If you want to watch TV in the UK, by law you need a TV licence. But what exactly is a TV licence, what does it cover and how much does it cost? Read on for answers to these and other questions.
What is a TV licence and what is it for?
UK households must pay a fee for receiving TV broadcasts. When they pay the fee, they receive a TV licence as proof of payment. All fees are used to fund BBC broadcasting without advertising.
What is the legal requirement?
By law, you must have a TV licence if you want to watch or record programmes as they are being broadcast anywhere in the UK and the Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
You will also need a TV licence if you want to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer (live, catch up or on-demand).
How much is the TV licence?
In 2020, the TV licence cost £157.50 for colour TV sets and £53 for black and white TV sets. There are various payment options currently available.
You can make a single payment every year or spread the cost with a direct debit either monthly or quarterly. Another option is to use a payment card which allows weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments.
What does a single licence cover?
A single TV licence covers all devices in a single household. This includes all TV sets, computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones or any other device that receives a TV signal.
If you are a lodger and have a relationship with the homeowner (e.g. a family member, nanny or housekeeper), you are covered by the homeowner’s licence.
If you live in self-contained accommodation, such as a separate flat or annex, you’re not covered by your landlord’s licence. You will need your own.
Are there any concessions?
If you have a severe visual impairment, you may be eligible for a 50% blind concession on the cost of your TV licence.
You will need to apply for a blind TV licence, and it will also cover anyone that lives with you. Further information is available from the TV licensing website.
In August 2020, the BBC introduced a new scheme that offers some licence holders aged 75 or over a free TV licence. Under the new scheme, if you are a licence holder aged 75 or older, you can get a free TV licence if you or a partner living with you receives Pension Credit.
Unfortunately, if you previously had a free over 75 TV licence but you and anyone living with you does not receive Pension Credit, you will now have to pay for your licence.
Is there alternative programming that doesn’t need a licence?
Yes, there is. You don’t need a licence to watch any non-BBC programmes that you can access using online catch-up services.
This includes services on terrestrial channels, such as ITV Player, All4, and My5. It also includes pay-TV broadcasting channels such as BT Vision/BT TV, Virgin Media, Sky Go, Now TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
You can also watch DVDs or video clips on websites such as YouTube without a licence.
So, you could view this alternative programming using a laptop or mobile device for free.
It’s understandable that you might be concerned about covering the cost of a TV licence. However, it’s worth remembering that you can be fined up to £1,000 if you break the law and watch or record live TV without one.
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