsnight is one such broadcast), then a television licence is required. If you are using the Internet to browse archived programme services websites, then a television licence is not required.

If your equipment is not used to receive or record television programmes, please let me know your address. I will then make sure our records are changed to show you do not need a television licence.

I hope this information is helpful.

Yours faithfully

name not included to protect the innocent
Customer Services

How a DVD player can be considered television “receiving equipment” is beyond me but that is beside the point really.

The implications of this are that the license fee is actually an internet license fee. Does that also mean it is a mobile license fee? If I subscribe to Sky mobile TV I am potentially in breach of the licensing law because I will be receiving live, streamed video to my phone. I don’t need to own a TV, have a Sky subscription or meet any other criteria to sign up for this. If I travel abroad what happens then?

It seems to me there will have to be a major shake up of the BBC license fee if it is to keep up with the multi-channel world we are increasingly living in.

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