UK TV License Guide: Costs, Uses, and How to Get One

How to Get a UK TV License

Watching live or recorded TV in Great Britain and Northern Ireland requires a fully valid UK TV License. This License has evolved to cover a wide range of devices and platforms that include anything you watch BBC TV and BBC iPlayer services on, meaning a license may be needed even if you don’t have a TV. In this guide, we will look to unearth a few mysteries surrounding the UK TV license, and in the process help you understand whether or not you need one.

Why do you need a TV License?

The UK TV License is used to fund non-commercial, public-owned platforms such as BBC TV, BBC World Service, BBC Radio and BBC iPlayer. Anyone who has a TV in their house that shows any type of live television, or a device which is used to access BBC iPlayer, is liable to pay for a license by UK law. If you are caught watching or recording live TV without a license, you can be fined anywhere up to £1000

How much does a UK TV license cost

The standard price for a UK TV License is £154.50 per year, for a single household. That works out at £12.87 a month. No matter the size of where you live, or how many people live there, the cost remains the same. If you have a non-colour, black and white TV, you need only pay £54.00. If you are under 20-years of age, or over 75-years-old and receiving pension credit, you will receive the license for free.

How to obtain or cancel a UK TV License

There are three main ways to get hold of a license, the easiest of which is direct via the official TV Licensing site. All you need to do is answer some simple questions, enter your payment details and that’s it – done! Alternatively, you can apply at your local Post Office or any Pay Point Store. 

20 facts regarding a UK TV licence you’ll want to know

1. If you only watch non-BBC catch-up TV, you don’t need to pay

For those who watch non-live TV on platforms such as All4, ITV Player and UK TV Play, you do not require a TV license. 

2. BBC iPlayer requires a TV license whether you are watching live or on catch-up TV 

As I player is a BBC TV service, by law a full a license is required to view any type of programming on any type of device, including TVs, laptops, tablets and mobiles 

3. Any live TV you want to watch requires a license 

Whether you are watching your favourite soap, game show or sporting event, if the show is going out live (or time of stated broadcast) you will require a license.

4. Your license covers you whilst on the move with a mobile device

If you enjoy streaming TV whilst you’re away from home, on your PC, smartphone or tablet, you are covered by your home TV license, so long as the device is powered by its own battery.

5. Licensing Officers Randomly Check Homes

UK TV License officers make on average 250,000 checks a year around the UK. They have a database of over 31 million homes that are checked randomly on a weekly basis.

6. Some People can get a cheaper TV License 

For those aged 75 and over, it’s free. If you’re blind or visually impared you can get a 50% reduction. If you have a black and white TV, you will also have access to a cheaper license. 

7. Some streaming platforms do not require a licence

As streaming channels such as Netflix, Amazon and Youtube do not fall under live TV, you do not require a license. However, to watch apps and sites such as BBC iPlayer and Sky Go, you will need one, as they are seen as live TV platforms.  

8. There are some interesting loopholes for students

You can be covered by your parents’ licence if you use a battery-powered device, such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone, to access live TV. Also, if you live in private accommodation (house, flat), only one license is required. That means if there are 10 of you in total, you will share one charge between you.  

Students can also request refunds for out of term periods. Refunds can be as much as £50 across a year.

9. Fines can be steep 

If you are caught using a TV or device illegally, you can expect a fine of £1000

10. Licenses only last 11 months

License renewals are every 11 months, meaning if your licence started on January 1st, you will have to renew it December 1st to avoid potential penalties. 

11. Sky TV, Virgin Media and BT TV customers also need a license

As watching any type of live TV requires a licence, you will also need one for all standard TV services such as Sky, Freeview, BT and Virgin.

12. Pay-per-view events need a license

Live sporting events such as pay-per-view boxing and football will require a TV license, even if it for one evening.

13. Using BBC Sounds or BBC Radio services doesn’t require a license

BBC Music and Radio services are free of charge and not covered by a TV license, meaning you can stream and download podcasts, music shows and documentaries for free. 

14. If you’re renting a property, it’s you that pays

The house owner is not obliged to pay for a TV license, it is solely down to the tenant. 

15. If you have more than one property, you may need more than one licence

If you have multiple properties where you watch live shows on TV, you will need a license for each property. 

16. Watching live TV from abroad also requires a license 

For those who import TV services from mainland Europe, Asia and beyond – if the TV you are watching is live, you will need to pay for a license as if you were watching a UK channel. 

17. If you have a TV and don’t use it, you will not need to pay

You needn’t worry about that old TV gathering dust in the garage, if it isn’t being used, you don’t need to pay a license for it. 

18. If you’re watching live TV, on any type of device, you will need a license 

Whether you’re watching Sky TV, BBC, ITV or BT, if the shows you are watching on a device at the same time as it goes out live on TV, you will require a license. 

 19. Recording live TV 

If you have a device that records live TV to watch at a later date, you will also need to pay for a license. Recorded programmes are not considered as catch-up TV in the government’s eyes.

20. You can cancel your license whenever you want

If you only plan to spend certain periods watching live TV, or you leave the country on a regular basis, you can simply cancel the license directly on the UK TV License site. 

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