Why we're here:
This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast TV programmes, or to watch or download on-demand programmes via the BBC iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Reader Letter: Can TV Licensing Catch Online Viewers?

In today's post we respond to an email received from one of our readers.

Our reader writes:

Dear TV Licensing Blog,

I am a student living in a university hall of residence. The university has told all livers-in that they must have a TV licence to use a television in their room. The university has also said that it co-operates with TV Licensing. 

I rarely watch television because I'm involved in several clubs and don't have much spare time. For that reason I don't see the value in buying a TV licence. I occasionally watch television on my laptop, but it's very irregular and mainly confined to Celebrity Big Brother late in the evening. 

What are the chances of TV Licensing catching me watching television programmes on my laptop?

Please can you let me know. Thanks ever so much for all the help your awesome blog has given me so far.


TV Licensing Blog replies:

Dear Jenny,

Thank you for contacting the TV Licensing Blog. We're grateful for your kind words and pleased you enjoy reading our articles.

As a regular reader of our blog, you're probably aware of the law already. Briefly, for the benefit of any newcomers also reading this reply, a TV licence is required for any property where equipment is installed or used to receive TV programmes at the same time as they are broadcast to the wider public.

If you only watch TV programmes on unplugged equipment powered by its own internal battery (such as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone), then the TV licence of your non-term time address would normally cover you. That being the case, the simple way to stay within the law would be to unplug your laptop before viewing.

Suppose your non-term time address didn't have a valid TV licence, which is pretty unlikely, then you would have to buy a separate licence to cover the reception of TV programmes within your hall of residence room. That would be the case regardless of the equipment you were using, whether plugged in or not.

Of course you could adjust your viewing habits and watch non-live catch-up services instead, which would not require a TV licence at all.

Turning to your specific question, if you continue to watch Celebrity Big Brother late in the evening then it's pretty unlikely you will be caught by TV Licensing. TV Licensing has to catch a licence fee evader in the act of receiving TV programmes in an unlicensed property before it can prosecute.  

TV Licensing does not have any special equipment or authority to tap into people's web history, nor is it entitled to ask for that information from the internet service providers or university. Given the circumstances you describe, it is very unlikely TV Licensing would ever catch you in the act of receiving TV programmes without a valid TV licence.

As TV Licensing goons have no special rights of entry, you can deprive them of any evidence by simply refusing to speak to them if they call. Definitely do not let them into your room. TV Licensing is known to employ undesirable individuals, some with proven criminal tendencies, so as a lone female student it would be unwise to let them in, particularly if they call in the late evening when it is quieter anyway.

From a legal standpoint the university should not be providing TV Licensing with student information or allowing them access to any student's room without their permission. If the university was to provide TV Licensing with student information, then that would almost certainly be a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

I hope that addresses your question. If you require any further information then you might find our free ebook useful. There are also some student information sheets on the Resources page

Please tell all of your student friends about the TV Licensing Blog.

Best of luck with your studies.


If you have any questions you would like answered on the TV Licensing Blog, please email us with the words "Reader Letter" in the subject line. Our email address is in the sidebar. As mentioned on the About page, we can't guarantee to respond to every email but will try our best.

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