Government closes TV licence 'loophole'

Watching iPlayer will now cost £145.50 a year


It's bad news for anyone that only watches BBC programmes through iPlayer: from next month, you'll need to buy a TV licence like anybody else.

Until now, users of the catch-up service haven't needed to fork out the £145.50 licence fee, as long as they never watch programmes at the time of broadcast.

However, from September 1st, in line with changes announced in March, this loophole is to close, saving the BBC an estimated £150 million a year.

Anyone caught without a licence will face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

You don't need a television to be liable for the charge - people watching on laptops, phones, tablets, streaming devices and games consoles will all have to pay, as well as anybody using third-party services such as Sky, Virgin or BT.

But it only applies to BBC programmes, meaning that anyone sticking to services from other channels is in the clear. Meanwhile, over-75-year-olds are still eligible for a free licence, and there's a discount for anybody registered blind or severely sight-impaired.

According to TV Licensing, the change should only affect around 2% of households. However, it says, students in particular need to be aware of the change, with as many as two-thirds watching catch-up TV.

Fewer than a quarter take a television with them to university, leaving online viewing on mobile devices by far the most popular way of consuming catch up TV content.

"Watching catch up TV is really popular among students and we want to make sure students are aware of the change in law. From 1 September, everyone will need to be covered by a TV Licence to watch BBC TV programmes on demand – including catch up – on iPlayer. Students can check at our dedicated TV Licence for students page whether they are correctly licensed before the big move," says spokesperson Caroline McCourt.

"And, of course, you still need to be covered by a licence for all live viewing and recording, no matter which channel you are watching or what device you are watching on."

In some cases, students are covered by the licence at their parents' address. However, the device they're using must be powered by its own internal batteries – a tablet or mobile phone, for example - and mustn't be plugged into the mains while receiving programmes.

The government says it's planning to send information leaflets to all households that don't currently have a licence as part of an awareness campaign.

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