Television Licensing

From 1952, Detector vans like the one shown above were once used to detect TV signals being received in the homes of people who had not bought a licence. The operators were not allowed to force entry to your home, but if you refused to open the door, they were allowed to apply for a search warrant.

If you live in Britain, and want to watch TV, you need a licence to do that. To fund the running costs of the BBC, TV licences were introduced as long ago as 1946, when they cost £2 a year. Current charges are £157.50 per year. However, you can reduce this to £53 for a Black and White only licence. I find it hard to imagine that anyone still only has a B&W TV, but many thousands of B&W licences are still purchased every year.

There are currently some concessions, though there is talk of those being scrapped in the near future.

If you are aged 75 or over, you can apply for a free TV licence, but only if your income is so low that you receive the benefit known as ‘Pension Credit’.

If you are a ‘Registered blind’ person, you can apply for a 50% discount on the cost of the full licence.

If you are a resident of a care home, you can apply for a reduced cost licence of just £7.50 a year.

This rather outdated system looks set to change. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are not covered by the legislation, as they are transmitted over the Internet. Detector vans may no longer roam the streets looking for TV signals coming from your home, but enforcement still exists.

When you buy a television set, your details are supplied to the Licensing Authority. Failure to apply for a licence, or to already have one, will result in a letter being sent. Ignore the letter, and there is a chance that investigators may visit your home to see evidence of TV watching. This might be the presence of a TV aerial or Satellite dish on your roof, or remote controls spotted through a window.

Once this ‘evdence’ has been logged, then you could receive a visit from enforcement officers armed with a warrant to search your home for a compatible TV set. If you have been avoiding paying for a licence, you will be fined up to £1,000, plus administration costs.

On the plus side, this means we get at least three television channels from the BBC that carry no advertising whatsoever. (Except for them advertising their own forthcoming programmes.) But a generation of people who watch mainly streamed content on phones, laptops, and tablets is unlikely to concern itself with that.

Perhaps the TV Licence has had its day? Time will tell.

71 thoughts on “Television Licensing

  1. We only have streaming services. There was a point at which you didn’t have to have a license if you only streamed the BBC shows through the app. I never got around to cancelling my TV license and now you do have to have one! Mr O watches about 12 hours of rolling BBC news a day so I think I am getting my money’s worth!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I had heard about the fee but never gave it much thought…..but after reading this post I can see that it might become a thing here with the GOP…they enjoy trying to control what we see and here. chuq

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It has been something people have been used to here since the end of W2. I doubt people in America would tolerate almost $20 a month to watch TV with your heavy levels of advertising too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. People will have to subscribe to be able to watch it, Theo, like Netflix. And there is also talk of possible advertising, between programmes. The new man appointed to head the corporation is a great friend of Boris and the gang, also a major donor to their party. I think we can gues which direction he will be taking eventually.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I consider any ‘payment’ for TV, cable/antannae to pick up the station, streaming service, etc, to be MY license to enjoy TV/Movies sans commercials – Here? You pay for cable, you pay for streaming services, you pay, pay, pay and often – STILL have to sit through commercials, which, here, in USA, was originally put in place as way for broadcasters to pay the bills, to provide the programmng for free to anyone with TV/antannae in their home – – I grew up in rural area with 2 channels to choose from – and each program watched included a slew of commercials –

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the main attractions of Netflix is the absence of any commercials. Of course, we have three TV channels and a news channel on the BBC network that are all advert-free. But that is what costs us £13 a month for the licence. With more and more people appearing to tolerate advertising, and a younger generation turning to streaming-only services, it does seem that the BBC will have to undergo a radical change soon.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your reply caused an immediate perspective shift for me – – Growing up with commercials, and the increasing bombardment, I remember the pure relief and enjoyment of having only one account, with no commercial breaks and how…well…shell shocked I felt whenever I was out and about (radio/tv at my mom’s) at the ridiculousness of commercials and wondering how that nonsense encouraged anyone to buy – but those ‘golden years’ started slipping away these past few years – – even short 15 second commercials at the beginning of my ‘subscription based, streaming’ service before each movie begins, rather irritates me – but the ‘invasion’ of advertising is once more invading EVERYTHING – pop ups on websites – and that ‘add funding’ funds many online ‘free to the masses’ services (wordpress, facebook, youtube, search engines) and I wonder, when, the next ‘morphing will come’ (as now, if you pay for some of these online services will go the same way the TV/Radio did – i.e., you pay for the service and slowly, but surely, you pay for it AND have to sit through, mute, click to skip, etc., ever increasing commercials/ads, as well – – It will be interesting to watch the metamorphis – The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu is a great book on this ‘bell curve’ of technologies – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8201080-the-master-switch

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thought that had gone years ago, visions of men in long rain coats hats and binoculars spying through the window, mum saying quick turn the tv off the vans in the street……… did we live on the edge or what 😂😂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. (1) I had to look up the equivalent of £157.50 in dollars. It averages to $216/year. C’est pas donné, hein ?

    (2) “If you are a ‘Registered blind’ person, you can apply for a 50% discount on the cost of the full licence.” I don’t see why a registered blind person would want to bother with television. However, I suppose a blind person listening to TV has an advantage over a deaf person watching a radio.

    (3) I did away with TV over a decade ago. And I don’t miss it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is interesting. TV used to be free here until the advent of cable, satellite, and now streaming services. Our apartment complex provides “basic cable” with 60 channels, but I’m spoiled and Tom indulges me so we have Roku sticks for our TVs in the bedroom and living room. We spend a little over $100 a month on streaming services, but I justify with the thought that we rarely go out, especially now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I pay £9 a month for one streaming service, and get Netflix for free through my stepson’s account. But if I want to watch any mainstream channels live, I am compelled to pay for the licence, Kim.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Love the differences in price like a lower rate for black and white.
    When premium networks were broadcast via micro wave you could buy a pirate dish to view the channels. There was always those surveillance trucks roaming around. The company sent letters to take down the dish or be sued. The company didn’t last long.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Pete, a very popular discussion topic these days on all social media. I cancelled my TV licence some months ago and was surprised to receive a £68 rebate. The rules have changed somewhat in recent years. It no longer matters if your device is capable of receiving a tv signal. Radios are no longer included either.

    What matters is if a person ‘watches or records live tv on any device or watches bbc programmes on catch up or iplayer’. This also includes watching plus 1 channels at the time of broadcast or ‘live’ programmes on shown on YouTube for example.

    You can watch all other channels on their catch up apps just not the bbc.

    You can’t watch live tv live a rugby match on Amazon for example but you can watch it later once it’s not being broadcast. You just can’t record it yourself, you have to stream it later. To prevent guests accidentally putting on the bbc, I have detuned my tv and dvd recorder and removed my free view box. I have also removed my aerial from the tv and store it in an old plug socket with a blank front. I know watch only streaming services and that is perfectly legal. The licencing authority require that I update them every two years to ensure that I don’t need a licence. So, can you live without Eastenders? A YouTube channel called chillijoncarne https://youtu.be/i9cEdbS99Go presents expert advice in short segments covering all aspects of the tv licence. Cheers

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    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheers, Keith. I removed the section about needing it even if you don’t watch TV, when Ian corrected me about the change in rules. I really like BBC drama, especially BBC 4. But I resent the ridiculous salaries that they pay their ‘stars’, presenters, and newsreaders. They could cut those out, and reduce the fee. But we know they will not do that.
      Best wishes, and love to all, Pete. x

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      1. Cancelling my licence direct debit with the bank was almost as pleasing as hearing the demoralised voice of the person I spoke with when I called the BBC to tell them. I was on hold for twenty five minutes before I got through.
        I believe the bbc has taken losses of £310m this year.
        Salaries and BBC channels in the Nigerian Pidgin have stretched the patience of the public a bit too far.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, that is a new one for me, Pete. Ham radio operators required a license to transmit, but not to receive. And licenses were never required to receive television here. That seems a hefty fee for the average person.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is £13 a month, but many people still don’t bother to pay it, Maggie. They think their chances of being prosecuted are rare, so worth the risk. At least we get the three BBC TV channels, plus a 24-hour BBC News channel all free of advertising. But I don’t know how much longer they can justify it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The Tories seem keen to deregulate the BBC, and they have recently appointed one of their best mates to run it . It might come sooner rather than later, once he has his feet under the table.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  10. I agree with you and all the others that the funding model for the BBC is outdated and anachronistic. However, I’m of the opinion that a TV licence is probably the least worst option.

    One thing to correct in your post; you say “ If your television is capable of receiving a signal from the main channels, you have to pay for a licence, whether you actually watch any of those channels or not.” Although this used to be true (in a past life, I had to pass on the names and addresses of customers who bought a new TV), the basic rule now is that you need a TV licence to *watch* TV as it is being broadcast (also applies to recording live TV) or to use iPlayer. So you can stream from Netflix, Now TV, Amazon etc to your heart’s content without paying for a licence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the correction, Ian. I got that information from a government website, which might well be out of date. I have deleted that section now. I am aware that you have to declare you have a TV licence before watching i-player. That might be another way that they can check on who is watching?
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I thought, when they changed the rules to include the iPlayer, that they would be able to check who was watching, but apparently not.

        The only way you can be prosecuted would be if they actually catch you in the act. Their problem is that they can’t usually get evidence without a warrant, and they can’t get a warrant without evidence. So if people don’t let them in, and don’t admit guilt, they’d get away with it.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I believe that anyone clsiming to be a national service should be objective and unbiased, and the BBC certainly can’t claim to be that.
    Our kids wanted a TV down at ‘the plots’ where we – and most of my husband’s family, had caravans. However they enjoyed laughing at the letters we regularly received from TV Licencing (plots were numbered and we received post), warning of the consequences of not having a TV licence. We even saw detector vans once or twice – the kids practically danced at the side of the road as they passed.
    Apparently we weren’t deemed capable of spending a week or two away without TV programmes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My family had some caravans on a site in Essex. My Nan, and two uncles owned them from the early 1960s until the 1980s. We never had a TV in any of them, and we were expected to make our own amusement when spending weekends there.
      BBC bias may be more evident these days, but compared to channels like Fox News and Sky, it is still the best option for news.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. David watched BBC at 1pm and we have ITV on at 6pm. It’s interesting to see what the differences are. BBC’s local news is amost a repeat of the national news. Al Jazeera is worth watching for an idea of what’s happening in the rest of the world. And no ads.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. There are rumblings that the BBC will eventually become a subscription streaming service, Sue. I would probably take that up, as I still think their drama output is second to none.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t think I would manage without BBC radio which is thankfully available free anywhere (China, Russia?) It keeps me in touch with Blighty 🙂 I’m also able to get BBC Iplayer via a VPN service, not technically legal, but its the only way to get BBC outside the UK. There is a BBC Britbox subscription service, but its only available in the USA and Canada. Maybe this is a test bed?
    I think if they made it a subscription service and made it available outside the UK then they could easily increase their revenue as the BBC is held in high regard all over the world for its quality ad free programs.
    We have a TV license over here in Poland, but there is only a 10% take up, which is no surprise as its a propaganda channel for the government and full of adverts. The people would revolt if they had to pay to listen to the government line.
    A popular radio station has risen from the firing of staff that wouldn’t tow the government line, and it relies entirely on donations. So far it has remained advert free which is a real novelty in Poland and could well be a model for future broadcasting.
    You have to wonder how long the advertising industry has left, I know I wont miss it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The constant repetition of the same adverts on commercial channels here means that I NEVER watch any of them live. I record them on a PVR, and fast-forward the adverts when they appear. But the BBC is increasingly guilty of stuffing itself full of adverts for its own programmes and services. Fortunately, those only appear before and after the programme you are watching.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I would happily pay the TV licence for BBC Radio alone, although you don’t need a licence for the radio! But I also enjoy ad free good programmes on television. Though younger ones are watching a multitude of streaming, they do watch BBC programmes as well, not always in real time. But they may well think the licence is worth it just to watch ‘Strictly’ and all the cooking programmes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am happy to pay it for the lack of advertising, Janet. However, I do think the salaries of their newsreaders, presenters, and some other ‘celebrities’ are ridiculously high, and no doubt have added to increasing the cost to the current £13 a month.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ye so true, that’s another subject altogether. The BBC is not one person, it’s team work. Nobody is indispensable and I certainly object to a dreary sporting personality being paid a fortune when real talent and other presenters are much more interesting and less well paid.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Germany still has a similar system, too. Our main programs aren‘t entirely advertisement-free, and such things as major sports broadcasts especially would be unthinkable without corporate sponsorship, but we also still pay a minimum monthly fee for our “main“ not entirely commercial programs — not only for TV but also for radio, as the same stations are also Germany‘s major radio stations. And personally, I‘m happy to pay … though the quality of these programs has gone down over the years, it is still leagues better than that of the purely commercial programs. I shudder to think what we‘d be left with if our main stations ever went completely commercial (which they won‘t, as there are rules in place designed to prevent that from happening).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can remember them knocking on doors along the street in the late 1950s. We also had a radio licence back then, and when I had a radio put into my first car, I had to buy one for that. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It was stopped in 1971, Stevie.
          ‘The radio-only licence was abolished on 1 February 1971, when it was £1-5s-0d (£1.25 in decimal UK currency) or the equivalent of £21.84 at 2019 prices. On 1 April 1991, the BBC took over the administration of television licensing in the UK, assuming the responsibility of licence fee collection and enforcement.’

          Liked by 1 person

  15. My own personal opinion is that the TV licence definitely has had its day: the government & the BBC need to move with the times and realise how much opposition there is to what has been a tax by any other name for far too long. No matter how good the BBC might be [and of course, the debate about political bias from both sides rumbles on], we are still held to ransom when the BBC’s output is now only a small proportion of the diversity of channels available; I used to think that the ad-free viewing was worth paying the licence fee, but now I really don’t care: it’s so easy just to switch to a different channel for a few minutes, mute the sound, or skip forward with pre-recorded content. Funnily enough, advertising bothers me more on the radio, but radio has been the poor relation of television for half a century now. It’s only a matter of time before this anachronism is confined to history, as soon as the panjandrums can work out how to make us pay through the nose for the BBC’s output by a subscription. Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Jon. I read last year that the BBC is considering becoming a subscription service in the future, and the estimated cost would be around £7.99 a month, possibly as high as £9.99 by the time it is operating..
      With that in mind, I would happily pay that, as it is cheaper than the £13 a month cost of a licence. I also object to the obscene salaries paid to its newsreaders, presenters, and disc jockeys, which so much of the licence fee goes on.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

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