TV Licence - What's it for?
... and it's not for owning a TV
Don't Licence this!
TVL have kindly simplfied the Law down to a simple statement of when you need a Licence. We've tidied it up a bit:
A TV Licence is required to watch or record TV broadcasts or to watch/download from BBC iPlayer. A TV broadcast is either a normal TV channel received via terrestrial, satellite or cable; OR the live Internet streamed equivalent.
For once, there's nothing tricksy about that definition, although it implies that you can't get caught just for having a TV installed, which isn't the case.
The Licensing law covers all devices. Watching on a phone, tablet or computer makes no difference. If you are watching TV broadcasts, you still need a Licence.
However, the law does provide that phones, tablets and computers are beyond the scrutiny of BBC/TVL, even with a search warrant.
Receiving a TV broadcast means watching or recording it at about the same time as other members of the UK Public, using either convential TV reception (terrestrial, satellite or cable), or via the Internet.
Watching a previous recording (say on Sky+) does not need a Licence at the time of watching, but a Licence will have been required at the time of recording.
A foreign channel is one that is not receivable in the UK using terrestrial, satellite or cable services. (If your channel is present on one of those services, then you need a Licence to watch or record it - even if you use the Internet to do it).
As the law appears to stand you could receive a foreign channel's live stream via the Internet without needing a Licence, as long as that channel is not available in the UK via terrestrial, satellite or cable.
BBC/TVL used to agree with this interpretation of the Law, but they don't any more, which means that care is required if taking advantage of it. (The Law hasn't changed, so it seems likely that they have confused or deliberately hidden the truth. There's a lot of that kind of thing going on at TVL Towers).