A bizarre, but welcome, loophole for students in the new BBC iPlayer licence rules

Student on laptop in Iowa City, Iowa (22041012645)

A big concern for students, and their parents, is how to watch TV when they are at college or university. £145.50 for a licence is a very steep price for a student to pay for just part of the year, even if they are sharing that cost with others in their flat or house.

Up until September 1st, students could use BBC iPlayer without paying the licence fee.

But as of September 1st, “a change in the law means you need to be covered by a TV Licence to download or watch BBC programmes on demand, including catch up, on BBC iPlayer.”

However, there is a truly bizarre, but nonetheless welcome, loophole in the rules for students. Money Saving Expert explains:

…a quirk in TV Licensing rules means students can get away without one if watching on a mobile, tablet or laptop. The loophole does not apply to watching on a desktop computer, console or TV/digital box, for which you do need a licence…

The TV Licensing rules state:

“Students… won’t be covered by their parents’ licence, unless they only ever use devices that are powered solely by their own internal batteries, and aren’t plugged into an aerial or the mains.”

The technicality means this exception does NOT apply while the device is being charged. This may seem bizarre, and appears to have its origins in a rule which allows licence holders to use mobile devices outside their home.

TV Licensing seems to have chosen to apply this to include students – if their licensed parents’ home is their usual place of residence outside term time.

So students can charge up their laptop, tablet or smartphone, then take the mains plug out and watch live TV or download iPlayer programmes on the device.

It is truly strange, but something for which students and parents can be grateful.


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