TV Licensing Laws

Television licencing in the UK

In the UK, any household that wishes to watch or record live television transmissions must be in possession of a TV licence. A new licence must be purchased every year.

Money generated from selling TV licences is used to fund the UK’s public service broadcaster, the BBC, however the licence is required to view any of the available broadcast channels.

TV licences are administered by companies contracted by the BBC which are known collectively as TV Licensing.


The current cost of a TV licence is £145.00 for a colour TV and £49.00 a year for a black and white TV. Only one TV licence is required per home, no matter how many television sets it may contain, or how many people are living there and consuming broadcasts.

Discounts are available for certain groups — the blind or severely sight-impaired can get a licence for half price, whereas TV licences are free for over 75s.

TV licences for shared premises

If somebody lives in a shared house under a joint tenancy agreement then the house will be considered a single entity and thus will only require one licence. However, if different parts of the same house are rented to different people under separate tenancy agreements, each party holding a separate tenancy will require a TV licence.

Therefore, if having signed a separate tenancy agreement you receive television in room, you will need an individual license. Only one licence will be required, however, for a TV situated in a communal area.

Infringement and penalties

If you are receiving live television broadcasts, whether it be through a television, a computer or a mobile phone, then it is a breach of law to be without a TV licence. The consequences of watching television without a licence are likely to be court action and a potential fine of £1,000.

Cases where a licence is not required

Watching non-live television using an on-demand service such as BBC iPlayer does not require a licence. Similarly if a television is used solely for other purposes than watching live television, no licence will be needed.

How TV licensing rules are enforced

A database is also used to keep track of addresses without TV licences. The database is known as LASSY. Those selling television receiving equipment are compelled to provide details to identify anyone purchasing said equipment, to allow them to hunt down those eschew paying for their licence.

Once TV Licensing have identified a target, i.e. a home which appears to have television receiving equipment but no licence, they will begin their offensive in the form of a warning letter. If the residence is not obliged to hold a TV licence, a written confirmation of this is requested, although not required by law.

If the letter does not successfully elicit the purchase of a licence, TV Licensing agents make unannounced visits to the address. It has been known for them to do this even if the dwellers have stated that they do not have to hold one. The BBC Trust says that in 27% of cases where residents had claimed to not need a licence, they were ultimately found to need one.

The law stipulates a maximum fine of £1,000 for receiving TV without a licence, however in reality this is rarely imposed, with the average penalty coming to around £150.

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