Americans think it's crazy that in Britain we need a licence to watch TV, but if you are caught without one you could end up with a serious fine.
The TV licence in the UK pays for the BBC, including all the TV, radio and online services that it provides.
All households that use equipment capable of receiving live TV are required to have one - even if you don't watch any BBC programmes. If you watch TV and don't have a licence you can be fined up to £1,000 plus legal costs.
A TV licence costs £145.50 a year (or £49 if you only want a black and white licence), and you can get one either online or at a PayPoint outlet. They're not available from Post Offices any more. The BBC has frozen the licence fee for at least year, with plans to extend this to 2013.
I watch TV on my computer, do I need one?
It doesn't matter if you watch TV on your computer or mobile phone; you still need a licence if you watch TV programmes as they're being broadcasted. This also applies to watching TV through an aerial, cable, satellite or streamed broadcasts over the internet.
You don't currently need a TV licence if you only watch catch-up services, such as iPlayer (see here), or just listen to the radio.
Students in halls
You'll need a licence if you've got a TV in your room in halls of residence. TVs that have been provided in communal areas are usually the responsibility of your landlord, but it's worth checking.
You'll only be covered on your parents' licence if you use a battery-operated TV with its own aerial that you don't plug into the mains and you are registered as living at your parents address.
Claiming back your TV licence
If you're a student in halls less than a full year, make sure you claim back the remainder of your licence at the end of your tenancy.
If your granny and granddad are shacked up in your back room, then get them to apply for a free TV licence
You can also get a refund if you:
- Are exchanging a colour TV for a black and white one
- Have bought two licences by accident
- Are moving abroad, or there has been a death.
Living in shared accommodation
If you live in shared accommodation, such as student digs, the type of licence you'll need depends on the type of tenancy agreement you signed. If you signed a joint tenancy agreement then a single TV licence will cover the whole house. If you've signed individual tenancy agreements then you'll need a separate licence to watch TV in your own room, but if you've only got TVs in communal areas you'll just need one licence for the property.
If you are lodging with someone else you'll need a separate licence to watch TV in your own room unless you are related to, in a relationship with, or are a live-in employee (e.g. an au pair) of the home owner.
I've got a TV, but I don't watch TV
If you've got a television but you don't watch broadcast TV on it then you can use it without needing a TV licence. For example, if you only use it for watching DVDs or with a games console then it's perfectly legal not to have a TV licence.
However, you need to make sure that it's not capable of receiving a TV signal. The TV Licensing Officer - and courts - will struggle to believe you if the aerial is still plugged into the back of the TV. Covering up the aerial plug would be a good start.
Can TV Licensing people inspect my property?
TV Licensing Officers can visit your property and ask to inspect your TV equipment, but you don't have to let them in. (University halls of residence often make it a condition of the tenancy agreement that you will let TV Licensing officers inspect your room.)
If you think a TV Licensing officer was unnecessarily confrontational, you should make a complaint to TV Licensing. You must let a TV Licensing officer in if they have a warrant from the courts.
What if I'm blind?
If you, or someone you live with, are blind or severely sight impaired, then you can get a 50% concession on your licence.
What if I live with my grandparents?
People over 75 are entitled to a free TV licence, even if they live with younger relatives or friends. So, if your granny and granddad are shacked up in your back room, then get them to apply for a free TV licence.
Read the comment policy
Use our free question and answer service and speak to an expert!