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A simple guide to UK TV licences

If you’ve recently moved to the UK, or you’re planning to, you might be thinking, ‘Will I need a TV licence?’ Well, probably, if you like a bit of TV like we do. But it’s a little more complex.

Thankfully, our simple guide to the UK’s TV licences tells you everything you need to know by answering a few frequently asked questions.

What is a TV licence? 

Many people who are new to the UK may overlook TV licences, but they’re incredibly important. And for most people, they’re essential. 

A TV licence gives you legal permission to watch and record live TV on any channel in the UK. Since 2016, it also gives you the legal right to access on-demand and catch-up programmes on BBC iPlayer. 

Live TV is defined as television at the time of broadcast. It also includes +1 channels. If you’re watching or recording TV through Freeview, Freesat or paid TV services such as Sky, you need a TV licence. You also need a TV licence if you use BBC iPlayer on any device including laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Are there any exceptions and exemptions?

You do not need a TV licence if you exclusively use catch-up services that are not BBC iPlayer. So for example, if you only watch ITV Hub and All 4, you don’t need a TV licence. 

You also don’t need a TV licence if you exclusively watch TV streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, or you only use your TV to watch DVDs and Blu-rays. However, if you access BBC iPlayer at any time, or watch live TV, you need a TV licence. 

However, if you fall under one of the following categories, you may be entitled to an exemption or reduction:

  • You’re blind or visually impaired—If you’re certified as blind or severely slightly impaired, you may be eligible for a 50% reduction in your TV licence fee.
  • Care home residents—If you’re a care home resident, you may be eligible for a discounted TV licence fee of £7.50.
  • Over 75 and in receipt of pension credit—Those who are 75 and over and receive pension credit can get a free TV licence. Those with partners aged 75 and over and in receipt of pension credit also qualify, as long as the partner lives at the same address.

Are you a student? Unfortunately, you’re not eligible for an exemption or discount, and you’ll have to pay for a TV licence.

How much do TV licences cost?

If you have a colour TV, the annual TV licence fee is £159. For black and white TVs, it’s £53.50 a year. You only need one licence per household—no matter how many TVs you own or watch TV on. 

If you can’t pay the lump sum, there’s an option to spread the cost over monthly or quarterly instalments via direct debit. (Although bear in mind that there’s an extra £5 annual charge if you choose to pay quarterly). You can also pay by credit card or cash payments, and at shops and newsagents with PayPoint outlets. If you choose to pay via this option, we recommend keeping a record of the payments you’ve made, so that you don’t lose track.

What happens if you don’t pay your TV licence?

If you don’t pay your TV licence or you’re caught watching live TV, you could face fines of up to £1,000 plus any applicable court costs. Not paying your TV licence counts as a criminal offence.

According to TV Licensing, there are many methods in place to detect those who may not be lawfully paying their TV licence. This includes environmental officer checks on properties, national databases and detector vans. So if you should be paying for a TV licence… make sure you do.

How do you apply for a TV licence?

And now for the important bit. Paying for your TV licence is pretty straightforward. 

Simply visit the TV Licensing page and follow the instructions from there.


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