A family member is preparing to go to university.
He’s a fresher, so we’ve been putting together a list of all the things he’ll need as he embarks on his next phase of education away from home.
Few teenagers can survive without TV. But whether they access programming through the traditional box, or on their laptops, smartphones or tablets, they’ll need a licence.
Even in halls of residence, if you watch or record TV in your room, you need your own licence.
It’s a must-buy, since if you watch TV without one, you are breaking the law and risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. Last year, fines totaling £20 million were imposed.
The £145.50 licence fee makes a big dent in a student’s beer fund, so it’s easy to see why many are tempted to “overlook” this expense.
However, last year, more than 180,000 people – that’s around 3,500 a week - appeared before magistrates for failing to buy a TV licence.
The number demonstrates the seriousness of the authorities in bringing evaders to book. For the courts it’s equally significant, as these cases account for 12 per cent of those coming before the magistrates. It is the most prosecuted of all crimes.
It’s no secret that our courts are stretched. Earlier this month Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the UKIP peer, said it was “absurd” that the courts were clogged up with such a minor offence and called for TV licence evasion to be decriminalised and dealt with as a civil matter, much in the way that parking tickets or the non-payment of utility bills are.
The Ministry of Justice claims to be looking into how these cases are best managed. Given that most of them are uncontested it makes sense.
Others suggest that scrapping the fee altogether would remove the problem, but that’s another debate entirely.
In the meantime, my tip to students is make sure you have a licence to avoid the grand fine and a criminal record.
There’s also a loophole: if you really want to conserve more of your cash for spending in the student union bars, the fee only applies to ‘live’ TV.
If all you do is use catch-up services then you are exempt.
A black and white licence, at £49, could also save you a few quid, but it won’t be much fun watching the snooker.
Steve Allen is Birmingham head of office at national law firm Mills & Reeve.