This full guide will take you through whether you should be paying or not. So whether you’re watching live TV on a television, computer, tablet, games console, smartphone or any other device, you’ll need to pay the fee. However you do not need a TV licence if you only watch content after it’s been shown on television – UNLESS it’s on iPlayer .
Quick questions What counts as ‘live TV’?
When we talk about ‘live TV’, confusingly it isn’t necessarily a live episode of a programme, it could be pre-recorded. ‘Live TV’ is content that’s being broadcast on a TV channel . This applies to all channels on any mainstream TV platform, including Freeview, Virgin or Sky. Similarly, online services that only show content on-demand, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, don’t require you to have a TV licence either.
Here are a few examples to show what this means
When watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory on your TV, on Channel 4, you DO need a TV licence. When watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory online when it isn’t being broadcast ‘live’ on Channel 4, you DON’T need a TV licence. Your TV licence covers your household, no matter how many TVs you have, but the rules differ for shared student accommodation . If you move house it’s possible to simply update your contact details or get a refund for a complete unused quarter – see How to get a refund .
The cash funds public broadcasting by the BBC, allowing it to run without the interruption of adverts. The BBC contracts the collection and administration of the TV licence out to TV Licensing. You DON’T have to pay If you never watch the BBC and only watch programmes using other channels’ catch-up services, it’s possible to legally ditch the TV licence and save yourself £154.50 a year. A rule that came into force in September 2016 means you need a licence to legally use BBC iPlayer, even if you’re only watching catch-up TV.
If you’re sure you no longer need a licence, you can formally let TV Licensing know. If you pay with a TV Licensing payment card, you’ll need to call 0300 555 0286. Anyone who no longer requires a TV licence – including those who pay in cash at certain shops or post offices, who don’t need to do the above – can fill out a ‘no licence needed’ declaration form . After this, keep your confirmation email from TV Licensing as proof.
TV Licensing may visit. Once you’ve cancelled, you might find you get a visit from TV Licensing to check whether you actually do need a TV licence – it says these inspections find one in five households do. If you do need a licence, you’ll need to pay the full licence fee, and you could risk prosecution plus a fine of up to £1,000 . You don’t need a licence as long as you are not watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer and are only watching on-demand or catch-up on other services.
Quick questions What if I watch live TV online?
The rule is if you are watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer you’ll need a licence. It makes no difference whether you’re watching on a mobile, tablet, laptop or good old-fashioned telly box in the corner of your living room. TV Licensing told us its enforcement methods are much the same as they’ve always been, including letters to unlicensed addresses and visits from ‘enquiry officers’. Yes if you’re watching BBC iPlayer, but technically no if you only use other catch-up services.
Enquiry officers do not have any legal powers to come into your home unless they have a search warrant from a magistrate, or sheriff if you are in Scotland. They have an implied right under common law to come to your front door and let you know they are there.
Here’s some inspiration for ditching the licence from our forum
I used the online form to cancel my licence . I’ve never had a problem with harassment, just a quick letter when I purchased a new TV and another two years later which is what they say will happen. You’ll still need a TV licence if you record ‘live TV’ content at the time of broadcast, using a digital recorder like Sky+ or Tivo . This is because you’re recording it as it’s being shown on a TV channel.
You don’t need a licence for these as they don’t appear on a TV channel at the same time as you’re watching, nor are they the BBC’s iPlayer . You also don’t need a licence for Amazon Prime Video, unless you choose to pay extra for its live add-on service Amazon Channels. There are lots of packages and options available, with 1,000s of titles to stream. See our Watch Movies & TV Online guide for full info.
Fee dodgers can face prosecution plus a fine of up to £1,000 if they’re found to be watching ‘live TV’ without a licence. You cannot be imprisoned for TV licence evasion in itself, although you can be imprisoned for non-payment of a fine imposed by the court. You can download programmes while you’re in the UK to watch abroad at a later date , but you’ll have to wait until you’re back in the country to watch anything more.
We are interested in being able to allow UK licence-fee payers to access BBC iPlayer while they are on holiday in the EU. The BBC is still looking at the technical and legal implications of doing this and it will be dependent on what legislation comes into effect in the future. Many wrongly believe you need to be covered by a TV licence if you have the ability to watch ‘live’ TV, even if you don’t watch it. You only need a licence if you actually watch live TV or use BBC iPlayer .
So, if you’ve got an aerial on your roof/satellite dish/TV with built-in Freeview etc, but you don’t actually watch live TV, you don’t need a licence. Currently, a colour TV licence will set you back £154.50. In some circumstances you won’t need to get your own licence, even if you’ve moved into your own digs. If you’re in halls of residence you’ll probably be covered for communal areas but not your own room.
If you’re living out of halls in a shared house and have signed a joint tenancy agreement, you’ll need only one licence for the household. However, if you have separate agreements you’ll need one for your room. Remember, if you’re only watching catch-up outside of BBC iPlayer , you don’t need a licence regardless of where you live. If you do pay for a licence, as a student you can also get a refund for the summer .
If the TV licence holder has died, a refund may be due to the estate. If you have a licence, but will not watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or use BBC iPlayer before your licence expires. If you’ve changed the type of licence to a cheaper one, such as a black and white licence, you may be due a partial refund. You can apply online for a refund up to two years after the expiry date of your licence.
You may have to print the refund form and supply evidence. There’s full information on the TV Licensing website, with details on how to cancel and the online refund form. You’re eligible for a free TV licence and may also be able to reclaim what you’ve paid since turning 75 – see Over-75s TV licence refunds for more info. Depending on your circumstances, it may be possible to get a discount on your licence.
If they do, get in touch with TV Licensing to see if you’re eligible for a refund.
If you’ve got a short-term licence, you should receive the free one automatically as soon as you reach 75. If not, get in touch with TV Licensing. Full info’s available on the TV Licensing website. Over-75s living on the Isle of Man don’t automatically get a free TV licence – instead they have to apply to claim back the full cost of their licence.
Those who have reached state pension age and receive certain benefits are also eligible for refunds. Details on how to apply for the discount are available on the TV Licensing website. You may be able to apply for an Accommodation for Residential Care Concessionary TV Licence though, if you qualify. This costs £7.50 per room, flat or bungalow.
Both you and your accommodation must qualify. Check the TV Licensing website to see if you are eligible, and speak to your care home manager to apply, as they are responsible for arranging this type of licence. If your home doesn’t qualify, you’ll have to pay the full £154.50 licence fee. Tell us what you want to know – and what you know that we don’t – in the TV Licence discussion.
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