The original concept of the iPlayer was that it would not offer live broadcasts. This conformed with the licensing regulations (Statutory Instrument 2004 No 692. The Communications Act (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004) which were amended on April 1 2004 (honest!) to state “You need a TV licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, computer or mobile phone to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV.”
So the legal position was that you didn’t need a licence to watch TV purely on demand (non-live), as originally offered by the iPlayer, but you would if watching any live TV such as a live simulcast of a sporting event.
Now that the BBC has added the feature that enables you to watch live TV programmes (one which is watched or recorded at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is being broadcast), you will need a TV license to watch those programmes. In other words, under the current regulations, any device that can receive LIVE TV pictures, whether or not originally designed or intended to do so, must be covered by a licence if you use it for that purpose.
The BBC and licensing authority are not concerned about this at the present time. According to the BBC website, the number of homes that currently have no television licence, but that do have broadband subscription is estimated to be infinitesimally small.
If enough households gave up their television (and thereby stopped paying the TV license fee) and only watch television programmes through the iPlayer (or other players), the BBC will ask the Government about amending Part 4 of the Communications Act 2003 and the Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004, so that on-demand TV viewing might be brought within its aegis.
See this link~ http://rooreynolds.com/2007/12/14/thoughts-on-tv-licensing/
Also this article from the Guardian makes the interesting point about using mobile phones to receive TV and includes the following:
"... while the new regulations might have succeeded in redefining the term "television" to mean any device capable of receiving it by any broadcast or quasi-broadcast means, they still define a "television programme service" as essentially a live, real-time broadcast stream. That doesn't mean just "live" programmes but TV broadcast in real time. The problem here - oh do keep up! - appears to be that while the regulations extend beyond traditional broadcasting to cover internet and mobile live streaming, receiving TV programmes on-demand, or say as part of an internet-based catch-up service, appears not to be covered".
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