TV licensing to fine unlicensed offices where staff watch TV online

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Euro 2008, Wimbledon and the Olympics are all being broadcast online this summer. Whereas staff sometimes took a day off in the past to watch such events on TV, this year they can watch them from their desks.

While not all businesses have a TV set, most will have computers with broadband connections, capable of receiving programmes as they are broadcast, meaning that more businesses will now require a TV Licence if staff are watching programmes in this way. The number of TV stations broadcasting online is steadily increasing. The BBC announced recently that it will start online broadcasts of BBC One within the next year.

TV Licensing spokesperson Joanna Pearce said: “Watching TV on a computer at work is no different from watching on a TV set at home – if you’re watching programmes as they’re broadcast, you need to be covered by a valid licence."

Businesses can be held liable if someone is caught watching TV on unlicensed premises, even if they are unaware that their employee is doing so. Any business where people are caught watching TV illegally risks prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

“TV Licensing would always rather businesses are correctly licensed than risk a court case and a fine, which is why we’re making sure that managers are aware of the need to be covered if staff are watching online," said Pearce.

A colour TV licence costs £139.50 per year. One licence will cover all the TV equipment that a business uses on a single site. The only exception to this is hotels, which have separate licensing requirements. A licence is not required if the TV equipment is never used to receive or record television programme services, but is only used for closed circuit monitoring or to watch pre-recorded videos.

TV Licensing is also reminding electrical retailers to keep up to date with notifications over the coming months or risk a fine.

Dealers must notify TV licensing of each sale of a TV set, DVD or video recorder, digital box, computer with TV card or TV card. Full details of buyers or hirers must be provided within 28 days of the transaction and retained for 12 months.

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