Is using a tablet to watch TV a way of avoiding a licence?

Is using a tablet to watch TV a way of avoiding a licence?It's Friday, so let's treat you to a "no sh*t, Sherlock" tale, this week courtesy of ICM and the TV Licensing people, who have revealed that a quarter of all Brits now use their phones and tablets to watch TV on the go.

And to add even greater weight to the argument, they point out that those under the age of 35 are mainly responsible for this insane new trend.

“One in four people (25%) watched TV content on the move in 2011, via mobile viewing technologies. The figure is much higher for under 35s, as 35% watched in this way last year," said those lovely folk who take our money every month for the privilege of beaming pictures to our tellies in the home.

And there's more: “we estimate we spend over three hours per week tuning into the small(er) screen, watching programmes on our laptops, smartphones and tablets.”

We're not in the least surprised here - the iPad, iPhone and Android apps for things like BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV and Sky are truly excellent and allow us to use them wherever we may be (Wi-Fi dependent). Then, there's the amazing CatchupTV site (which we can never figure out because its actually not catch up at all but live).

The likelihood is that most people don't actually use their portable devices to watch live TV, but use them as secondary catchup services. If the main TV is in use, it is now so easy to pick up that tablet and go catch up on Masterchef in the bedroom thanks to Wi-Fi.

The TV Licensing board also predicts that a whopping one percent of the public will use their devices to watch the Olympics this year. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

What they don't mention - though we'd love to know - is where one stands legally if they don't own a TV licence but do own an iPad and use that to watch TV - either through CatchupTV or an on-demand service. It used to be that anybody with a device capable of receiving TV signals had to pay - but tablets don't receive TV signals, only internet streams.

Which means that, thinking about it, if you were to equip yourself with broadband, an iPad and a computer monitor that you could somehow connect it to (rather than a TV), could you even circumvent the law?

Just a though, of course...

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46 comments

Pondlife  Mar. 16, 2012 at 19:16

No. Although how they know whether you use live services as opposed to catch up is tricky.

http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/technology--devices-and-online-top8/

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 16, 2012 at 19:52

It is still against the law, but the likelihood of getting caught is probably outweighed by the financial gain of not having to pay the UK's, somewhat communist, TV licence.

willh  Mar. 16, 2012 at 20:38

It all depends on whether or not you watch TV programmes as they are being broadcast to air. If you watch stuff on-demand, or catch up or on iPlayer or whatever, as long as it's not the same thing that's on air right now (i.e. it is pre-recorded or timeshifted) then it's legal to do so without a TV license.

You are only required to have a TV license if you watch or record television broadcasts as they are being made.

If you watch TV straight off the air or down the cable from the regular channel broadcast, you must pay.
If you have a PVR set up to record straight from broadcast, you must pay.
If you watch TV on an iPad on a service that shows you current broadcasts, you must pay.

If you watch only catch-up or on-demand TV which is not currently (this very moment) being broadcast on the channel, you do not have to pay.

Sky player is not so cut and dried - if you use it to watch Sky on-demand content, you don't have to pay. If you use it to watch Sky channel broadcasts as they are being made, you have to pay.

Catchup TV is not timeshifted or on-demand so you still have to pay, despite its confusing name.

willh  Mar. 16, 2012 at 20:40

It is still against the law, but the likelihood of getting caught is probably outweighed by the financial gain of not having to pay the UK's, somewhat communist, TV licence.

If you think requiring people to have a TV license is communism, I seriously recommend you either go back to school or stay out of politics.

hassi94  Mar. 16, 2012 at 20:40

It's allowed (via a loophole) to watch live TV using laptops/iPads as long as they're not plugged into the mains. I know it sound ridiculous but if you're using it portably it's legal, but illegal if you have the device plugged into mains power.

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 16, 2012 at 20:46

It is still against the law, but the likelihood of getting caught is probably outweighed by the financial gain of not having to pay the UK's, somewhat communist, TV licence.

If you think requiring people to have a TV license is communism, I seriously recommend you either go back to school or stay out of politics.

Yes, I really think it's like N.Korea. Do you take everything you read in life literally?

blizzard7  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:13

It's allowed (via a loophole) to watch live TV using laptops/iPads as long as they're not plugged into the mains. I know it sound ridiculous but if you're using it portably it's legal, but illegal if you have the device plugged into mains power.

You got a source for that? Sounds a bit ridiculous.

I regularly watch iPlayer on my laptop without a TV license and as it's not live, it's perfectly legal. However, I do think the TV License offers great value for money. BBC probably makes up about two-thirds of my watching.

Pondlife  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:19

However, I do think the TV License offers great value for money. BBC probably makes up about two-thirds of my watching.

I think the usa makes 2/3s of mine atm.

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:21

I think the usa makes 2/3s of mine atm.
What :p?

blizzard7  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:24

I think the usa makes 2/3s of mine atm.
What :p?

Didn't you know? The USA is so obsessed with TV, they turned the whole country into a TV station.

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:26

I think the usa makes 2/3s of mine atm.
What :p?

Didn't you know? The USA is so obsessed with TV, they turned the whole country into a TV station.

Now I'm really lost... :p

hassi94  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:52

It's allowed (via a loophole) to watch live TV using laptops/iPads as long as they're not plugged into the mains. I know it sound ridiculous but if you're using it portably it's legal, but illegal if you have the device plugged into mains power.

You got a source for that? Sounds a bit ridiculous.

I regularly watch iPlayer on my laptop without a TV license and as it's not live, it's perfectly legal. However, I do think the TV License offers great value for money. BBC probably makes up about two-thirds of my watching.


Sorry, I just realised what I said only works in a specific circumstance. It's if you're a student living away at university and your family have TV License at home, then you can technically use their TV License while your phone/laptop/tablet etc. is unplugged. On the official TV License website. The loophole comes from this information: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/your_world/communications_index_ew/television_licences.htm

hassi94  Mar. 16, 2012 at 21:53

It's allowed (via a loophole) to watch live TV using laptops/iPads as long as they're not plugged into the mains. I know it sound ridiculous but if you're using it portably it's legal, but illegal if you have the device plugged into mains power.

You got a source for that? Sounds a bit ridiculous.

I regularly watch iPlayer on my laptop without a TV license and as it's not live, it's perfectly legal. However, I do think the TV License offers great value for money. BBC probably makes up about two-thirds of my watching.


Sorry, I just realised what I said only works in a specific circumstance. It's if you're a student living away at university and your family have TV License at home, then you can technically use their TV License while your phone/laptop/tablet etc. is unplugged. The loophole comes from this information: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/your_world/communications_index_ew/television_licences.htm

blizzard7  Mar. 16, 2012 at 22:00

Well that is a neat little loophole. A bit of a faff though just to not watch a program an hour after it airs :p

willh  Mar. 16, 2012 at 22:00

It is still against the law, but the likelihood of getting caught is probably outweighed by the financial gain of not having to pay the UK's, somewhat communist, TV licence.

If you think requiring people to have a TV license is communism, I seriously recommend you either go back to school or stay out of politics.

Yes, I really think it's like N.Korea. Do you take everything you read in life literally?


No. Tell me more about how it's somewhat communist, though.

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 16, 2012 at 22:31

State provided TV which thou shalt pay for if thou wishes to watch TV at all (which has become slightly less clear cut since the introduction of internet based video services, admittedly).

Have you ever tried not having a TV licence? I can tell you, it's not a fun experience, prepare to be hassled by "the man".

Btw, are you here just for the argument? If you are, go find Treab, you'll have much more fun.

willh  Mar. 16, 2012 at 22:45

State provided TV which thou shalt pay for if thou wishes to watch TV at all (which has become slightly less clear cut since the introduction of internet based video services, admittedly).

Have you ever tried not having a TV licence? I can tell you, it's not a fun experience, prepare to be hassled by "the man".

Btw, are you here just for the argument? If you are, go find Treab, you'll have much more fun.


It's not a blanket tax. You don't have to pay for it if you don't want to watch or record television broadcasts as they are being made. It's a reasonable enough tax, given the premise. If your beef is with state-funded television then I would agree were it not for the fact that the BBC is legally bound to be impartial and free from political influence (which they seem to be doing a decent enough job at to be fair and given their pressures).

Personally, I don't have TV license. It's not that hard to get the man off your back once you make it perfectly clear to them that you understand the rules and aren't interested in their attempts to confuse you into getting one. Most people cave once the licensing guy shows up at the door and are scared into buying it. I filled out the online form telling them I do not need a license and don't intend to pay it, and confirmed via email.

When the licensing guy came to the door and asked to come inside the house, I told him he could not come in and that I didn't receive or record television broadcasts as they are being made (pretty important to repeat that phrase to him) and he left me alone.

I do admit the law is (intentionally?) pretty vaguely defined here and the information is (intentionally?) hard to get hold of - but once you have it, just stick to your guns and you're fine.

For context: I have a TV and I use it for netflix, 4OD, iPlayer (not the live stuff), watch DVDs and play video games. I have a subscription to my ISP for internet only, no cable TV, and I don't have the aerial plugged in to my TV set.

I'm probably atypical in setup and in my knowledge of exactly where I stand in relation to the law, but to be honest I don't see any point in paying the £whatever per year just to get a chance to catch some terrible reality TV or re-runs of QI or a chat show or whatever happens to be on the live broadcast at the moment. I realised that on-demand and catch-up TV was all I ever actually used and decided to stop paying the license because I don't need it.

On a somewhat related note, if the TV license *was* just some sort of communist blanket tax on all citizens, I'd probably pay it gladly if they renamed it "keeping the BBC news website non-crap and advert-free tax".

blizzard7  Mar. 16, 2012 at 23:06

I agree with all the above!

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 16, 2012 at 23:13

You don't have to pay for it if you don't want to watch or record television broadcasts as they are being made.

And that is my problem with it. Why should I have to pay to watch channels that aren't the BBC when they're broadcasting live? If it was renamed "The BBC Television Tax" I'd still not pay it, but I also wouldn't have a problem with it (as long as I could watch other channel live).

The TV licence's mantra is basically "Help fund the BBC, whether you watch it or not, or don't watch live TV at all", that's my problem with it and why I feel it is in fact a blanket tax on live TV.

Treab  Mar. 17, 2012 at 04:49

first of all ...

bbc = neutral... what a load of ****. if it was truely a fair and impartial system then all poitical parties would have the same opportunity whereas its the big 3 which has the most air time...

airtime = votes.

secondly ... good luck with this one..

When the licensing guy came to the door and asked to come inside the house, I told him he could not come in and that I didn't receive or record television broadcasts as they are being made (pretty important to repeat that phrase to him) and he left me alone.

this means escalation he will be back with the law on his side and force his way in. (he has a right to do so and remove any computer technology for checking to see if you have watched live tv) also good luck if you have a tv with a receiver in it even if it has no aerial connected and you use it for consoles... as your in breach of the law..

the reason is vague is so they can manipulate it to catch people.

Treab  Mar. 17, 2012 at 04:50

Btw, are you here just for the argument? If you are, go find Treab, you'll have much more fun.

and oi just cause your crap at debates.

JanSt / MOD  Mar. 17, 2012 at 12:08

Couple of years ago they revised the TV license T&Cs here in Ireland with the express intent to milk mobile phone users... the legislation was eventually amended, and phones and tabs are currently exempt. However, the bullish approach shows me they aren't done with it, just yet.

And yes: I believe TV licenses are for dictatorships. It is a tax with exactly ZERO input from the taxpayer with regards to what that TAX is used for. THERE is NOTHING on TV I want to watch.

I would rather donate money to award Stalin a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize than pay for the state-corporate Lying Game.

If Tesco would charge an admission fee to their stores, would you pay?
They let us vote 25 times a century and we say yay... but the content design crew of 'our' TV are not elected by us. They do not listen to us. They listen to the same powers that be that control the private media. Let them pay for the trite they use to dull our senses.

JanSt / MOD  Mar. 17, 2012 at 12:11

willh,

you are wrong. Countless people are regularly harrassed for not having a license. Even if they never had a TV/radio...You are wearing big pink glasses.

I can't blame you though: it can be difficult to pry them off, cause a billion £££ industry glued them firmly in place.

JanSt / MOD  Mar. 17, 2012 at 12:16

...now coffee.

PS: those 2 posts above reflect my personal opinion. Not that of mobot ;)

matt101101 / MOD  Mar. 17, 2012 at 12:34

Jan, thanks. I was beginning to think I was mad/odd in my thinking that the UK's TV Licence is a pointless tax in which the end users have no say in. It's basically a tax on all live TV, just to fund a pointless (IMO) BBC, as I said yesterday. I think my original statement of it being somewhat communist, isn't too far from the truth, really.

On a side note, in all the years I haven't had a TV licence. I've had many visits from the licencing authority both accompanied and not accompanied by the Police. Shockingly (more sarcasm than can be put into words), not once have the Police been able to produce a warrant to actually search my house for evidence of "illegal TV watching" <<< just look how stupid those three words sound when you read them...

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