Television in the UK

Updated on 12 February 2018

If you live in the UK and you watch or record television (TV) as it is being broadcast, you must pay for a TV licence. You also need a TV licence to download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer. This applies to you whether you are using a TV, a computer, a mobile phone, a games console, a digital box or a DVD/VHS/Blu-ray recorder to watch or record the programme. We explain the process below.

A TV licence normally covers one residential property address. If you have a valid TV licence for your home address, you can legally watch TV on a mobile device outside your home. Things can get a bit complicated where there are different people living separate lives but in one house. We cover this below.

It is an offence to watch or record TV without a valid licence. The TV Licensing authority can prosecute you, and the fine can be as much as £1,000.

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Why do I need to pay for a TV licence?

The TV licence fee goes towards the services provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), including TV, radio and online content. This means that the BBC’s UK services are free of advertisements; they are also independent of political interest.

Even if you do not access any of the BBC’s services and prefer other channels instead, if you watch or record any TV programmes as they are being broadcast, you must pay the TV licence fee.

In addition, even if you only watch programmes on BBC iPlayer, you must pay the TV licence fee.

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How much does a TV licence cost?

There are two different rates.

If your TV receiving equipment has colour capability, you must pay the fee for a colour TV licence – £147.00.

If your TV receiving equipment can only produce black and white images, you can pay the fee for a black and white TV licence – £49.50.

You can pay for your TV licence in instalments. You can find out more on the TV Licensing website.

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When do I not need a TV licence?

You do not need a TV licence to watch videos or DVDs, or watch clips on websites like YouTube. You must be covered by a TV licence if you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.

You can find out if you need a TV licence on the TV Licensing website.

If you are a lodger and live as part of a household which is already covered by a TV licence, then you probably will not need a separate one. However, if you essentially have self-contained accommodation in a house, then you might need your own TV licence – even if somebody else in the house already has one. You can find more information on the TV Licensing website.

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Where can I find more information?

There is more information on the TV Licensing website:

  • You can check whether or not you need a TV licence;
  • You can find out how the TV Licensing authority is able to detect properties where people watch TV without a licence; and
  • You can find out if you are eligible for a reduced fee TV licence.

If you need to pay for a TV licence for your property, you can do this online on the TV Licensing website.

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