Trick for students to still watch BBC iPlayer or live TV without a TV licence

New rules came into effect today that mean you need a TV licence to watch BBC iPlayer, even if you’re only watching catch-up. Until now, you only needed a licence for watching live broadcasts – though you can continue to watch other catch-up services without one.

However, 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.

We’ve referenced this in our TV licence guide for a while so it’s nothing new, but is particularly pertinent to highlight today as the new rules come in and students begin gearing up for the academic year.

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.

If you have to pay for a licence and you’re in shared accommodation with a joint tenancy agreement, one will do for the whole house. In halls, you’ll need one for your own room. For more info and other tips, see our TV licence guide.