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Changes to TV licensing rules to impact students

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By Jacqueline Grima

Changes to TV licensing rules that have come into force this week are likely to have a major impact on the student community. Until recently, rules stated that students only had to purchase a television licence if they were watching something traditionally through a standard television set but viewers were able to save themselves the £145.50 annual licence fee if they chose to watch programmes on the internet.

Under the new laws, however, students who watch television through an iPad or other mobile devices will now also have to pay a licence fee with all online and catch-up shows having to be covered by licence rules. Although it seems currently unclear how the rules will be policed, it seems that viewers will be asked to state if they have a TV licence when they log in to watch. A TV licensing spokesperson said:

“We have a range of enforcement techniques which we will use and these have already allowed us to prosecute people who watch on a range of devices, not just TVs.”

The changes are likely to have most impact on students who are more likely to access television shows through mobile devices. All devices including laptops, mobile phones, tablets and games consoles will be affected by the rules. One television licence does cover an entire household.

There is, however, a loophole that students may be able to take advantage of. If a student’s primary address is their parents’ house and all mobile devices are registered at that address, then a student may be able to escape paying the licence fee. In these circumstances, all devices used to watch shows must be battery run and not plugged into the mains when viewing.

The BBC statement reads: “In limited circumstances, students can be covered by the licence at their parents’ address. The device must be powered by its own internal batteries – for example, a tablet or mobile phone – and must not be plugged it into the mains when receiving television. This use is enabled by the regulations governing TV Licensing.”

The new TV licensing rules are coming into force immediately and failure to comply may result in a fine. For more information and answers to any questions, visit the TV licensing website.

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Jacqueline Grima

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