Couple watching TV

Do I need a TV licence?

Everything you need to know about the TV licence – and the penalties for not having one

The way we watch TV has changed so much over the last decade – leaving many of us confused about the TV licence.

The easiest rule of thumb is that if we’re watching or recording TV live then we have to pay the licence fee. Watching TV live means anything that appears on the TV listings, rather than on a catch-up service. 

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the show is being filmed live as we watch it. A pre-recorded programme can still go out ‘live’.

It also applies to all channels, not just those from the BBC. Plus-one, and other channels like them, still trigger the licence fee – they’re not the same as watching ‘on demand’.

How much is a TV licence?

A TV licence costs £159 a year if we pay on one go, or £164 (in total) if we pay every three months.

If we’re caught without a licence when we should have one, we could face a fine of £1,000 and even a prison sentence if we don’t pay the fine. We’ll also have a criminal record.

Do I definitely need a TV licence?

If we only ever watch programmes on demand, then we won’t need a licence. 

But this probably doesn’t apply to most of us. Most TV platforms now offer live shows on their on-demand services so it would be easy to be tripped up.

And it doesn’t include BBC iPlayer. If we watch or download anything from this platform then we need to pay the licence fee.

We also still have to pay if we’re watching on a device that’s not a traditional TV. So that means a laptop, tablet, desktop computer or even a mobile phone.

But if we’re just streaming on-demand shows and films from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney Plus then we don’t need a TV licence.

Again though, if we ever watch live shows on any of these platforms (for example football on Amazon Prime) then we’ll need a licence.

How many licences do we need?

We need one licence per household no matter how many TVs or devices we have.

But if we rent our home with other people and we all have our own tenancy agreement and bedroom, each tenant needs a licence.

If we’re renting with others and have a joint tenancy agreement then we only need one licence.

As far as discounts go, if we’re over 75 and get pension credits then we don’t have to pay for a licence at all. If we’re blind or partially sighted we can apply for a 50 per cent discount.

And if we’ve paid for the whole year but don’t need the licence any more we can apply for a partial refund.

To buy a licence or find out more, go to the TV Licensing website.

Image: Cottonbro/Pexels

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