THOUSANDS of staff may have been laying their employers open to a large fine by watching live TV on their work computers.

TV Licensing is warning businesses to make sure they are correctly licensed for TV viewing.

Recent figures from the BBC show five of the top 20 live programmes viewed on its iPlayer service were televised during business hours, with ratings topping 800,000.

TV Licensing says a licence is required if anyone – whether staff or customers – watches or records TV programmes at the same time as they are shown on TV, whatever device is used to view them.

Last year, TV Licensing officers visited more than 3,000 businesses in the UK to check they were correctly licensed – including 80 in Bournemouth.

Richard Chapman, TV Licensing spokesman for the South West, said: “With services such as BBC iPlayer and 4oD streaming live TV it can be tempting to watch major televised occasions or sporting events at your desk during the working day. But employers and employees in Bournemouth need to be aware of their TV licensing requirements if they are watching live TV in the workplace. “Rather than risk being prosecuted and facing a fine, we would rather business owners and managers take a few moments to review and update their licensing requirements. A licence costs £145.50 and can be bought in minutes online.”

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, said: “With modern technology, employers may not even be aware that employees are watching live TV at their desks on their computers. We strongly urge these businesses to make sure they have a TV licence in place to avoid prosecution and a potential fine.”

TV Licensing has produced a downloadable TV in the Workplace guide which helps managers to set out a policy on the use of TV in the workplace.

The funeral of Baroness Thatcher, on a Wednesday morning in April, was the most watched live programme via iPlayer in 2013, reaching over 830,000 people. 

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