Feeds

Only UK viewers have to pay for the BBC on the PC

Don't know how they'll catch you though

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Following The Register's revelation that the TV Licensing Authority are out to nail those of you geeky enough to only watch television programmes via streaming media on your PCs, the TVLA have now said that they'll only be chasing people watching those programs in the UK, writes Chris Ward-Johnson.

Foreigners and ex-pats watching Jeremy Paxman give the Newsnight third-degree to another sweating politician can carry on doing so for free, but any UK PC owners doing so who don't already have a TV licence need to run, not walk, down to the Post Office and shell out £104 (or, presumably, £34.50 if you have a monochrome monitor) for a licence.

The licence, for those of a foreign persuasion, is collected by a British Government agency and used to fund the BBC - it pays for all their TV and radio programming. You have to have a licence even if you never watch the BBC - even if you only ever watch independent TV (which funds itself via advertising) you have to have one.

Until now, anti-licence campaigners like Advocacy for Licence Fee Abolition and the Campaign to Abolish the TV Licence say the licensing authority has based its prosecutions on the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act, and that people were being prosecuted for owning sets without a licence.

Now, however, the TVLA say the Act contains no definition of what's a telly at all, and that they can collect from anyone who's watching any UK-broadcast programs while living in the country.

"The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (as amended) is the primary legislation," says Anthony Hardwell, Policy Manager of the Post Office Policy Group. "Within this the licence fee is permission to receive or record television programme services using television receiving equipment, there is no definition of receiving equipment and...it doesn't matter how you receive the signal, it's whether or not you do. A simple statement in writing from a customer stating that they do not wish to receive or record television programme services is sufficient for our records, the simple fact of owning a television set does not and never has required licence cover. It is true that certain people may wish to try and 'cheat' the system however our regular checks of properties using detection equipment reveal who is breaking the law."

If, he goes on, you only use your telly for watching videos or playing Donkey Kong on your Sega, you don't need a licence. "The use of equipment for viewing pre-recorded videos or for that matter as a monitor for a game playing computer does not and never has required television licence cover."

At the time of going to press The Register had still not received an answer to the question of how exactly they plan to track who's using a PC to watch TV programs, but thanks anyway to all those engineers who wrote in to say that detector vans don't use Van Eck phreaking methods to work out what you're watching - instead they work by detecting the TV tuner's local oscillator which always leaks a small amount of radiation back up the aerial.

Most TVs, apparently, are sufficiently poorly designed such that the local oscillator signal is effectively transmitted for a short distance, but far enough to be picked up by the detector vans (that'll teach me to rely on science fiction books for my technical knowledge).

And, the tall-foreheads who wrote in added, because there's no tuner in a PC watching Paxman or Big Brother re-runs via some form of streaming media, the odds are that the blokes in the anorak in the van in the street wouldn't have a clue what you're up to inside. Even the ones who, the TV licensing website claims, are lurking outside your front window with hand-held detector devices wouldn't have a clue, apparently.

Related Story

TV licence needed to watch the BBC on your PC

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.