Do I need a TV licence? Explaining the new laws

Do I need a TV licence? Explaining the new laws

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Friday, 5th August 2016
New Broadcasting House (Credit:BBC/Jeff Overs)

The TV licence is changing. Our handy guide can help prevent you from getting caught out.

In May 2016, the government released a White Paper which contained a series of propositions for changing the way public service broadcasting operates in the UK.

In the UK we have the TV licence which pays for the creation of the content of the BBC. It is this licence that means that you can watch ad-free programming on the BBC.

You currently need a TV licence to watch live television anywhere in the UK. The changes will close what is known as the 'iPlayer loophole'.

However on 1st September 2016, the law will change. Find out when you need a TV licence:

When do I need a TV licence?

  • When you are watching live TV in the UK from any of the broadcasters.

  • When recording live TV to watch later through a service like Sky Plus.

  • When you are downloading or watching TV on demand on BBC iPlayer - either online, through an app or on a smart TV or any other device.

  • When you are watching BBC iPlayer on demand through any other service, including:

    • Amazon, Roku, Apple, BT Vision, Virgin Media, Sky, YouView, Freesat, and Freeview.

  • If you are a student with a separate tenancy agreement on your room (as is typically the case in university halls) and you watch TV in any of the above ways.

When do I not need a TV licence

  • When you are listening to the radio, including BBC Radio, or using the BBC iPlayer Radio app.

  • When you are watching or downloading any S4C TV (Welsh) programmes

  • When you are downloading or watching programmes on demand from any of the other broadcasters, including ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Netflix, Amazon Video, BT Vision, Virgin Media, Sky Go, Now TV, Apple and Roku.

Are there any exceptions?

  • If you are over 75 you are currently entitled to a free TV licence.

  • If you are blind or severely sight impaired then exemptions may apply.

  • Your TV licence also covers you to watch TV outside your home on “any device powered solely by its own internal batteries”, as long as that device is not plugged in to charge. / If you already have a TV licence at your home address, you will be covered to watch iPlayer live and on demand provided the device you are using is not plugged into the mains electricity supply at a separate address. If it is then that other address will need a separate TV licence.

But what is live television, and what is on demand?

  • ‘Live television’ is any television programming that is watched as it is broadcast on TV. This is not just sports or events like Eurovision, but includes any television watched as it is being shown on TV, whether the programmes are being watch on television, or through an on demand digital platform like BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub.

  • ‘On demand’ refers to anything that is being watched after it has been shown of TV. It also includes content like BBC Three which is available exclusively online and does not have a live air date.

Do I need a TV licence to watch Netflix or Amazon Video?

  • No. These subscription video-on-demand services do not require a TV licence, nor do commercially funded on demand services like All 4, ITV Hub or Demand 5. 

What happens if I don’t get a licence?

  • Under the new laws, it is illegal to watch live TV or BBC iPlayer on demand without a licence. If you are found to be doing so then you could face a fine of up to £1000* plus court costs. Find out more on the Official TV Licensing website

When do these changes come into effect?

  • These changes come into effect on 1 September 2016.


* £2000 in Guernsey and £500 in Jersey. 

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The TV licence is changing. Our handy guide can help prevent you from getting caught out.