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Martin Lewis' experts advise on when you actually need a TV Licence

Martin Lewis' experts advise on when you actually need a TV Licence

A BBC TV Licence will set you back almost £170 from April

With the way we watch content changing on a consistent basis, the law surrounding needing a TV Licence can feel a little ambiguous.

There are specific circumstances in which you do and don't need to cough up for the annual charge, which is set by the government rather than the BBC.

And it's a charge that's on the up, increasing from its current rate of £159 to £169.50 in April 2024.


Incase it doesn't go without saying, you're going to need to pay the licence if you watch BBC TV channels or the iPlayer.

But it's not a mandatory payment, and there's certain situations where you wont need to pay anything, depending on what you watch.

Over on Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert website, his team has put together advice on specific situations that'll mean you will have to pay or not.

When do you not need a TV Licence?

If all you watch is Netflix and other on-demand services, you will not need a TV Licence.
Nicholas. T .Ansell / PA Wire.

What about if you only watch TV on catch-up? The answer is no, you do not need to pay for a TV Licence as long as you don't watch the iPlayer.

ITVX and Channel 4 are fair game.

On-demand content that isn't on the iPlayer doesn't need a licence.

So, if all you tune in to is Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, payment is not needed.

When do you need a TV Licence?

Right, so you will definitely need a TV Licence if you're watching live television as it is aired.

That goes for anything live on any channel, such as live sports or ordinary shows on Sky Sports, Wimbledon on the Beeb, or even Coronation Street as it airs on ITV1.

A tricky one next - if you don't watch live television as it's aired but you do record it for later on the likes of a Sky+ box, you will need to pay the TV Licence.

A weird one, but it's the law.

What happens if you don’t pay for a TV Licence?

When it comes to not paying the TV Licence when you should be, the BBC told LADbible this week how it really does try and do everything it can to come to some kind of solution before pursuing the matter in the courts. But if people still wont pay after trying to have a conversation, they'll be hauled in front of their local magistrates' court as a 'last resort' act by the Beeb.

A TV Licensing spokesperson told LAD: "A TV Licence provides cover for anyone watching or recording a TV programme on any channel; watching live content on streaming services; and using BBC iPlayer.

If you watch the iPlayer you will need a TV Licence.
Tatiana Meteleva/Getty.

"Information is available on the TV Licensing website and via the customer services team, who can help with any queries.

"TV Licensing’s primary aim is to help people stay licensed and avoid prosecution – which is always a last resort.

"We are doing all we can to help people and offer a range of concessions and payment schemes which support people who fall into financial difficulty.

"If it is necessary to consider prosecution we apply evidential and public interest tests."

You can't be sent to prison for not paying your TV Licence, but you can be fined up to £1,000. This can be up to £2,000 if you're one of the few people who live on the island of Guernsey.

How to cancel your TV Licence

You're good to cancel your TV Licence if you don't:

  • Watch or record TV on any channel via any TV service (e.g. Sky, Virgin, Freeview, Freesat)
  • Watch live on streaming services (e.g. ITVX, Channel 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now, Sky Go)
  • Use BBC iPlayer.

This applies to any device, including a TV, computer, laptop, phone, tablet, games console or digital box.

If you pay by Direct Debit or all in one go, you can cancel your licence online. Once you’ve done this, make sure you cancel your Direct Debit with your bank, if this is how you pay.

Featured Image Credit: Karwai Tang / Getty

Topics: TV and Film, BBC, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Crime, UK News, ITV, Channel 4