Will you need to pay the government to use a computer?

Is the government going to be driving around with “Computer detector vans” soon? Will you need to pay the government to use a computer?

The BBC faces losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in licence fees because of a legal loophole that allows viewers to watch television on the internet for free.

Soaring take-up of broadband and technological developments are making internet-streamed television a reality.

Last summer, for the first time, the BBC broadcast coverage of the Olympic Games live on the internet for people to watch on their computers. It has promised to put further broadcasts on the internet as part of a corporate social responsibility drive aimed at boosting broadband take-up and preventing users “falling on the wrong side of the digital divide”.

However, although the licensing authorities maintain that anyone watching television on their computer would need a television licence, Ofcom, the communications regulator, and the Department for Culture, question that claim.

Ofcom says that there is a grey area as to whether a licence is required for watching television on the internet.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture said initially that a licence would not be needed and that it was “monitoring the situation”.

However, it later said that it would be “inappropriate for the Government to comment on licensing requirements . . . for specific types of equipment”.

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14 Responses to Will you need to pay the government to use a computer?

  1. Rob Read says:

    When you talk about computers the horrible ease at which the dread word Subscription comes to mind will scare them off.

    Time for regime change at the Al BBC


  2. Holly Fax says:

    I run a small business. The BBC keep writing to me asking me to return a form saying that I don’t have any TVs in the office (I don’t), and each time the letters get more threatening.

    I take great delight in putting these letters in the bin, pleased that they’ve wasted another 30p.


  3. jake says:

    The BBC must be made to sing for thier supper or cease operations forthwith. The net loss to our culture will be negligable as talent will find other outlets. How gratifying it would be to see Frost, Paxman, Esler, Mair and the like subjected to the forces of the market.


  4. Peter says:

    Plett, Hawley and their ilk could so easily get Al Jazeera


  5. John Kuran says:

    I think that watching television on computers is a great idea. You can get a Personal Video Recoder(PVR) for less than $100 here in the US for PAL or NTCS. Just hook up your cable/ antennae/ satellite in the back of the computer and avoid using the TV at all. Add 5.1 Surround Sound Dolby speakers and you’ve got a home theater system. 🙂 Somehting like: http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Hauppauge


  6. Anonymous says:

    John Kuran: Thanks. What a great idea!


  7. Joe N. says:

    I think that move falls under the category of: “if it isn’t bolted down, tax it!”


  8. Robin says:

    If I read this correctly,the BBC broadcast something on the computer ,and were dismayed that people watched it on the computer.
    Im glad someones more stupid than me


  9. DP111 says:

    The BBC may be putting their programs on the NET so they can claim that anyone who has a PC is able to watch the BBC, and is thus liable to pay the BBC license fee.


  10. Sandy P says:

    Hoo, hoo, hoo, wait until someone won’t pay because they’re only watching American shows from an American internet site.


  11. James says:




  12. Ian says:

    AFAIK the license covers the use of any equipment capable of recieving TV transmissions, so that is not only TVs but Freeview-type boxes, VCRs, PVRs and any TV card inside a PC or any external device capable of interpreting a TV signal.

    It is irrelevant what you watch, what signal you tune into or whether the signal is converted to a visual medium, the license is for the equipment not the content.

    I am assuming the modern terms of the license now extends to digital as well as analogue signals.

    However, internet streaming is not “receiving TV”, you don’t need any equipment specifically for recieving TV signals, thus it isn’t really covered.


  13. Neil Craig says:

    What if you only watch foreign TV on the net?

    The nastiest bit here is the end – if we are asked to keep to the law it is ALWAYS “appropriate” for HMG to be willing to say what it is – anything else is making up law as you go along.


  14. Barry says:

    Or worse yet…what if they catch you downloading BitTorrents of BBC programs? It could be p2p services that are giving the BBC the idea to impose a license fee on the mere ownership of a computer.

    But what about video game systems capable of internet access? They’ll be taxed because “there is the possibility of watching EastEnders over your X-Box or PS2 broadband connection”. In essence, the BBC will declare “any electronic item capable of internet access is capable of watching TV and therefore needs a license, and all computers are capable of watching TV and therefore need a license”. So they’ll tax computers (even old Commodore Amiga/64/128, Atari ST/XE/XL/400/800, Apple II, and other 8-bit retro computers), PDAs, cellphones, WebTV-like devices, and any video game system capable of internet access (Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, Nokia N-Gage, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, and GBA…hell, they’ll probably apply the license to ALL video game systems regardless of capability of internet access, so even Atari 2600s would be taxed). I think it’s time for a mass boycott of the TV license. Urge your fellow people to cancel their licenses and continue to watch TV, and urge your fellow people to urge other fellow people to do likewise. I know I’m aiding and abetting criminal activity, so I say to Interpol…BRING IT ON, BITCH!