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TV licence cover

How to avoid paying for a TV licence

Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of November 8, 2021.

Whether you’re new to the world of TV licensing or are having trouble, we’ve created this helpful guide so you can understand everything you need to know about your TV licence.

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What is a TV licence?

In the UK and many countries around the world, you have to pay a fee to be able to watch live TV. This is called a TV licence.

The licence fee is used to fund public servicing broadcasters (namely the BBC) to create and broadcast shows for audiences to enjoy live without funding from advertisements. While you need a TV licence to watch live TV on all channels, many still rely on the funds from advertising or subscriptions to continue broadcasting.

Do I need a TV licence?

The law says that you need to be covered by a TV licence to:

  • Watch and record programmes as they’re being shown on any TV channel
  • Watch and stream programmes live on an online TV service (such as ITV Hub, All 4, etc)
  • Download or watch any programmes on BBC iPlayer, even if you’re not watching live

You only need one licence per household, even if you watch on multiple devices.

If you watch live TV

You will need a TV licence.

According to TV Licensing, live TV means:

Any programme you watch or record as it’s being shown on TV or live on any online TV service. It’s not just events like sports, news, and music. It covers all programmes on any channel, including soaps, series, documentaries, and even movies.

Watching repeats and shows on +1, +2, and +24 channels also count as live TV, as does watching on a delay and Red Button services.

If you watch Netflix and similar streaming services

You might need a TV licence.

If you watch these services exclusively, without watching live TV, you won’t need one. This is because you aren’t watching live TV and these services are mainly funded by customer subscriptions.

However, you’ll still need one to cover any live TV you watch or download.

If you watch NOW TV

You might need a TV licence.

If you exclusively watch the on-demand and catch-up services on NOW TV, you won’t need a TV licence. If you watch any live shows, movies, or sports events, you’ll need to be covered by a licence.

Watch NOW TV

If you watch TV online

You might need a TV licence.

If you watch anything on BBC iPlayer, you’ll need a TV licence. Even if you’re not watching live, you’ll need to be covered by one as the licences almost completely fund the BBC.

If you watch live shows on other catch-up services (eg. ITV Hub, All 4, etc), you’ll need a licence. If you start watching a programme from the beginning while it’s still being aired on TV, this also counts as watching live and will need to be covered.

If you only watch on-demand programmes on catch-up services other than BBC iPlayer, you won’t need a TV licence.

If you don’t have a TV

You might not need a TV licence.

If you don’t have a TV and don’t watch live programmes anywhere else, you won’t need a licence.

If you don’t have a TV but watch live shows on other devices, such as your phone, tablet, or PC, you’ll still need to pay for a TV licence.

If you’re away from home

Your licence covers all of your devices, wherever you are. As long as they’re either not plugged in or plugged in at your own home.

If your device is plugged in somewhere else, that property will need a TV licence to cover you and anyone else watching.

What to do if you don’t need a TV licence

If you don’t watch live TV or BBC iPlayer and don’t need a licence, you’ll have to let TV Licensing know.

I don’t need a TV licence

TV Licensing can check if you’re watching TV without a licence using:

  • The national database – TV Licensing has a database of every address with and without a licence.
  • Visiting officers – If you don’t have a licence, you might get officers visiting to check you have a licence if you need one. All officers have access to the national database.
  • Detector vans – There are a number of ‘detector vans’ that can detect the use of TV receiving equipment at specifically targeted addresses within minutes.

How much does a TV licence cost?

In 2021, a TV licence in the UK costs £159 a year for a coloured TV or £53.30 per year for a black and white licence.

You may be able to get special rates on your TV licence if:

  • You’re over 75 AND receive Pension Credit (free licence)
  • You’re blind or visually impaired (50% off)
  • You run a care home or sheltered accommodation (£7.50 per room)
  • You run a hotel/hostel/campsite (£159 covers 15 accommodation units. There’s an extra fee if there are more than 15)
  • You live in university accommodation, your out-of-term house is covered by a licence, and you don’t watch live TV on any plugged-in devices (free if all 3 are true)

How to pay your TV licence

There are several different ways you can pay for your TV licence:

You can either pay in a lump sum or split it into equal monthly or quarterly payments.

Pay for your TV licence

How to renew your TV licence

No matter how or when you pay, you’ll have to renew your TV licence every year. If you pay by direct debit, your licence will renew automatically but if you pay any other way you’ll have to renew manually.

The easiest way to renew your licence is through your online account. All you need to renew is your licence or customer number, the surname of the licence holder, and your postcode.

Renew your licence

Alternatively, you can renew your licence by calling 0300 790 6165 or write to:

TV Licensing
Darlington
DL98 1TL

TV licence login

The best way to manage your TV licence is through your online account. All you need to get set up is your licence/customer number (which you can find on your licence and correspondence from TV Licensing), the surname of the licence holder, and your postcode.

Through your account, you can:

  • Pay bills
  • Renew your licence
  • Change your details
  • Set up a direct debit
  • Move your licence to a new address
  • Cancel and change your licence
TV licence login

I can’t sign in

All you need to sign in is your licence number, surname, and postcode. Your surname and postcode shouldn’t be tricky to remember, so the issue is probably with your licence number.

You can find this number on your licence, or any emails and letters you’re sent by TV licensing. It will be 10 digits long, made up of numbers. If you pay by direct debit, your licence number might be on your bank statement. It will look like this:

TV LICENCE 1234567890

If you still can’t find your licence number, you can use the button below to find it. You’ll be sent an email with the number if you type the correct surname and postcode.

Find your licence number

If you’re still struggling and all of your details are correct, you can call TV Licensing on 0300 790 6130.

How to cancel a TV licence

Before you cancel your TV licence, make sure that you don’t need one. You’ll need one if you watch ANY live TV, even if it’s through a streaming or catch-up service.

The best way to cancel your TV licence is by using the online form. TV Licensing will get back to you, asking for your address and why you’re cancelling to make sure you’re doing so for the right reason. If you pay by direct debit, you’ll also have to cancel this through your bank.

Once your licence has been cancelled, you should fill out a‘No Licence Needed’ form to stop letters being sent to the address for 2 years.

How to get a refund

You can apply for a refund up to 14 days before the date you no longer need your TV licence. If your licence has already expired, you can apply for a refund if it expired less than 2 years ago.

To receive your refund, you’ll have to fill out the form below and post it to:

The Refund Centre
TV Licensing
Darlington
DL98 1TL

Apply for a refund

Your refund will be calculated based on:

  • When your licence was issued
  • Your licence’s expiry date
  • When you can show you don’t need it from

If your refund is approved, you’ll receive it within 21 days either by cheque or directly into your bank account. Your licence and direct debit will be automatically cancelled.

What happens to your licence when you move house?

Your TV licence doesn’t automatically come with you when you move house. You’ll have to let TV Licensing know that you’re moving with your current and new address.

To move your licence, all you have to do is update your address through your online account. You can do this up to 3 months beforehand. You shouldn’t need to cancel your licence unless you no longer need a licence or your new address is already covered by a spouse, family member, or joint tenancy/owner.

Contact TV Licensing

If you have any other questions and want to contact TV Licensing, you can use the methods below.

Method Number/link
Phone 0300 790 6130
Over 75s 0300 790 6117
Email Click here to be redirected
Live chat Click here to be redirected
Write to Customer Relations
TV Licensing
Darlington
DL98 1TL

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This page was written by...

Polly Tyler

I've loved writing since I was a child and have worked on a number of different projects since I left school, including journalism, copywriting, and marketing. Utilty Switchboard has given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience and I've loved every minute!

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