What is a TV licence?

If you watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown live in the UK, you will need a TV licence. This applies whether you receive Freeview, Freesat or a pay-TV service in your home; whether you rent or own your accommodation; and whether or not you watch BBC channels.

How much does the TV licence cost?

Currently, the licence fee costs £145.50 for colour, or £49 for black & white. The billions of pounds generated by it pays for all the BBC’s activities, including its family of TV channels, websites, BBC iPlayer and more. If you can’t pay for your annual TV licence in one lump sum, there are various options available to spread the cost. Direct debit – you can make smaller payments by direct debit, including monthly or quarterly. Bear in mind, though, that if you go for a quarterly direct debit, you will be charged £1.25 per quarter, adding an extra £5 to your annual bill.   Credit card – unlike some other bill services, you won’t be charged for paying your TV licence via credit card over the phone or online. If you have a cash-back credit card, you could get some of the money back as long as you pay off your card balance in full at the end of the month. Cash – you can make weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments against your TV licence at shops and newsagents that have Paypoint outlets. This allows you to spread the cost more easily, but it’s worth keeping a record of the payments you have made so you can keep track.

What counts as ‘live TV’? Confusingly, live TV doesn’t cover just watching sport or live episodes of programmes, it covers all content at the time it is broadcast on a TV channel. The ‘live rule’ also applies to any programmes live streamed on video on-demand platforms at the same time as on television. So, if you’re streaming EastEnders on BBC iPlayer while it’s also being shown live on BBC One, you need a TV licence.

You don’t need to buy a TV licence if you only use your TV to watch DVDs, on-demand films or play video games, or you stream non-live online videos on other devices (more on that later). If you’re sure that you won’t want to watch or record live TV, make sure you inform TV Licencing via the online declaration form, or the TV licence contact number (0300 790 6071).

Do I need a TV licence to watch Netflix?

No. As discussed above, you only need a licence for watching or recording content as it’s broadcast live on TV. If you’re streaming on-demand movies or TV shows on Netflix, YouTube, or Amazon Instant Video (or any other online video service) you don’t currently need a licence.  The same goes if you’re just catching up on already broadcast TV programmes on BBC iPlayer or ITV Player. If you do want to stream live programmes, then the licence you buy for your property also covers you for watching TV outside of your home on ‘any device powered solely by its own internal batteries’. This includes live streaming on smartphones, tablets and laptops.  You can also record live programmes on these devices and watch them outside of your home.

Special cases and exemptions:

  • Students – you still need a TV licence if you’re a student, as it’s unlikely that the licence held by your hall of residence, or your parents will cover you.
  • Tenants and lodgers – if you live in self-contained accommodation, such as a flat, then you need your own TV licence. If you rent a room as a lodger, the TV licence for the whole house should cover you, unless you have exclusive access to a toilet or bathroom – in that case you could be classified as living in separate accommodation requiring its own licence.
  • Changing address – when you move house, you can take your TV licence with you. Just fill out the change of address form, or call the TV licence contact number (0300 790 6071). If you move in with someone who already has a licence, you can cancel your own licence and potentially get a partial refund.
  • Elderly – you are entitled to a free TV licence if you’re aged 75 or over. If you’re currently 74 and need to renew your TV licence soon, you can buy a short term licence up to your 75th birthday – that way you’re not out of pocket.
  • Blind or visually impaired people – you’re entitled to a 50% reduction in your TV licence fee. Care home residents – you still need to have a separate TV licence for your living area, but you may qualify for a concessionary licence costing just £7.50 per room, flat or bungalow.

Read more about TV licensing: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/televisions/article/tv-licence-explained – Which?