Watching TV on an actual TV is becoming a bit of a thing of the past nowadays thanks to the rise of streaming services and devices like laptops and tablets.
For many, the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus or Amazon Prime may be the first port of call for entertainment, rather than trawling through the TV guide and waiting for scheduled programmes to start.
But with so many good shows available on live TV and on the BBC like Happy Valley, MasterChef and Strictly Come Dancing, to name but a few – some would argue it’s still worth stumping up £159 for a TV Licence.
You need a TV licence to watch or record live TV on any channel or service – this includes all BBC and ITV channels, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – and to use BBC iPlayer.
It is against the law to watch live TV or BBC iPlayer without paying for this licence and anyone who dodges the fee can face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000 – but there IS a ‘bizarre loophole’ to get round it, says Martin Lewis.
Martin’s MoneySavingExpert (MSE) website highlights a nifty trick for cash-strapped students to watch live TV and use BBC iPlayer without having to get their own licence – even if you’ve moved out of your family home into your own place.
Martin shared advice for students in his weekly MSE email which contained a link to the loophole from MoneySavingExpert advice.
The “bizarre rule” is hidden in TV Licensing’s advice for students guide which says that students whose parents or guardians have a TV Licence can watch live TV and BBC iPlayer on a smartphone, tablet or laptop that is not plugged in or charging at the time, without paying for their own Licence.
The MSE guidance explains that a TV Licence is not required providing the following three factors apply:
- Your ‘out-of-term address’ – i.e. your parents’ or guardians’ address – is covered by a TV Licence
- You only use TV-receiving equipment – such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop – that is powered solely by its own internal batteries
- You’re not watching TV on a device while it’s connected it to an aerial or plugged into the mains
Watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer on a desktop computer, games console or television will, however, need a licence regardless of whether your out of term address is covered.
If you live in halls of residence, it is likely that you’ll be covered for communal areas, but not in your own room. Those who live in private accommodation, such as a shared house, and have signed a joint tenancy agreement will only need to get one licence for the household. But if you each have separate agreements then you’ll need a licence for your room.
But you don’t need a TV Licence if you only ever watch shows on demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer, and if you never watch live on any channel, TV service or streaming service, including on BBC iPlayer.