TV Licence Explained: Cost and Legal Framework 2022

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Few things are more British, than to find yourself wondering how your TV licence works. In the UK, every household is required by law to have a television licence. You must have a TV Licence if you watch or record programmes on a TV, computer or other device as they are broadcast or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.
Last update: April 2022

So, at Broadband Plans, we´ve decided to have a good look into the thorny question of the UK TV Licence and make it easier for you. If you´re wondering how to pay for the privilege of owning a Television or watching BBC Iplayer, then read on.

What is a TV licence?

Simply put, a TV licence is a fee paid annually, for owning a television that you use to watch and record TV programmes, as they are broadcast. It is also needed for any BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand, downloaded or streamed. At the time of writing, the cost is £159 or £53.50 for a black and white TV. We’ll touch on this later, but it’s worth registering and paying promptly or enforcement of the charge starts to begin quite quickly.

What channels require a TV licence?

Let’s keep it simple here, just remember that any live TV on any device in the UK, means you need a TV Licence, this applies to any channel. For example, to watch a non BBC channel live, still means you need a TV Licence. If you watch BBC Iplayer live or otherwise, you will also need a Licence.

What can I watch without a TV licence?

The good news is that anything not live or from the BBC is exempt from a Licence. This includes:

  • Streaming offers, like Netflix and Amazon Prime
  • YouTube, as long as it’s not streamed live
  • Non-BBC catch-up including ITV Player, Channel 4 on-demand, as long as it’s not live
  • DVDs and Blurays

What is live TV and when do I need a licence for it?

Live TV, where a Licence is concerned, is any programme that is being broadcast. Even if it is a repeat, as long as it is being broadcast live, at the moment of watching, then it needs a TV Licence. So watching an episode from a box set of DVDs or a streaming service is fine because these are not being broadcast.

Can you get a refund if you do not use your TV licence for a full year?

That would be nice, but no, the fact you have a TV with the ability to watch broadcast TV is enough for the charge to be valid. However, if you live in the property for less than a year, you can claim a refund on the months not in the property.

Who is eligible for a discount for a TV licence?

There are situations where you can get money off your TV Licence payment.

  • If you live in Residential Care, you can get a special licence for £7.50
  • If you are registered blind, or live with a person who is registered blind, then you can apply for a 50% discount
  • If you are 75 or over, then you can apply to be exempt from payments

Do I need a TV licence?

As you are probably realising, this depends on your situation and what content you are using. If you use BBC iPlayer and watch any TV channels that are broadcast, then you will need a Licence. If you are using Netflix or Prime, to watch programmes that are archived on those services, then there’s no need – however for any streaming of live TV from these services, you will need to have a Licence.

Do I need a TV licence if I only use streaming services?

As mentioned above, this one requires a bit of discernment. If you have Amazon Prime for example, you will not need a Licence, as long as it is only for watching series and films that are archived as opposed to being broadcast. If the streaming service is streaming Broadcast TV however, you will need a licence. The easiest way to check for sure is to take the test on the website.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch online?

Another question that needs to be checked carefully. If you are watching YouTube and the video is being streamed live then you will need a TV Licence. A more obvious one is BBC iPlayer, but others like NOW TV, Sky and Netflix for watching broadcasts are included too.

The difference is that BBC iPlayer needs a licence, even when the programmes you watch are not live and are from archives.

Do I need a TV Licence if I only watch catch-up TV?

If you are watching catch up TV on BBC iPlayer, you will need a Licence. If you are using any other service, ITV Player, Prime or similar then you will not need a licence.

Do I need a TV Licence for other devices?

If you use a phone, tablet, computer or console to watch broadcast TV or BBC iPlayer, you will need a Licence.

I only watch non-UK channels, do I need a licence?

Yes you will, for broadcast TV from foreign channels. Sorry, if you thought you’d found a way around it.

Does a TV licence apply for any device?

TV Licensing say that if you watch broadcast TV on a phone, tablet, computer or console to watch broadcast TV or BBC iPlayer, you will need a Licence.

How can I avoid paying for a TV licence?

The only legal way to do it, is to forgo using BBC iPlayer or watching broadcasted TV on any channel or any device.

Do I need to pay for a TV licence if the channels are broadcasted by Sky or Virgin?

Yes, a common question, but again, the rule is not so much to do with the channel, but whether or not you are watching it broadcast, or from an archive or a good old fashioned DVD.

What happens if you don’t have a TV licence?

If you do not have a TV Licence and you are watching broadcast TV, or using BBC iPlayer, then you can be fined for not paying. These fines can run into thousands of pounds and the situation is treated as a criminal offence. In extreme cases, for non-payment of the fine, a court can technically give a prison sentence. If you are not using services where a licence is needed, then you will need to use the Licence website, to declare that you do not need a Licence and answer a series of questions that will verify if you are certain you are exempt.

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How much is a TV licence?

The costs are quite simple, well publicised and easy to pay off. They are also pretty vigilant in chasing up payments, sending letters and reminders and generally being a bit of a pain if you haven’t yet paid.

How much does it cost?

The costs vary on different factors.


TV Licence Payment Information
Cost £159
Cost for black and white TV £53.50
Forms of payment Pay Online or by Direct Debit
Options to split the payment Weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually


Can I get fined if I don’t have a TV licence?

Yes, the starting fine is £1000 and if the situation escalates, it can go to court, where an increase is possible. In extreme cases, for non payment of a court ordered fine, you can be given prison time. All for watching some Strictly Come Dancing without a Licence.

Is a TV licence included in my TV bill?

Again, this would be helpful, but it is not the case. For your TV package, you pay one bill and then the TV Licence is a separate charge.

Do I have to pay for a TV licence every year?

Yes, it’s part of the British way of life, a national tradition if you will. Each year that you meet the criteria to need a Licence then you have to “renew” your licence. If you forget about it, don’t worry, there will be plenty of reminders before it is due.

Where do I buy a TV licence?

The only way to buy one and the only way you should ever accept it through TV Licensing themselves, either on their website or by contacting them directly. Over the years, there have been issues with scammers impersonating the TV Licence emails, texts and letters, so exercise caution and go directly through the contact detail TV Licensing list.

What payment schemes are available for a TV licence?

For those who may struggle to pay the whole amount at once, it is possible to arrange quarterly, monthly and weekly payments to settle your payment.

Save by paying the right way

Be warned, if you opt for a quarterly payment by direct debit, you’ll be paying a surcharge of £1.25 per transaction. The best way to pay if you want to avoid the lump sum of £159 is to choose the monthly direct debit where there is no surcharge.

Woman watches TV

How do I get a TV licence?

Getting a TV Licence is straightforward if you know where to look. The website is the easiest place and the only place we’d actually recommend for renewal or sign up.

How do I apply for a TV licence?

Application is easiest and safest, through the website or by contacting their team. Any other way leaves you open to potential scams, which are sadly a fact of life where Licence payments are concerned. You can check the guidance around paying correctly and avoiding scams here.

Who do I contact about TV licences?

The best way to contact anyone about TV Licences, is to check with their team directly. If you are seeking an impartial opinion, Citizens Advice would be able to assist.

TV Licensing, as with most big organisations these days, has hidden their contact number very well, however, after digging on the website, we found these details. https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/foi-about-tv-licensing-AB15

TV Licensing can be contacted via:


The Website www.tvlicensing.co.uk
The post Customer Relations, TV Licensing, Darlington, DL98 1TL
The call centre 0300 790 6096


What is a no licence needed declaration?

This is the official process for declaring that you do not need a Licence. If you fill in this questionnaire and the result is that no licence is needed, then you can go ahead and complete the declaration.

How do I move my TV licence?

Worth checking, when you move house it’s often something forgotten about. Again, at this stage, the easiest way to update your address is on the website.

What if I am in the process of moving?

Generally it’s best to wait until the move is complete before applying, but it is worth getting the update done as soon as possible once you have arrived in your new property.

I’ve moved in with someone who already has a licence

Result. This means you are covered because the property is already registered and paid for. If that person ever moves out however, you would need to add your name and update the details.

I want to transfer my licence to someone else

To start the process, you would fill in the change form but it needs to be the person who is taking ownership of the Licence who then follows the process.

I’ve moved abroad. Should I pay to stream BBC iPlayer abroad?

In terms of the Licence fee, this is a very grey area. The BBC say that the correct thing to do is download the programme you want to watch, before leaving the UK. Otherwise, it is possible to watch through the many VPN options available these days, but strictly speaking, to use any of these would break the rules.

I’ve received a letter for a previous occupier

This can mean one of a few things. It could be because you have not yet registered and the system is still sending out to the previous tenant because of this. If you have already registered and the previous tenant has been gone for a while, then it is worth contacting TV Licensing to let them know about the error.

How can I cancel my TV licence?

As with all things to do with TV Licence, go directly through their team or their website.

How do I cancel my Direct Debit?

For cancelling the Direct Debit, you can always do this from your bank account. However it is wiser to cancel with TV Licencing so that they do not think you are a non payer. The process for doing so is pretty straightforward on their website.

I want to apply for a refund

To apply for a refund of unused months of your TV Licence, the best way is to follow the reasonably clear steps on the website. You also need to click on the number of months you would like a refund for. There is also an option to make a general application for a refund if you cannot remember exactly how many months you would not have used.

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I want to apply for a different type of licence?

This is only really going to be a question for you if you are, at long last, upgrading to a colour TV from black and white. Or perhaps you have turned 75 years old in which case you can get a reduction on your annual cost. The way to change the Licence is through the website. However, if you have questions about how the billing will work out, it’s normally worth contacting TV Licencing directly.

I want to change my payment scheme or payment date?

It’s possible to change the payment date, scheme or method and once again the best way is through the website. If you visit the “How do I change my bank details” section, instructions follow on how to make adjustments.

Students and the TV Licence

In most cases, students are not exempt from the Licence. The rules applied in exactly the same way as with any other household, so there are no special changes for students in the UK. The price remains the same at £159 or £53.50 for a black and white TV and the rules around what content requires you to have a Licence as well.

When do I need a TV Licence?

As a student, the rules are exactly the same, so if you are watching broadcast TV on one of your devices, you will need Licence. Even in halls of residence and in flatshares you are going to need a licence if you are watching broadcast TV.

When don’t I need a TV Licence?

The same rules apply, only in the situation where you are not watching any broadcast TV on any devices, will you be able to legally avoid paying the fee.

Ways for students to watch live TV and use BBC iPlayer without a licence

The good news is that a loophole, enables students to watch live TV and BBC Iplayer, on their parent’s licence, as long as the device they are watching on is powered by its internal batteries.

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FAQ

How much is the fine if you get caught without a TV licence?

If you do not have a TV Licence and you are watching broadcast TV, or using BBC iPlayer, then you can be fined for not paying. These fines can run into thousands of pounds and the situation is treated as a criminal offence.

Do I need a TV licence for Netflix?

If you use BBC iPlayer and watch any TV channels that are broadcast, then you will need a Licence. If you are using Netflix or Prime, then there’s no need.

Do I need a TV licence for mobile phone or personal laptop?

If you use a phone, tablet, computer or console to watch broadcast TV or BBC iPlayer, you will need a Licence.

Does listening to the radio require a licence?

Fortunately, you do not need a TV Licence to listen to the radio - including on BBC Sounds.

Updated on 9 May, 2022

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