BBC iPlayer loophole closure: Why you need a TV licence and what happens if you don't have one

It is now a legal requirement to have a TV licence to watch BBC iPlayer. Credit: PA
  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

From September 1 viewers will need a TV licence to watch or download BBC programmes through iPlayer.

This decision puts to an end the loophole which existed before, whereby people could watch BBC programmes without having to buy a television licence.

But what do all the changes mean and how will it affect viewers?

  • What are the new restrictions on watching programmes on the iPlayer?

From Thursday, September 1, anyone wishing to watch on-demand television on the BBC iPlayer must have a TV licence.

  • What has changed?

Previously there was a loophole which meant people could watch BBC programmes on-demand with no television licence.

  • Do the changes only apply if you watch iPlayer on the TV?

No. If you are using the iPlayer, no matter what device you are watching it on - phone, tablet, TV, desktop computer - you must have a TV licence.

TV licences can be bought online or over the phone. Credit: PA
  • Does the change apply to other on-demand services?

No. You can still watch other on-demand services such as All 4, the ITV hub, Demand 5 and Netflix without having a TV licence. However, some of these services have subscription fees.

  • Is it illegal to not have a TV licence?

If you are watching or recording live television, and now using the BBC iPlayer, it is a legal requirement to have a TV licence. Even if you do not watch the BBC channels, but still watch TV, you must have a TV licence.

  • Does everyone have to have their own TV licence?

A TV licence will cover a household, no matter how many televisions are in it. If there is one TV in a house you will need a licence, or if there are six you still only need the one licence.

One TV licence per household is required in the majority of cases, however, if you have a single tenancy agreement you will need separate TV licences. A single tenancy agreement means you rent a room in a house or in a halls of residence, and if this is the case you will need your own separate licence. If you have a joint tenancy agreement one licence is needed for the household.

  • What happens if I don't buy a TV licence?

If you are watching television or the iPlayer without a licence then you face prosecution, a fine of up to £1,000 and legal fees on top of this.

  • How much does a TV licence cost?

A standard, colour TV licence costs £145.50 and is valid for 12 months. A black and white TV licence costs £49. The fee can be paid yearly, monthly, or weekly.

  • Can BBC programmes be watched on other services?

Netflix - which has a monthly subscription cost - broadcasts some BBC series.

  • Is Netflix more expensive than a TV licence?

After a free month-long trial, a Netflix Premium account costs £8.99 per month, while a TV licence works out at £12.13 per month.

  • Where can I get a TV licence?

You can buy a TV licence online or over the phone by calling 0300 790 6165.