Do I need a TV Licence?

How we watch TV has changed beyond recognition. There’s a vast array of choice and you might not even watch traditional terrestrial channels. So do you still need a TV licence for services like Sky or BT? And what about if you only stream over the internet? Read on to find out.

How we watch TV has changed beyond recognition. There’s a vast array of choice and you might not even watch traditional terrestrial channels. So do you still need a TV licence for services like Sky or BT? And what about if you only stream over the internet? Read on to find out.

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
4
minute read
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Posted 30 SEPTEMBER 2021

What is a TV Licence?

The TV licence is a charge UK households, businesses and most institutions have to pay for watching or recording live television.

First introduced in 1946, it’s collected by the BBC with proceeds used to fund its TV, radio and online programmes. The licence fee raised £3.52 billion in 2020 and accounted for 71% of BBC funding in 2019/20.

Do I need a TV licence?

If you watch or record live TV programmes on any channel you must have a TV licence.

So what counts as ‘live TV’? It’s anything you watch or record as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service. Live doesn’t only include real-time events like sport, it covers anything being shown at the time.

Did you know?

Around 27 million or 95% of UK households own a TV.

What if I only watch catch-up TV?

You still need a TV licence to watch or download BBC programmes on iPlayer, catch up or on-demand. You also need one to watch +1 channels like ITV +1.

But you don’t need a licence if you only watch non-BBC programmes on online catch-up services.

What if I only watch TV on my computer

Some people still think a TV licence is only needed if you use an actual television – this isn’t the case. You need a licence for watching or recording live TV on any device, including:

  • laptops
  • mobile phones
  • tablets
  • desktop computers
  • games consoles
  • digital boxes
  • Freeview TV services
  • Blu-ray, DVD or VHS recorders
  • media streaming devices (for example, Amazon Fire)

What happens if I don’t pay my TV licence?

Watching live television without a TV licence is a criminal offence – and if you’re caught, you could be fined up to £1,000. Around 93% of homes have the correct licence, but the number of evaders is going up, according to government figures.

Visiting officers are sent to check properties without a TV licence when people haven’t responded to attempts to make contact. If you allow the officer into your home, they’ll take a quick look at the main living areas to see whether you have a TV in use.

Do I need a TV licence to watch satellite TV?

Yes. If you watch live TV you need a TV licence, regardless of whether you’re using a satellite service like BT or Sky.

Do I need a TV licence to watch Netflix?

You don’t need a TV licence to watch or download on-demand TV programmes or films via online streaming sites like Netflix or BritBox. Most of these subscription platforms charge a monthly or annual fee for their strictly on-demand services.

But if a subscription streaming service offers the chance to watch live TV for certain programmes or events – like Amazon Prime Video often does – you’ll need a TV licence to watch these.

Who is eligible for a cheaper TV licence?

Reductions are available for:

  • People aged 75 and over who receive Pension Credit
  • Residents of care homes
  • People registered as blind.

Frequently asked questions

What if I only stream my TV programmes?

If you’re streaming live TV online using services like Sky Go, YouTube, ITV Hub, Virgin Media or many others, you absolutely need a TV licence.

If you don’t watch any live TV and only watch television on-demand or catch up using streaming services (other than BBC iPlayer), you don’t need a TV licence.

When do I not need a TV licence?

You don’t need a TV licence to watch:

  • Videos or DVDs
  • Non-BBC programmes on online catch-up
  • YouTube clips

How much is a TV licence?

A TV licence lasts for one year and costs £159. If you only have a black and white television, it costs £53.50

You can pay your annual fee in a one-off payment or spread the cost over the year.

How do I pay my TV licence?

Setting up a direct debit or one-off payment on the TV Licensing website is the easiest way to pay. You can arrange to pay weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly or annually to best suit your situation.

You can also pay by postal order, cheque, BACS or by taking cash or a debit card to any PayPoint – you’ll usually find these in places like supermarkets and newsagents.

Do I need more than one TV licence?

Each household only needs one TV licence, regardless of the number of devices being used to watch or stream live TV.

I live in student accommodation. Do I need my own TV licence?

If you’re living in halls of residence and will be watching live TV in your own room, you’ll need your own TV licence. The hall’s licence only covers communal areas, so don’t be caught out here.

If you live in a shared house as a student, you need to check you’re covered to watch TV in both your room and communal areas – this will come down to the type of tenancy agreement you have.

I am a student. Can I get a refund over the summer?

You can apply for a refund if you don’t use your licence for a full year. You can also apply to have it transferred to a different address. Find out more about getting a refund at TV Licensing – the organisation that processes TV licence payments.

Will my TV licence allow me to watch TV on my phone?

Yes, your licence will cover all the devices in your household, including your mobile when you’re out and about.

Do renters need a TV licence?

If you’re a tenant or lodger in a house and you have a separate tenancy agreement for your room, you’ll need your own TV licence to watch in there. Households covered by a joint tenancy agreement will only need one licence.

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