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What is the TV Licence, how much is it and why do I need it?

The TV Licence. We, Her Majesty’s subjects in the UK all have to pay it if we want to watch live TV, whether we like it or not. 

The TV Licence goes towards paying for the BBC’s UK services – all of the TV channels, radio stations and online services like BBC iPlayer and BBC Red Button.

TV Licence money has also helped fund Digital UK, the non profit organisation that’s been promoting awareness of the Digital Switchover.

In 2011, the BBC broke down the costs for the licence fee money for 2010-2011 and worked out that for every £12.13 monthly payment, £7.96 went towards the TV channels, £2.11 paid for radio services, 66p went to the running of iPlayer and Red Button and £1.40 a month went to Digital UK plus the general running of services, investment in new technology and licence fee collection. 

Here we take you through the TV Licence, how much one costs and why you’d need one. 

What is the TV Licence, how much is it and why do I need it?
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How much is the UK TV Licence?

A TV Licence in the UK currently costs £145.50 a year for colour TV sets and £49.00 for a black and white set. While the great majority of viewers buy a colour licence, roughly 13,000 British citizens still opt for a black and white licence

The UK Government has frozen the fee for colour sets at £145.50 until 2016. 

How can I pay for the TV Licence?

You can pay weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on what’s best for you.

For weekly payments you can pay at a PayPoint outlet, online, over the phone or even via text at £2.79/week.

You can pay every month, quarter or year by Direct Debit.

Monthly Direct Debit gives you the option to pay off everything in six months at £24/month or over the year at £12/month.

Quarterly payments incur a £1.25 premium charge and are worked out at £36.37 plus a £1.25 premium charge, so £37.62/quarter in total.

The only other option is to pay off everything in one lump sum via Direct Debit or with a single credit or debit card payment (Visa, Visa Electron, MasterCard, Maestro and Delta accepted).

What is the TV Licence and why do I need one?
What is the TV Licence and why do I need one?

Do I need a TV Licence to watch BBC iPlayer?

Yes and no. There’s a school of thought that says the TV Licence only applies to what you watch on TV and therefore doesn’t apply if you’re watching iPlayer on your laptop, desktop, tablet, any screen which isn’t a TV. This strictly isn’t true.

In fact, even having a broadband connection alone means you’ll probably have to have the licence. Why?

The TV Licensing site states:

‘A TV Licence doesn’t just cover you to watch TV at home on a TV set. You can also watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV, through all of these devices:

  •     Computers, including laptops and tablets
  •     Mobile phones
  •     Games consoles
  •     Digital boxes, e.g. Freeview, Sky, Virgin, BT Vision
  •     DVD/VHS/Blu-ray recorders’

The rule of thumb is if you’ve got any kind of device that’s capable of watching live TV and you use it to watch live TV, then you need a TV Licence.

This also applies to phones and tablets: ‘As long as the address where you live is licensed, you’re also covered to watch TV outside your home using any device powered solely by its own internal batteries. This includes your mobile phone, laptop and tablet.’

If it’s got a screen and you’re watching live TV on it, then you need a licence. 

Do I need a licence if I’m just watching catch-up and on-demand? That’s not live TV.

There is an exception in the rules that states if you only watch catch-up and on-demand services online (i.e. not live streams) then you don’t have to pay the licence. 

Theoretically if you only ever watched shows on Netflix, Lovefilm, Blinkbox and the rest and only used BBC iPlayer for catch-up, you shouldn’t have to pay the TV licence. The same goes if you owned a TV but only used it for watching DVDs, Blu-rays and playing games. 

Even so, you would still need to fill in this online declaration form, stating that you don’t need a licence. This helps TV Licensing keep their records up to date and will stop you from getting threatening letters and/or a nasty visit from enforcement officers. 

What is the TV Licence and why do I need one?
BBC iPlayer: As long as you’re just catching up, you don’t need a licence

What happens if I refuse to pay my TV Licence? 

If you refuse to pay your licence and you’ve not filled in the declaration form mentioned above and you continue to watch live TV then there is a a chance that you’ll be taken to court and prosecuted. In 2012, over ten per cent of UK court cases were related to TV Licence non-payment. 

Currently non-payment is considered to be a criminal offense and some Members of Parliament want to see this changed

Do I need a TV Licence to watch Sky?

Yes. This is because Sky TV lets you access the BBC channels along with the other PSB (Public Service Broadcasting) channels; ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel Five.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch Virgin Media?

Yes, for the same reasons as you need one if you have Sky. Any TV service that lets you access live TV requires you to have a TV Licence.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch Freesat, BT TV, TalkTalk TV and YouView?

Yes. Whether you’re watching live TV on Freesat, YouView, Freetime from Freesat, BT TV or TalkTalk TV, you’ll need a licence. 

Is anyone exempt from paying a TV Licence?

If you’re 75 or over then you can qualify for a free TV Licence. You’ll need to call 0300 555 0281 and have your National Insurance Number and date of birth to hand. 

Those who are blind or partially sighted can claim a 50 per cent discount on the cost of their TV Licence. Call 0300 555 0281 for more information. 

Image: R Barraex D’Lucca/Flickr


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