TV Licensing to keep tabs on mobile users

Who's watching who?

TV Licensing, the outfit that collects the fee that funds the UK's BBC, is mulling plans that would force retailers to pass on details of people who buy mobile phones, The Times reports.

As more and more video content becomes available on cellphones, it seems the body that administers the TV licence wants to make sure no tax dodgers slip through the net.

That's because if you watch live TV on a mobile phone, then you need to be covered by a valid licence. Since the vast majority of people are already covered by their existing licence, it's not an issue for most.

But, there is a small proportion of people who aren't covered by a TV licence and officials are concerned they are viewing live TV on their mobiles, which is why it's considering plans to monitor mobile usage.

A spokesperson for TV Licensing told the Reg: "If a customer currently has no licence they will need to obtain one to watch live programmes on their PC or mobile. Any device used to watch or record TV programmes as they are being broadcast or otherwise distributed must be covered by a valid licence. This is the case whether you are watching or receiving a programme via a PCTV, mobile phone, PDA or any other device.

"A valid licence entitles the licence holder and anyone who lives with them to watch live television on any device at that address and on any device powered solely by its internal batteries away from home."

Anyone caught without a valid TV licence - which costs £126.50 a year - faces a fine of up to £1,000. Although TV Licensing has collared people watching TV via their PCs, it's not thought a mobile phone user has been nabbed as yet.

Earlier today, El Reg reported that Virgin Mobile looks set to launch its mobile TV service in the summer following a deal with BT. ®

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