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Broadband users can now access a web-based TV service as part of trial by UK cableco Telewest.

The service is currently made up of four channels and includes content such as entertainment, films and sports. And unlike "on-demand" services such as those announced by UK satellite TV outfit Sky, these channels are "broadcast" in much the same way as traditional TV channels.

At the moment, the service is free and open to all broadband users. If successful, the service might generate revenue by advertising, subscription or a mixture of the two.

Said Eric Tveter, president and chief operating officer at Telewest Broadband, said: "Not only are we developing on-demand services for our digital TV platform, but we're also able to exploit the potential for video content via the internet.

"Only recently has increasing broadband connection speeds and improvements in encoding technology allowed the continuous streaming of such high quality video."

Which throws up the question; do you need a TV licence to watch Telewest's new web channels, or any other TV via broadband service come to think of it?

A spokesman for Telewest told us that as far they were concerned, users don't need a licence because "Ofcom doesn't currently have jurisdiction over this type of service".

The key, it seems, is whether a TV programme is broadcast at the same time as it is becomes available via broadband. If it's not, then no licence is needed.

A TV Licensing spokesperson explained: "Anyone who uses or installs television receiving equipment to receive or record television programme services must be covered by a valid TV licence.

"So, if you choose to view live or virtually live programmes on emerging technology... or on a PC (such as a PC that receives the television programme over the internet through streamed data, online, live or virtually live, and fed in real time), in essence you are watching the programme at the same time as it is being broadcast throughout the UK, and you are required by law to be covered by a valid TV licence." ®

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