I checked the Check If You Need One page from the TV Licensing website, but it didn't seem clear to me: must I pay the licence if my television is capable of showing the broadcasts, or only if I actually watch the broadcasts?

I own a television, but very rarely "watch TV." If I relocate to the UK, I would want to bring it to use as an extra computer monitor and perhaps to play some of my Region 1 DVDs (yes, I'm that old, I not only have DVDs but region-coded DVDs) from time to time. But I would never watch or record live over-the-air, satellite, or streamed programming.

  • If you don't have any subscription (cable, digital, IPTV, satellite...) you couldn't receive the BBC, or...?
    – gerrit
    Mar 12, 2014 at 21:37
  • 4
    @gerrit Digital over-the-air television (DVB-T) is very 21th century, and does exist in a lot of countries. Analog television is phased out though.
    – SztupY
    Mar 12, 2014 at 21:43
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    @KazDragon: no you don't: tvlicensing.co.uk/about/…
    – SztupY
    Mar 12, 2014 at 22:38
  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about being an expat, but rather about life in the UK. While most Brits "know" the answer already, they could easily ask the same question. I think we want to avoid becoming a site about life in country X.
    – StrongBad
    Mar 13, 2014 at 15:33
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    @StrongBad: The same can be said of the vast majority of questions in this site, including questions about insurance, which I know are popular with you. :)
    – Flimzy
    Mar 25, 2014 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


No, if you never watch any kind of Live TV, nor the BBC iPlayer, you don't need to pay the TV Licence fee. This means that you will not be able to watch any kind of Live TV, even if it's not the BBC (like ITV, Channel4, Sky, etc. - also this includes online live streaming as well). You also cannot watch the BBC iPlayer (neither the live nor the on-demand service). Note however that the on-demand services of other channels, like the 4oD service of Channel 4 are still okay.

Also note, that you have to send a statement to the TV Licensing company that while you do own a TV (or a machine capable of receiving live broadcast, which includes any PC and smartphone), you never use it to watch live television, as you are only using it as a monitor to your PC (and maybe to watch on demand services).

While this is completely legal, be aware that the TV Licensing company might still want to check your residency that you are not trying to avert the law (you don't need to let them in though), and will spam you with letters about actually getting a TV License. Also note that while it is completely legal to own a TV, and not use it to watch live programme, it will be very difficult to prove that you aren't doing it in case you have to go to court, so it might be easier to just pay up.

Source: TV Licensing homepage

  • "The law is changing. From 1 September 2016 you'll need a TV Licence to watch or download BBC programmes on demand, including catch up TV, on BBC iPlayer." source
    – pbm
    Aug 16, 2016 at 12:54
  • True, and it's also pissible that the laws might change again in the following months again
    – SztupY
    Aug 16, 2016 at 14:43
  • @SztupY also it is mentioned "desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone," - does this means I still have to prove somehow that I'm not watching any BBC related materials on it?
    – Bakudan
    Apr 28, 2017 at 18:42

Although an answer has already been selected, I don't feel either of the answers is fully satisfactory.

Quite simply, you only need a TV license if you are actually watching or recording live TV from any broadcast television station, either via terrestrial broadcast, cable, satellite, or over the internet.

That means you don't need a license to watch Youtube/Netflix (not broadcast TV, only available online). You don't need a license to use online catch-up services. You don't need a license to own equipment capable of receiving such TV, only the actual act of receiving the signal to either watch or record requires a license.

Also, there is no obligation to tell TV licensing that you don't need a license, even though they will tell you the burden is on you. As with all criminal trials in the UK, the burden is on the prosecuting party (in this case the TV Licensing Authority) to prove beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law that you were illegally receiving a TV signal. You do not need to let agents of TV licensing into your house, unless they have a search warrant. They are not police officers and have no police powers, they are employees of a private company.

Basically as long as you have a TV, even disconnected in your home, you must pay TV license.

So NOT to pay TV License from JAN 2015 you will need to meet the following criteria.

No TV in the house.

No ADSL/DSL capable phone line in the house.

Completely incorrect.

In answer to your question, if "very rarely 'watch TV'" means you ever watch or record live TV, as it is broadcasted, by any method, you need a license at the time you are watching/recording.

Sources: http://www.lime-marmalade.net/faq.html#injunction http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/tv-licence

  • You seem to agree on almost everything except the necessity to inform TV licensing but the focus on the other answer obscures this point and makes your answer difficult to follow. Focusing on the former could probably improve your answer, the rest can go in comments. What happens if you don't do anything? Even if the burden is on the other party, facing a trial seems like enough of a disagreement to make sending a letter a good idea in practice.
    – Gala
    Apr 5, 2014 at 6:54
  • As Gael said, you are too much concentrating bashing the other answers, although (at least mine) does include " it is completely legal to own a TV, and not use it to watch live programme", covering your response. You might want to reword your answer to be more objective, especially on telling what you need or not need to do if you don't watch live programmes. Also note that owning a computer, tablet or mobile phone might still mean you need a licence (as all of them can show streams from BBC Live iPlayer)
    – SztupY
    Apr 5, 2014 at 19:29

I had a similar problem when I moved to UK. Basically as long as you have a TV, even disconnected in your home, you must pay TV license.

You will be unpleasantly spammed with warning letters that you MUST pay or somebody will come and check your house and if they find a TV (even disconnected or broken) you will be liable for a fine with out a court order (but it can be disputed at your costs) I did this for 12 months, and nobody came but I did not pay a penny. But I did my research and luckily I had not TV so it was fine.

In the very old days you could call up and tell them you wanted your aerial barred and they would come and seal your TV plug and check up more often but that is no longer an option.

The TV License laws are changing in 2015 to accommodate for Live Streaming from the internet and this will automatically included in the license price rise.

So NOT to pay TV License from JAN 2015 you will need to meet the following criteria.

  • No TV in the house.
  • No ADSL/DSL capable phone line in the house.

    There is a loop hole in the internet streaming though, that if you watch TV on a device power by a built in battery (not an external one) wireless then you do not have to pay any licenses. But the person who is granting you access must pay for the license. This does raise the question about 3G/LTE though and there could be new laws in 2015 to close the loop hole.

  • 3
    Do you have an authorative source for the changes that will be in effect 2015? Also as far as I know the prices are frozen until 2016, so they won't increase next year. Live Streaming is also already included in the TV License law, so if you are watching live iPlayer, you need a licence.
    – SztupY
    Mar 12, 2014 at 23:11

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