Do I need a TV licence?

You need to have a TV licence if you:

  • Watch or record live TV programmes on any channel or device
  • Download or watch programmes on BBC iPlayer

What is “Live TV”?

Live TV is content that is broadcast and viewed through a TV channel.

A channel is where content is continuously broadcast whether you tune in to watch or not. Think of it like a train line, with content being delivered on a schedule whether or not you use the service.

Live TV does not mean events that are actually happening ‘in real life’ at that moment such as sports or news, it also means soaps, documentaries and films. “Live” refers to when the programme is broadcast, not when it was recorded.

What is “Freeview”?

Freeview is the UK’s digital terrestrial television service. A freeview box allows you to access over 70 channels without paying an additional subscription. But, these channels stream Live TV so you will need a TV licence.

Freeview Play allows you to connect to the internet to watch on-demand from a range of services including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5 and UKTV Play. It also contains access to ‘live TV’.

What is “On-Demand” TV?

On-Demand TV refers to any programme that you download or watch that is not being broadcast as Live TV. Catch-Up TV is a type of On-Demand TV.

On-Demand TV can be accessed through a website or through and app on a smart TV service, digital box or other device. Examples of On-Demand TV providers include Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Sky Go, Virgin Media, Netflix, YouTube and Now TV.

You do not need a TV licence to watch On-Demand TV.

I hear people talking about Smart TV, Roku Boxes and Amazon Fire Sticks – what are these?

What is a Smart TV?

A Smart TV is a TV that has either integrated internet or a set-top box and offers more options that a traditional TV.

A Smart TV can access WiFi and run apps just like a smartphone, and you can access media content such as YouTube, Amazon and Netflix.

What is a Roku Box?

A Roku Box is a set-top box that plugs into your TV using an HDMI cable. Roku then connects to the internet via a wired or wireless connection.

It works by downloading video from the Internet that you can then watch on your TV.

What is an Amazon Fire Stick

An Amazon Fire Stick is a device that looks like an oversized USB flash drive.

It plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port and turns your traditional TV into a Smart TV.

How do you cancel your TV licence?

  • Cancel your Direct Debit with your Bank
  • Fill in the ‘No Licence Needed’ form on the TV Licensing webpage with the declaration that you don’t:
  • Watch or record Live TV programmes on any channel using any device.
  • Watch or record Live TV programmes from abroad on any channel using any device.
  • Watch or record any programmes on BBC iPlayer using any device.

A Device means any TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DHS/VHS recorder.

You may receive a refund if you pay by Direct Debit.

If you cannot access the online form, you can:

  • Call TV licensing on 0300 555 0286
  • Write to them at:

TV Licensing
Darlington
DL98 1TL

What happens next?

You should receive an email confirming that your form has been submitted.

You should then receive a letter confirming that your licence has been cancelled. 

This letter lasts for 2 years. 

The letter may advise that you might receive a visit from a TV Licensing enforcement officer. 

What happens if TV Licensing knock at your door?

If a TV Licensing enforcement officer knocks on your door:

  • State that you do not watch or record Live TV on any channel on any device.
  • State that you do not watch or record BBC iPlayer.
  • Shut the door.

You do not have to speak to the enforcement officers.

You do not have to let an enforcement officer into your house unless they have a police warrant. 

An enforcement officer cannot come into your house unless you invite them or they have a police warrant.

What if a TV Licensing enforcement officer turns up with the police?

Enforcement Officers will normally only visit with the police if they think there may be a breach of the peace.

If you commit a breach of the peace by verbally attacking the enforcement officers, the police may enter your property to prevent that offence.

The enforcement officers still have no right to enter unless the police have a warrant for your address. 

What happens after 2 years?

After 2 years, you will receive a letter asking you to complete a new online form declaring that you do not need a TV licence.

You will then get another letter saying your exemption has been accepted and they will be in touch in a further 2 years. 

I have written to the TV Licensing company and filled in the online form and have heard nothing back. Should I be worried?

You should have received an email confirmation that your online form was submitted at the time of submission. 

Make sure that your Direct Debit is cancelled with your bank.

You have done now everything you need to do. 

I have just moved to a new property and I don’t want to give my details to TV Licensing?

You can fill in a ‘No Licence Needed Form’ as The Occupier rather than using your own name.

What about detector vans?

Detector vans cannot tell what you are watching. 

Enforcement officers can only tell what you are watching if they can see your TV through a window or when you open the door.

If you are watching Live TV at those times and you do not have a TV licence you are likely to be prosecuted.  

What if you accidentally watch the wrong channel for a few seconds?

Remove the aerial cable from your TV set and the aerial socket.

Set your TV up to only receive Catch-Up and On-Demand services. 

Now you cannot accidentally watch most of the Live TV channels. 

Do I need to remove my TV aerial from my roof/chimney?

No, there is no need to remove your TV aerial from your house.

Just remove the cable from both your TV and the aerial socket. 

Freeview Plus TV means I have to have an aerial connection even though the content is delivered via broadband? Will TV Licensing assume I am watching Live TV without a licence?

You are completely free to have an aerial connected and only watch catch-up and on-demand TV.

You do not have to remove your aerial connection when you cancel your licence, but some people find it easier to do so.

If you have cancelled your licence, disconnected your aerial and only watch catch-up and on-demand, should you allow the licensing enforcement officers into your property to check?

We do not recommend that you ever allow the enforcement officers into your property without a valid warrant from the police. 

Can I record a football match on Sky and then watch it the next day?

No. You need a TV licence to watch or record Live TV on any channel.

What about Live streams on Facebook?

Live streams on Facebook are safe – you do not need a TV licence.

How do I keep up with the News without watching Live TV? 

  • Watch ‘News at 10’ on catch-up on ITV Hub
  • YouTube clips
  • Social Media
  • Radio

Why do you need a TV licence to watch non-BBC channels?

Unfortunately this is just the way that the current system stands – and why Defund the BBC is campaigning to reduce the scope of the BBC Charter to just cover BBC content. 

I only watch Live TV on my mobile phone – surely I don’t need a licence?

A TV licence covers all Live TV on any channel on any device. This includes your mobile phone. You will need to buy a TV licence.

What if I watch something and don’t realise that it is Live TV?

Stay on the right side of the law, and don’t watch any Live TV without a licence. 

Can you listen to BBC radio programmes on your TV without a TV licence?

Yes, you can as the radio is not covered by the licence fee.

We would advise that you remove your aerial cable and use a digital radio or the Apps on your phone to listen to these stations.