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Can you avoid the cost of a TV Licence?

By:  Rosemary McEwen | 25th September 2021

 Are you are worried about how much of your money is being spent on bills? With a TV Licence costing £159 per year, it’s understandable if you are. So, is it possible to pay less for your TV Licence, or avoid it altogether?

Can you lower the cost of your TV Licence?

Even though you can spread the cost of your TV Licence by paying by direct debit, it is still going to cost £13.25 per month. This may be a significant amount for some. It doesn’t cost less to pay the whole amount in one instalment, so it’s not worth dipping into savings for. If you choose quarterly payments, there is a charge of £1.25 per payment. 

Discounts and concessions

Pensioners over the age of 75 received free TV Licences until August 2020. After that, this will be a new expense for many older people. Those over 75 on Pension Credit can still apply for a free TV Licence.

Care home residents and those over 60 years of age in supported housing or sheltered accommodation are eligible for a concessionary TV Licence that costs £7.50. You can apply for a refund if you are entitled to a concession but have been paying in full, or if you won’t need a licence anymore. 

A 50% concession is available for anyone who is blind or severely sight-impaired, and to those who live with them.

Surprisingly, there are still some people who only have a black and white TV. A black and white TV Licence costs only £53.50. Before you start searching eBay for vintage TV’s, you still need a full licence to watch live TV on a smartphone. 

Anyone on benefits, including Universal Credit, still has to pay the full amount.

Is there a way to legally avoid paying for a TV Licence?

If you never watch live TV and only watch non-BBC catch-up or on-demand services, you may not need a TV Licence.

You must have a TV Licence to watch or record any content at home at the time that it is being broadcasted, on any device. You must also have a TV Licence to use BBC iPlayer.

The rules can be rather confusing. ‘Live TV’ doesn’t mean content that is recorded live, it means watching anything on a channel as it is being shown. For example, if you switch on your TV to watch Coronation Street at the scheduled time, that is live TV. You can watch an old episode on demand without a licence.

How do you cancel a TV Licence?

If you think you can manage without BBC iPlayer and any ‘live’ TV, then you might consider not paying for a TV Licence. 

To do so, you’ll need to cancel your direct debit with your bank. Perhaps you could consider paying the £13.25 into a savings account every month instead.

You’ll also need to contact TV Licensing and make a declaration that you don’t watch or record live TV or use BBC iPlayer. The easiest way to do so is by filling in the No Licence Needed form online.

You should receive an acknowledgement, and perhaps even a refund if you have been paying by direct debit.

The declaration lasts for two years. In the meantime, there may be a visit from a TV Licensing enforcement officer, but you don’t have to invite them in, just politely repeat the declaration made on the form. 

Is it possible to avoid live TV?

It is probably difficult for families to take the step of renouncing live TV. It would be hard to ensure that children don’t ever watch it unless you remove the aerial cable. A single person or a couple may succeed in surviving without.

A sensible approach might be to stop watching or recording live TV and BBC iPlayer for a month or two as an experiment first. If there is a big event like a sports match or a royal wedding, you could watch it at a friend’s house.

The popularity of Netflix, YouTube and other on-demand services has completely changed many people’s viewing habits. To them, the TV Licence fee may not seem worth it, and it’s more expensive than a Netflix subscription.

Additionally, some people object to what they see as political bias at the BBC, and they object to funding it. TV Licences fund the BBC, but you still have to pay even if you only watch live TV on other channels. Some people feel that this is unreasonable.

Can you go to prison for not paying your TV Licence?

Yes, you can be fined up to £1,000 and even go to prison for not paying your TV Licence. That is why it is important not to just stop paying if you feel you can’t afford it.

If it’s proving too expensive, you could try spreading the cost with a payment card. To apply, call 0300 555 0286. If the licence fee is one of many problematic debts, you can get help from StepChange or National Debtline

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