In a lengthy comment below, Michael Sparks answers my question by making a compelling case that you'll only need a TV licence if you actually watch a broadcast TV over the net.
Over on the BBC Internet blog, Ashley Highfield (Director of BBC Future Media and Technology) says that using the BBC's iPlayer on demand Internet TV service does not in itself mean you are liable to pay the TV Licence Fee.
However, he continues, if you watch a live BBC broadcast via the Internet (BBC News 24 and BBC Parliament are both available) then you will need a licence.
This begs a question:
- Are you liable for the licence fee if you possess equipment which is capable of letting you watch live BBC TV channels? The legislation itself talks about “apparatus installed or used for the purpose of receiving (whether by means of wireless telegraphy or otherwise) any television programme service, whether or not it is installed or used for any other purpose.”
- Or, as Ashley suggests, is it the act of actually watching a live BBC TV broadcast via the Internet which makes you liable for the licence fee?
If the former is true, then the fact that you can already watch BBC TV channels live over the Internet implies that any household in the UK with a broadband connected PC now needs a TV licence. After all, they possess a device capable of watching live BBC TV channels, even if they do not choose to do so. Nick Reynolds, the editor of the BBC Internet blog, seems to be firmly in this camp.
If the latter is true, then those with a 'normal' TV set could now claim "But I don't ever watch BBC Channels." when caught without a licence. Needless to say, this would be a hard claim to disprove, and I'm surprised that those taken to court for non-payment of the licence fee are not already employing it as a defence left, right and centre.
Now I'm no lawyer, and thus could easily be talking tosh on this issue.
But I can't help but wonder whether Charles Moore has broadband...