If you’re new to the UK or moving home for the first time – you may not be aware of the need to get a TV Licence. Although not a significant cost overall, avoiding or forgetting to pay for a TV Licence can have far more severe consequences, so it’s best to stay on top of it from the start. With that in mind – this article gives you the What, When and How of TV Licensing in the UK.
What is a TV Licence?
A TV Licence is a legally required payment that grants permission to record or watch live television. The TV Licence fee is used to fund free public services, with the majority of TV Licence revenue going towards funding BBC programmes and services. It also helps to fund local TV channels and UK Broadband rollout.
When do you need a TV Licence?
Whether you use a smartphone, television, computer or tablet, if you are recording or watching live TV, you need a TV Licence. Similarly, if you are streaming to a Smart TV or using apps that allow you to watch live TV over the internet – you need a TV Licence.
Some examples of these are:
- Sky Go
- Virgin Media
- Now TV
- BT TV
- Apple TV
- YouTube (live)
This includes watching TV over these services away from home – where the use of these devices is covered by your home TV Licence. Strangely though — if your device is plugged in at another location, that address needs its own TV Licence as well!
Do I ever not need a TV Licence?
If you only watch on-demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer, and never watch any live TV on any platform, then you do not need a TV Licence.
What happens if you’re caught watching TV without TV Licence Coverage?
The maximum penalty for downloading, watching or recording live TV programmes illegally is £1000. This does not include legal and compensatory costs you may be ordered to pay. There is a national database of licensed and unlicensed addresses, and enforcement officers may visit you to confirm whether your address is covered. Additionally, detector vans can detect the use of TV receiving equipment at specifically targeted addresses.
In reality, the maximum penalty is rarely enforced – with the alternative of simply purchasing a TV Licence a more likely scenario.
However, we prefer the ‘better safe than sorry’ route – so if you’re watching live TV, make sure you get a TV Licence for your home address!
How do you pay for a TV Licence?
Currently, a colour TV Licence costs £157.50 and black and white TV licence costs £53 annually. This can be paid all at once, or broken down into quarterly or monthly installments. Payment methods include direct debit, bank transfer, or with debit/credit cards either online or at one of 28,000 pay points across the UK.
In some cases, you can also apply to make weekly payments with TV Licence payment card. This spreads the cost of your licence from around £6 per week over a 26-week period. For more information on paying for your TV license visit the official TV licence website.