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Tune in to TV licence laws

With an estimated quarter of a million homes currently not holding a TV licence it seems that some TV viewers are not willing to pay the £150.50 for a colour TV licence. People all over the UK are therefore at risk of facing a fine of up to £1,000. We asked Peter Goodchild, Programme Lead for the GDL and MA Law at The University of Law, to share some advice to help TV owners understand when they need to purchase a licence, how much it costs, and the potential consequences of avoiding paying for a licence.

Do I really need a licence?

If you are a homeowner or a tenant of a property and you watch or record programmes on a TV, computer or other device as the programme is being broadcast live, and/or you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer, then a TV licence is required. By purchasing a licence, you will cover the property for anyone in that residence that watches a live broadcast through a TV, computer, laptop, tablet, mobile phone or any other device that can receive a TV signal.

You don’t need a licence if you are watching non-BBC programmes with online catch-up services, videos or DVDs, clips on websites that aren’t live broadcast (e.g. YouTube) and closed-circuit television (CCTV).

How much will it cost me?

The cost for a full colour TV licence is currently £150.50 per year, which can be paid monthly, quarterly or in one lump sum. However, there is also a licence for black and white TV sets which costs £50.50 per year.

Am I exempt from paying for a licence?

The only exemption from the TV licence is if you’re aged 75 or older. Individuals can get a discounted licence if they have a severe vision impairment or if they live in a residential care home, the person who oversees the home can apply for a licence on the individual’s behalf. 

What happens if I don’t get a licence?

If caught without a TV licence, you can face a fine of up to £1,000 and any legal costs or compensation incurred. It’s estimated that over 250,000 homes currently don’t have a TV licence, 33,000 of which are occupied by young people who are all putting themselves at risk of facing a fine. The TV Licensing agency have a national database of all licence holders and have enforcement officers that check for TV owners. They also have a fleet of detector vans that can target homes that they think don’t own a licence.

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