UK TV license: Streaming from a private TV in a foreign country?
October 9, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Do I need a UK TV License to watch a foreign TV using a slingbox?

This may sound like a trick question but its not. We don't have a TV license because we have no TV and do not watch live TV on our computers.

The parents - in a foreign European country - have said that we are welcome to use their slingbox to watch a favorite TV channel of ours while they are away. Technically, we can do this. Thats not the question. The question is: Do we need a UK TV license, if we do this?

We will be streaming live TV into the UK. But the slingbox and TV are in a foreign country. If it matters, the channel we want to watch isn't even available in the UK.
posted by vacapinta to Law & Government (11 answers total)

The "UK or the Channel Islands", that should be, as mentioned here.
posted by Jehan at 2:17 PM on October 9, 2011

Jehan is wrong. You need a TV license if you watch any UK or Channel Islands stations live through any media. I know about people who were stung for this based on a bandwidth usage survey.
posted by parmanparman at 2:32 PM on October 9, 2011

Apparently not. That's assuming that you're watching a foreign channel, not a UK based one.
posted by Solomon at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2011

You need a TV license if you watch any UK or Channel Islands stations live through any media.

Yes, but it must be broadcast in the UK or Channel Islands for that to be true, regardless of how you watch it. Foreign stations on the internet are fine, so long as they're not normally available.
posted by Jehan at 2:42 PM on October 9, 2011

I think Jehan's right about the legal question, but in case you're worried they can't keep track of who's using bbc iplayer live yet, so there's 0 chance that anyone could question it IMO.
posted by Not Supplied at 5:45 PM on October 9, 2011

Actually, my understanding of the legal position is that if your TV is capable of receiving UK broadcast TV, whether or not you are using it that way, you need a TV license.
The license-detector van works on detecting the emissions of a TV that is receiving a signal by any means. You might try arguing the case that your TV was not set up to receive UK broadcasts, but you'd have a hard time proving that one.
Also, be aware that when you buy a TV, the retailer has to inform the licensing authority of your details. They are going to follow that up, if you don't have a license.
posted by Susurration at 6:07 PM on October 9, 2011

The license-detector van works on detecting the emissions of a TV that is receiving a signal by any means.

But the actual television set in this case is in a different country. That would have to be a pretty good detector van.

Given the channel being streamed isn't available in the UK and isn't being played on a television within the UK (I'm assuming you'll be using your computer?), I don't see why a license would be needed under the rules listed above.
posted by shelleycat at 12:30 AM on October 10, 2011

Something similar to this came up in relation to a friend. My sense is that it's a genuine grey area and that TV Licensing likes to keep it that way. If you search around in this pdf document, which seems to be the result of a Freedom of Information request, you'll find it stated both that you only need a license for foreign channels on a computer if they're available via broadcast, satellite or cable inside the UK, and that you always need a license for the location at which you're receiving a transmission from a slingbox if that location is in the UK. So, that seems like a flat contradiction to me.
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:12 AM on October 10, 2011

TV "detector vans" are a myth.

Physically, they were somewhat plausible back when all TVs were giant CRT tubes which gave off large amounts of very characteristic EM radiation. These days most TVs are LCDs which do not, so the science of the "detector" is much harder to believe these days. In either case, any evidence which is used in a trial has to be made available to the defense. There is no reliable information in the public domain about these supposed detector vans because their evidence has never been presented at trial. So, even if they do exist, they are not used to prosecute surreptitious unlicensed TV watchers.

More here and here (sorry, not very authoritative sources, but this rumor is encouraged by the BBC for obvious reasons).
posted by richb at 1:37 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! To be perfectly clear:
1) We live in the UK.
2) We have no TV or TV device of any kind. We have laptops.
3) The foreign channel is not broadcast in the UK - on any provider. I know this because I love the channel and have even contacted them directly if they plan to be available in the UK eventually. In fact, this is what makes the slingbox solution so attractive.
posted by vacapinta at 2:31 AM on October 10, 2011

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