Detector vans thwarted as PC users turn on the TV

Thousands of businesses are unwittingly breaking the law by failing to acquire TV licences for their television-enabled personal computers.

Thousands of businesses are unwittingly breaking the law by failing to acquire TV licences for their television-enabled personal computers.

Few computer owners will be aware that any PC capable of picking up a television signal requires a £104 TV licence.

The development of increasingly sophisticated computer systems means that more and more PCs are now capable of receiving television signals.

However, it appears that the Government's Television Licensing authority has been unable to keep pace with the advances in new technology.

Television Licensing claims to be able to detect TV sets within a 30-mile radius of their much-vaunted but seldom-seen detector vans.

The detector works by means of a hidden device called a local oscillator, which emits a signal when the TV is switched on.

The signal can be then picked up by vans equipped with on-board computers where the information is cross-matched with information supplied by the Independent Television Committee.

Computers can likewise be detected because they also emit an electronic signal.

However, TV-enabled PC owners who are not in possession of a TV licence should not be too concerned about being caught because the signal emitted by this type of PC is no different from one coming from a less sophisticated computer.

The licensing authority claims to catch around one thousand people every day who have TV sets but no licences. Spokesman Ben Ruse said, however, it was impossible to determine how many computer owners were breaking the law because the TV licence application form does not distinguish between televisions and computers.

That number is likely to represent just a tiny fraction of all those individuals and businesses who own television-enabled computers and do not already hold a TV licence.

Dealers who sell televisions, video recorders, tuner cards, TV-enabled computers or digital set-top boxes are required to notify the authority within 28 days of making a sale.

Mr Ruse said: "The Wireless and Telegraph Act states that any equipment capable of receiving a broadcast signal must be licensed.

"If you have a TV card in your PC, then it is equipment that is capable of picking up a signal, so you need to have a licence."

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