Changing the Licence Fee

The BBC is contemplating a radical revamp of the television licence fee to make it more acceptable to the public.

Corporation bosses and TV Licensing, the authority that collects the money for the BBC, believe the existing name and logo are old-fashioned and unattractive.

They aim to make the image more appealing and to reflect the fact that the BBC also provides radio and internet services, as well as television programmes online and on mobile phones.

There\’s more to it than just updating the image. They need to empahsise that internet and mobile phone part.

For, you do not need to own a television set in order to have to pay the TV licence fee. You need to own equipment capable of receiving TV programs in order to be liable for you to need a licence. And that includes broadband internet, that includes a mobile phone that is capable of an internet connection (which just about all new ones are). If a phone is capable of playing, say, an iPlayer (is that the name of it?) clip from the BBC\’s site (whether you do or not) then you need to have a licence. Yes, even if you\’re a tourist.

So this rebranding isn\’t just to update the image: it\’s to ensure that we all get the point. If you\’re connected to the net in this modern world then you have to cough up for the BBC.

14 comments on “Changing the Licence Fee

  1. It’s supposed to be that near-real-time reception requires a licence. Trying to impose a licence on people who simply have a computer or phone will be difficult. If they try then it will more likely lead to the end of the unique way that the BBC is funded.

  2. Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s only equipment receiving the broadcast (TV signal) that needs a licence – i.e. a PC with a tuner card in it – not just any broadband connection.

    And as Kay Tie says – just let them try imposing a licence requirement on broadband connections…

    Tim adds: Well, that’s not what TVL themselves say:

    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39274837,00.htm

    But TVL told Silicon.com that the definition of a “television receiver” is contained in regulation nine of the Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 and covers any apparatus used for the purpose of receiving — by wireless telegraphy or otherwise — any TV programme service.

    TVL said this means 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 TVL spokeswoman said: “A valid licence entitles the licence 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.”

    The same single licence 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 licence-fee evaders using PCs to watch TV in the past.

  3. I disagree Kay (11:39).
    The overlap between those who live in a household with a TV receiver and a TV licence and those who have a phone line/broadband connection/internet-enabled cellphone is almost 100%. It makes no difference to them.

    Unlike people such as I who have no TV receiver or cell-phone or PC with a TV card (remember them ?)

  4. I have a telly that I use as a computer monitor and is not connected to an aerial or cable. I only need a licence if I use it to watch broadcast television. I do not need it to surf the net, watch my films or rented dvds of television shows. You are basically paying for access to the television signal, not the equipment itself or the programmes. Whether you need a licence to watch a show taped off the telly I don’t know but the fact it’s all so confusing proves how ridiculous it is.

  5. “covers any apparatus used for the purpose of receiving — by wireless telegraphy or otherwise — any TV programme service.”

    Yes, and I think TV programme service has to be “near-real-time” (i.e. a lag of a few seconds at most). But if you have a broadband PC, with a browser that has a Realplayer plugin, but you never watch near-real-time TV on it (e.g. you *don’t* watch News 24 streamed from the BBC) then you don’t need a licence (just as you don’t need a licence for a TV that isn’t used to receive TV pictures – hooked up to a DVD player only, for example).

    Policing this is rather more of a problem. Or maybe not: since councils can tap phones to spy on those suspected of putting their bins out of the wrong day, Capita will be given access to the whole country’s browsing records (kept for anti-terrorism, but being used in the typical mission-creep way of Government).

    “I disagree Kay (11:39).
    The overlap between those who live in a household with a TV receiver and a TV licence and those who have a phone line/broadband connection/internet-enabled cellphone is almost 100%. It makes no difference to them.”

    Come to think of it, you’re probably right.

  6. Kay, you are mistaken.

    The “licence” is not needed to receive the broadcasts, it’s needed if you possess equipment capable of receiving the broadcasts.

    Otherwise, it would be a defence to say, “Yes I have a TV, but I only watch ITV.” Which, as we know, is no defence.

    So a PC that can receive real-time TV would certainly be covered.

    Abolish the whole nonsense, is the only answer.

    As someone said last year (was it Paxman?) you might as well tax washing machines and hand all the money over to Persil.

  7. “The “licence” is not needed to receive the broadcasts, it’s needed if you possess equipment capable of receiving the broadcasts.”

    No, it’s for operating a television receiver, not for mere ownership. For years I had a TV, not connected to an antenna, but connected to my VIC-20 (and later my C64) computer. It did not require a licence.

    “So a PC that can receive real-time TV would certainly be covered.”

    If it had a TV card, connected to an antenna, and was operated (being connected up is prima facie evidence of such) then yes, it would need a licence. If it had a broadband connection, then this is not sufficient on its own to require a TV licence.

    Don’t take my word for it: go and read the back of your licence. Or the FAQ at TV Licensing (“Do I need a licence?”):

    “You need a TV Licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top boxes, video or DVD recorders, computers or mobile phones to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV.”

    Note the word “use” (operation rather than ownership) and “as they are being shown on TV” (i.e. real-time display of TV, not replay).

    Still, we shouldn’t complain too much: the licence does cover our domestic staff as well as our family members.

  8. “If we all refuse to pay, they can’t put us all in prison.”

    And if we all say we overslept then they can’t make us all do community service either.

  9. “The BBC is contemplating a radical revamp of the television licence fee to make it more acceptable to the public.”

    Try making it free. That would make it a lot more popular.

  10. What you’re all illustrating is that the definition of ‘what is a TV’ is getting fuzzy. BBC will try to get a licence fee slapped on any broadband connection. That’s already happened for the state broadcaster in Germany. If folks don’t wake up to this they’ll find that they’re having to pay the Beeb for living in the modern world. For instance, what about a broadband connection to an office? No TV but still the Beeb will be entitled to their rake off. Even more peculiar, what about using an internet connection to route security camera pictures? There, there is a TV involved but no attempt to receive broadcasting. It’s gonna get mighty complex.

  11. I think TV Licensing would be hard pushed trying to persuade us that a security camera is broadcasting a TV programme, unless of course the camera itself is aimed at a TV receiving a TV programme.

  12. uk liberty@9:26
    That’s the point. It won’t need to. The licence is for the internet connection.
    There’s a real possibility that the BBC is the backdoor that the State will use to become the gatekeeper to the internet. That means not only control of broadcasting but all information flow. How do you differentiate between a telephone from the internet now. I’m typing this on a laptop connected to a 3G modem with a SIM card in it. At what point does this machine stop being a computer & start being a phone? What do you call my satnav when it Bluetooth’s it’s traffic updates through the same link? Does the fact that I can get DVB-TV & U-Tube on the same screen make it a TV or not?
    The future may or may not be Orange but it’s going to be deeply interconnected. This is only just starting. Do we really want a committee of Polly Toynbees running it?

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