Monday 20 May 2013
Q: Is the BBC refusing to prosecute celebrities or high profile evaders who object to the licence fee on principle while prosecuting ordinary citizens?
A: No. TV Licensing does not distinguish in any way between one type of licence evader and another. Everyone – no matter what they do for a living or what views they hold – runs the risk of prosecution if they break the law by watching TV without a licence.
We can confirm that we do prosecute people who object to the licence fee in principle.
Evasion is unfair to the honest majority of the public who pay their TV Licence.
Q: When do you need a licence? Do you need one for watching TV using an iPlayer?
A: You need a TV Licence to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on television, irrespective of what channel you're watching, what device you are using (TV, computer, laptop, mobile phone or any other), and how you receive them (terrestrial, satellite, cable, via the internet or any other way).
You do not need a TV Licence if you are watching TV after it has been shown on television, eg TV programmes downloaded or streamed after broadcast.
Q: How do you obtain information for enforcement purposes about people watching online?
A: TV Licensing's database of almost 30 million UK addresses is the main tool we use to catch evaders. Our enquiry officers also have access to detection equipment.
We never release detailed information about our detection methods as it might undermine the effectiveness of our enforcement operation by giving useful information to people who are trying to evade the licence fee.
There is no separate enforcement policy regarding people using their computers, laptops or any other device to watch TV. It forms part of our normal enforcement operation and TV Licensing has caught evaders watching television online.
Q: What is the law on watching online?
A: The legislation governing TV Licensing already encompasses the licensable requirements for equipment such as laptops, PCs and mobile phones, when used to watch TV programmes as they are broadcast.
Anyone caught watching or recording TV programmes without a valid licence risks prosecution in a magistrates court and a fine of up to £1,000.
You cannot be imprisoned for TV Licence evasion although you can be imprisoned for non payment of a fine imposed by the court.
Q: So do people need to buy an extra TV Licence if they watch TV online as it is being broadcast?
A: No. More than 97% of UK households already have TV sets (according to BARB) and estimated licence fee evasion is very low. So the vast majority of people watching TV on computers or mobiles will be covered by the TV Licence they already have.
Q: Recent press reports have alleged that mostly impoverished non-payers are prosecuted every year. Is this true?
A: As far as we aware there is no official breakdown available of the socio-economic breakdown of those prosecuted for TV licence evasion. So we are unsure on what information this assertion is based on. We do know that evaders come from all walks of life as demonstrated by the table below.
The BBC does not believe that the simulcasting of our channels online will in any way make the BBC licence fee less viable.
The evasion rate is very low at 5.3% so there is no evidence that consumption by devices other than televisions is leading people to stop paying their Licence Fees.
More than 97% of households currently have a TV and so the vast majority of people watching on computers or mobiles at home will be covered by the TV licence they already have.
In addition, since 2004 TV ownership has grown by over a million sets (2004 – 25.2 million; 2010 – 26.8 million). This does not indicate a future where viewers are only consuming TV on a laptop or mobile.
We want to offer our audience more choice around where and how they access our range of services but we fully expect this to supplement, rather than replace, viewing via traditional television.
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