Your company TV licence can be a nightmare

The terms under which live TV (or iPlayer) can be viewed on your premises are very limited and the TV licencing authority is quick to launch criminal investigations. We offer some tips to keep you safe with regards a company TV licence.

1. Buy a licence

The default position of the licencing authority appears to be that you need a licence and if you don’t have a licence then you may be treated as guilty until you prove your innocence. At best the licencing authority will chase you every three years.

So the safest course of action is, of course, to buy a TV Licence. But if you or your employees do not need to watch LiveTV, or catchup TV, then £145 per year is an unnecessary expense. Here are some further thoughts:

2. Add a policy to your Employee Handbook

A policy on using (or rather not using) TV at work would be a valuable addition to your employee handbook. Employees will then know what they can and cannot do and thus not leave you liable. We can provide wording for a policy.

3. Restrict viewing to personally owned devices

Viewing on a personally owned device (e.g. a Smartphone) is permitted provided the device is not charging on the business premises. A Bring Your Own Device to Work (BYOD) policy is a worthy addition to your Employee Handbook.

4. Keep to YouTube videos

These are safe to view. For example, parliamentary proceedings can be viewed on the UK Parliament’s own YouTube channel but not, of course, on BBC Parliament.

5. Be very careful

Catchup TV, such as iPlayer and SkyGo can catch you out. If the service enables viewing of BBC or Freeview content through the device then you need a TV licence.

In taking care, there are “grey areas” too. For example if your company buys Smartphones for your employees or if the employee is viewing media on your premises for business purposes then you may be at risk. Further complications might arise if the employee does not have a licence themselves, or even if they have simply charged the phone on your premises!

It is not a dream

If you don’t have a TV licence then watch out for any “Official notice”, in red, warning that you or your employees could be committing a criminal offence. Try to “trap” the notice before it causes your employees stress and damages the trust those employees place in you. Sweet dreams.

In particular, if you once take out a TV licence, and then choose not to renew, be prepared to find your premises to be under investigation anyway. Telling them you no longer need a licence does not influence them, in our experience. The nightmare begins…

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

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