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TV licence for BBC iPlayer: What you can still watch for free

Posted 11 September 2016

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Find out what the TV licence covers.

Since 1 September 2016, you now need a TV licence to watch BBC iPlayer. Previously, you only need a TV licence to watch shows live but you’ll now need one if you’re watching the BBC on catch-up too.

If you don’t currently have a TV licence but you do use BBC iPlayer, you’ll probably be pretty put out by this news as you’ll now need to shell out £145.50 for a licence. But do you really need one or can you still watch some TV shows for free? Let’s take a look at the cheapest ways to watch TV.

When you don’t need a licence

The new rule means that you’ll need a licence for BBC iPlayer shows – but it doesn’t say anything about other catch-up services. So if you’re only watching shows on ITV Hub, All 4 or My5, you’re still free to watch these without a TV licence. Make sure you’re only watching shows on catch-up though – if you switch to live TV, you’re breaking the rules.

Live TV doesn’t just mean shows that are broadcasting at the same time they’re being filmed. If you’re watching any show as it’s being broadcast, this is classed as live TV – so don’t get caught out by this!

You can also watch any films and TV shows on YouTube for free, unless there’s a subscription fee for the channel. This is because you’re not watching live TV so you won’t need a TV licence to watch this. If you don’t need a TV licence, make sure you let TV Licensing know so they won’t chase you for payment.

Are streaming services better?

And if you want a wider variety of shows, it might be cheaper to get a streaming service instead of a TV licence. For example, you can get Netflix from just £5.99 a month, with Amazon Prime Video at the same price. As this works out at just under £72 a year for each service, it’s a lot cheaper than a TV licence at £145.50.

NOW TV starts from £6.99 a month for the Entertainment package, with hundreds of films and TV shows available on this.

As long as you’re willing to wait, you can even get some of the top BBC shows on streaming services. BBC hits such as Sherlock and Wolf Hall are available on Netflix and if you watch them through this, you won’t need a TV licence.

Don’t break the rules

But if you do watch live TV or catch up on shows using BBC iPlayer, don’t be tempted to just skip buying a TV licence to save money. This is against the law and you could get a fine of up to £1,000 for doing this.

So make sure you remember to get a licence if you really do need one! And if it turns out you don’t need one, you could end up saving yourself a few quid.


by Emily Bancroft

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