Do I need a TV licence? It’s a question we hear from those arriving in the UK on a daily basis. Despite the intimidating reminders you might receive from the TV licensing board, whether or not you need a licence to watch TV will depend on the equipment in your home and what you use it for.
What is a TV licence?
A TV licence is a legal requirement for those watching broadcast TV in the UK. The majority of the funds raised go towards the BBC’s radio and TV broadcasts. Licence fees also fund Freeview TV, rolling out broadband to rural areas, local TV channels, S4C and Welsh language TV.
One licence covers all of the TVs, computers and other devices at one property. You only need one licence for each household, even if you live with housemates or share the property.
Who needs a licence?
You must have a TV licence if you do any of the following at home:
- Watch or record live TV as it’s being broadcast
- Watch live TV through streaming services like ITV Player, All 4, YouTube or BBC iPlayer
- Use the BBC catch-up service BBC iPlayer to watch live or recorded programs
- Watch live sports through Sky, BT or Amazon’s digital services
The licensing laws still apply if you do any of these activities on a device that isn’t a television. For example, if you stream live sports matches on a tablet or laptop you would still need a TV licence.
You must have a licence to watch digital or cable TV, even if you already pay a subscription to Sky, BT or Virgin Media for the service. TV licensing is entirely separate from your TV subscriptions, and no TV package will include a licence payment.
Otherwise, if you don’t use any of these services, you don’t need a licence.
I just use my TV for streaming services, do I need a licence?
Provided you are not watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer, you do not need a licence to stream recorded TV programs. This is the case even if you’re using the streaming service on a TV set through a streaming stick, console or smart TV features.
You also don’t need a licence if you have a TV that you use for gaming, watching DVDs or anything else that is not tuning into a live TV broadcast.
How much does a TV licence cost?
A licence costs £159 a year (or £53.50 if you have a black and white set), and most people split the payment into monthly direct debits of £13.25.
You can qualify for a free or reduced-cost licence based on your circumstances. If you are aged 75 or over and you or a partner living at your address receive pension credit, then you qualify for a free licence. Otherwise, you can apply for a reduced fee if you live in a residential care home, supported housing or sheltered accommodation, or if you are severely sight impaired.
Where can I pay for my licence?
How do I register as exempt from TV licensing?
TV licensing provides a form on their website that you can use to register as exempt from licensing. You’ll be asked to make a declaration that neither you nor anyone in your household is watching any live broadcast TV or using BBC iPlayer. This should stop TV licensing from contacting you with reminder notices, but they may still send an agent to verify the details of your declaration.
You can choose to refuse entry to your property to any agent of TV licensing unless they bring a warrant granted by a magistrate or a sheriff in Scotland.
Read more about TV in the UK: