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Student News

BBC announce we need to start paying for iPlayer

It's official – from September 2016, we’ll need to start paying for a TV licence in order to watch iPlayer. Just in time for the start of term!

It looks like the days of “But I only watch catch-up TV on my iPad” being a valid excuse for not having a TV licence are officially numbered!

From September 2016, watching on-demand shows on BBC iPlayer will be considered the same as watching live TV – meaning you'll now need a licence for that too.

Back in May, the BBC announced that the iPlayer loophole would be closed in January 2017, but this date has just officially been brought forward to September (just in time for the new term – thanks guys!).

Not only this, but following a six year freeze, it looks like licence fees are set to rise.

Until now, the law has been that you only need a TV licence if you watch shows ‘live’ as they’re broadcast on telly.

A convenient little loophole currently exists where you can technically watch catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer without a licence provided that you only watch your shows at least one hour after they’re been broadcast.

Did you know you can get a student discount on your TV licence? Find out how to claim a refund here!

Why are they changing the law?

The number of households with a TV in the UK is declining while on-demand TV usage continues to grow, so the BBC are seeing the income they receive from TV licensing fees drop substantially.

Culture secretary, John Whittingdale, has been threatening to close the iPlayer loophole since March 2016. He claimed:

The BBC works on the basis that all who watch it pay for it. Giving a free ride to those who enjoy 'Sherlock' or 'Bake Off' an hour, a day or a week after they are broadcast was never intended and is wrong.

Can they really impose this?

babymindIf you’re thinking you could just take the risk and not pay the licence, you’d be wrong.

The government have proposed a pretty tight verification process to ensure that iPlayer viewers have no choice but to take this new law seriously.

They’re proposing that viewers will need to verify their licence fee payment online when signing in to iPlayer in order to gain access – so it’s even harder to avoid paying than it would be your regular tv licence (although this change in payment method isn't looking like it will be rolled out until a later date).

Details of how the verification will work and whether you’ll have the option to pay a discounted monthly fee (we’re thinking something a bit like Netflix) if you don’t have a TV and only watch from other devices are yet to be clarified, but we’ll let you know as soon as we hear!

Is there any way out of paying this fee?

tvIf you really can’t afford a TV licence as a student, don’t worry! It’s not totally necessary to pay for a licence if you can handle missing out on BBC shows.

It's only necessary to pay for a TV license if you want to watch BBC shows or live TV.

TV licensing have said:

As of 1 September 2016, 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 TV – on BBC iPlayer. This applies to all devices, including a smart TV, desktop computer or laptop, mobile phone, tablet, digital box or games console.

Even if you access BBC iPlayer through another provider, such as Sky, Virgin Media, Freeview or BT, you must have a TV Licence.

Therefore, as long as you're happy to make BBC out of bounds, and stick to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and ITV Player (catch-up only, remember! Live TV on these channels still requires a licence), then you can save yourself the cost.

The NUS have also started a petition to make students exempt from paying the TV license fee in light of these changes – you can sign it here.

Have you already paid your TV licence for the year but won't be staying in your student accommodation over the summer? You could be due a refund! 

This article has been updated to reflect changes in dates and updated announcements.

Katie Paterson

WRITTEN BY Katie Paterson

Katie Paterson is an accomplished writer from Glasgow. She studied English Literature at the University of Strathclyde, then went on to do a Research Masters in Literature at the University of Amsterdam. As Lead Editor for Save the Student, Katie has covered topics from career tips to ways to make money go further as a student.
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