Firms 'warned of web TV licence breach'

Friday, October 2 2009, 10:42 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

The TV licensing authority has warned firms that they could be breaking the law if employees watch live web TV at work when the premise does not have a valid licence.

As the legislation covers all live broadcasts watched at offices, shops and other work premises, any firms found in breach of the licence would face a fine of up to £1,000, reports BBC News.

Video on demand services such as BBC iPlayer are not currently covered by regulations. In addition, watching live TV on mobile devices or laptops powered by batteries is covered by the user's home licence.

However, TV licensing's Ian Fannon said that if any of these devices are plugged in and used for web TV while at work, the company needs to have a valid licence.

He explained that this type of licence breach is occurring more often due to the increasing number of easily accessible ways to watch live TV on a variety of platforms.

"People can now watch on a PC or laptop, or even on some mobile phones and PDAs, and it's the responsibility of the business to make sure staff are obeying the law," he said.

"You need a licence if you are watching programmes as they are broadcast. At a business, the same rules apply."

Fannon said that businesses should only worry if employees are plugging their devices into work interfaces, which makes them "legally installed" if the employee is caught watching live TV broadcasts.

He also warned that any employer stating that they do not need a TV licence could still be inspected, and that the authority has already "prosecuted people for watching on a computer".

Back in May, BBC director of future media and technology Erik Huggers called for the TV licence to be expanded to cover usage of BBC iPlayer.