Thoughts on TV Licensing

I recently wrote about the iPlayer, and made a throwaway comment about not having a TV licence, yet enjoying the ability to finally be able to legally watch TV programmes online, on my Mac. It sparked quite a discussion. Nick Reynolds (no relation) of the BBC kindly pointed out the new licence fee page on the BBC site. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but the legislation (of which more in a moment) has indeed changed. The page makes a good job of explaining the new situation:

“You need a TV licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, computer or mobile phone to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV.”

(This is all only relevant in the UK by the way. Americans *cough*, I mean the 56% of my non-UK visitors (of which only about half are from the US) may feel free to look away now).

I find this interesting. Before 2004, and in older documents, it used to say something more like

A TV Licence provides a legal permission to install or use television receiving equipment in order to receive or record television programme services. ‘Television receiving equipment’ can be a television set, a VCR, a set-top box, a TV-enabled personal computer or any other equipment designed or modified to enable it to receive television programmes.

The change is down to new legislation which came into force on April 1st (honestly) 2004, and was announced in a written ministerial statement by Tessa Jowell on 11th March 2004. More interestingly, the act itself is the Statutory Instrument 2004 No 692. The Communications Act (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 (which was an update to earlier acts from 1926, 1949 and 2003. Part three, section nine says that “television receiver” means any “apparatus installed or used for the purpose of receiving (whether by means of wireless telegraphy or otherwise) any television programme service, whether or not it is installed or used for any other purpose.”

The thing that broadens it even further is the text in 9.2…

In this regulation, any reference to receiving a television programme service includes a reference to receiving by any means any programme included in that service, where that programme is received at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is received by members of the public by virtue of its being broadcast or distributed as part of that service.

So when the TV licence talks about using a computer, it no longer only means computers with TV receiving cards in them. Steve Hewlett does a good job of explaining this in a Media FAQ in the Guardian last year.

To cut a very long story short, any device that can receive live TV pictures, whether or not originally designed or intended to do so, must be covered by a licence if you use it for that purpose.

Let’s just take that in for a moment. Watching a live TV broadcast, regardless of whether you do it on your TV, your computer, or even (as Steve points out in that post) your mobile phone, means you must have a TV licence. He goes on to say that

…while the new regulations might have succeeded in redefining the term “television” to mean any device capable of receiving it by any broadcast or quasi-broadcast means, they still define a “television programme service” as essentially a live, real-time broadcast stream…

… while the regulations extend beyond traditional broadcasting to cover internet and mobile live streaming, receiving TV programmes on-demand, or say as part of an internet-based catch-up service, appears not to be covered.

If correct, this would mean if you only watched programmes on demand via new services – such as the BBC’s emerging seven-day catch-up facility, or in any way other than via a live broadcast stream, however delivered, you would not be liable to pay the licence fee even if you used your old-fashioned TV.

All very interesting. So, some observations and questions.

  • In the UK, while you (still) don’t need a TV licence to own a TV, you do need a TV licence to watch live broadcasts which originate from the UK, regardless of the equipment used. This would include the live stream of News 24.
  • (Currently) I can use iPlayer to watch TV shows without needing a licence, because they’re not being simulcast on the TV. I have not used Channel 4’s 4oD, but I believe the same is true. It’s a download service, not live broadcast, and even the new Flash streaming flavour of iPlayer is video on-demand rather than being “received at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is received by members of the public by virtue of its being broadcast”. Theoretically, I can continue to watch iPlayer without needing a licence, and only my conscience about supporting the programme makers to trouble me.
  • The TV licensing authority can already ask to see my TV, and I can tell them (and eventually show them) that I don’t use it to watch broadcast TV. If I don’t have a licence and I chose not to watch live streamed TV though a browser if it’s offered, will I have to prove that to them too?

Why all this interest in the licence? Well, we got rid of our household TV, video, and PC capture card a few years ago. We’d realised we were watching whatever was on, and not enjoying it any more. It was time to go cold turkey. There was a clearing of the house, and part of the cleansing ritual was to (probably a bit smugly) cancel the licence. If I went through the same process now, I’d probably have kept the licence, because the radio and web content is worth the money, but at the time I didn’t think so.

The thing that really put my off the TV licence was actually the licensing authority themselves. When I cancelled it, and again when we moved house, and again when we bought a TV set (not tuned or even connected to the antenna, but bought in order to more fully enjoy DVDs and the Wii) I was quite disgusted with the regular letters, often very aggressive in tone, demanding we purchase a TV licence, with no expectation that people might not actually watch it. The regular bullying was annoying, and rather hardened my will against the system.

Throw Away Your Television

Things are changing. My previous frame of mind was in a previous era, a time in which I wasn’t addicted to the amazing content on Radio 4, and when iPlayer didn’t exist. As the BBC (hopefully) continues to open up ways of me watching content on my terms, of course I’m open minded about paying for services I use. I sometime (rarely) even want to watch live broadcasts, especially things like Wimbledon and the World Cup. What I want is to be able to get content when I want it, and I want to be able to do that on a Mac as well as on Widows.

There’s an interesting loophole at the moment, by which I can watch shows through the on-demand services, as long as I don’t record or watch them from a live broadcast. Personally, I may soon choose to pay for a licence anyway, but I wonder how many people the BBC expects will actually be jumping in the other direction, and cancelling licences so they can use the catch-up services on iPlayer (and 4od) for free.


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  1. So let me get this straight because I am not sure about this article. As I see it I do need a license for a PC with broadband internet connection as it can receive live broadcasts ? I don’t own a TV. So basically if I don’t pay the BBC they are black mailing me by making me a criminal and denying my right to use my internet connection and mobile phone. Let me see that is blocking me associating with my contacts. Blocking me from free expression in forums. Blocking me access to information. Blocking me from banking shopping and any other activity I wish to do on my internet and mobile phone connections. How would one prove that one as not accessed a live stream or how can the BBC prove you have without legally accessing your ISP records. Remember as far a s TVL is concerned you are guilty till you can prove your innocence I can’t see any ISP handing over records legally. There is a serious human rights abuse going on here and the BBC must be stopped. You can have access to anything you want but only if you buy a product you don’t want from the BBC ?

    Comment by marshy — August 4, 2008 #

  2. No. Despite which Nick Reynolds said in comment #3, you don’t need a licence just because you own a PC + broadband which is capable of receiving live broadcast.

    You need a TV licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, computer or mobile phone to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV.”

    e.g. you only need a licence if you watch or record TV (regardless of the equipment) as it is being broadcast live. Owning such equipment is not the same as using it to watch live TV.

    Comment by Roo — August 4, 2008 #

  3. >So let me get this straight because I am not sure >about this article. As I see it I do need a license for a >PC with broadband internet connection as it can >receive live broadcasts ?

    No that is incorrect, you only need a licence if you actually use your PC to watch live TV, the burden of proof lies with them.

    So we just need to have some great British
    stiff upper lip and send them packing!!

    Personally I shred without opening any correspondence from them, and have done for 10 years…

    Comment by Owen — August 7, 2008 #

  4. I think that there is an incredible amount of confusion as far as the correct implementation of the TVL requirements are concerned – but this is not restricted simply to ‘consumers’. It seems to me that the people working for TVL are themselves terribly confused.

    I don’t watch TV – haven’t done for a long time, and just use my set to watch DVDs. An ‘Enforcement Officer’ (what a title!) came to visit, and I confirmed that my television doesn’t even have an aerial.

    I was surprised, therefore, to receive a letter from Tim Upton, the Customer Administration Manager at TVL stating categorically that I had admitted to owning a televsion set, and to not having a licence, and that therefore I was breaking the law.

    He went on to state that he would be taking me to court, and I would be forced to pay an enormous fine unless I relented and bought a license within 7 days.

    I wrote back to Mr Upton pointing out his incorrect interpretation of his own rules, but despite two duplicate copies and reminders being sent to him, have never heard anything since.

    Perhaps it is time to update the licensing rules for the sake of those whose job it is to enforce them, as much as for those who need to ensure they adbide by them.

    Comment by Justin — September 14, 2008 #

  5. In reply to comment 36 – Sarah:-

    “For the first 6 months, you pay double the normal rate, so that then “you are always 6 months ahead”. Leaving out the strangeness of being 6 months ahead, which strikes me as free interest for the beeb, my bigger question is … when do you get this back?

    So my question to those of you who have given up a tv licence: did you remember to claim back or stop paying 6 months ahead of your decision?”

    Just took the decision to get rid of my TV and cancel the license. I had already paid for 3 months of next year’s license and this year’s had 3 months still to run. Refund for both came through after about one week of my phone call to TVLA.

    I’m now waiting for the threatening letters to start!”

    Comment by MistleyMatt — September 20, 2008 #

  6. TV – watch out folks – the signals get into your brain…..the amount of immoral tripe that is about has led us to finally get rid of it. You could call it ‘satan’s microwave’. It fries human brains. Please I urge all of you to switch off your sets and get out and smell the fresh air and start having ideas of your very own. Do not let yourself be brainwashed by others, dictating your very essence.
    I can’t wait for the arrival of those License people. I’ll give them my ha’penny’s worth.

    Comment by Magnus — October 19, 2008 #

  7. I don’t watch tv live but do watch stuff i download. Maybe a week or two later.

    I would tell the tvla about this fact. Even though i am getting the htreatning letter now, having not renewed my license. But i am put off telling them, because i read everywhere about all the mail they continue to send.

    This would be the same as spamming an email account. Or much like the rubbish adverts the post office now deliver (which they get paid to do by advertising companies).

    So how can these future mailing after informing the tvla That no aerial connection (have no sat). Is connected and have no tv. Except a dusty old one (never connected stored away for last 4 years) that may or may not get used as a console game monitor. Or of the portable tv that i use as a monitor for capture card editing of old camcorder film.

    How do you make sure the dvla (oops i meant tvla) do not continue to spam my letterbox with junk mail. Once told they should disapear not keep me on a mailing list. Many companies get a good telling off now if the keep sendingjunk mail, why not tvla.

    Thats the only reason i will not inform them, i do not want any further junk mail or correspondence from them.

    Comment by here — October 31, 2008 #

  8. Ok, so apparently we don’t need a TV licence to use the iPlayer AT THE MOMENT. However, if the BBC was to decide to change the iPlayer so that it CAN receive “live” broadcasts, then anyone using it WOULD need a licence:

    “You will need to be covered by a TV licence if and when the BBC provides a feature that enables you to watch ‘live’ TV programmes on any later version of BBC iPlayer, which has this option …”

    It doesn’t say what would happen if I use iPlayer without live broadcast and then, unannounced, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon, they suddenly decide to “upgrade” it to so that it does do “live”.

    Would everyone with iPlayer installed on a PC suddenly find that they have to have a licence, and can expect to get their collar felt without warning?

    Or (this would seem the reasonable thing, but it might be naive), would there be a new release of iPlayer and only people who CHOOSE to download this new version would be liable for a TV licence? And would there then be a choice of versions – live and non-live?

    Otherwise, I could suddenly find, with no action from me, and without even wanting it, I could become liable for a TV licence, even though I don’t watch TV, don’t have a TV, and never ever watch live TV on a PC.

    AFAIK, I don’t have iPlayer installed on my PC. I don’t even have RealPlayer – AKA “Real Spyware” – installed. I find I can watch YouTube etc. with what I have.

    Even the little videos on the BBC New page (which seem to be using “BBC Media Player” – I’ve no idea what that is, but it seems to be using Flash) don’t need iPlayer, as far as I can see. Although, confusingly, they do come with a logo that looks to me exactly like the iPlayer logo.

    But if and when the TV Gestapo come to call, I might find it hard to convince them that I don’t, can’t, won’t watch “live” TV on my PC, or in any other way.

    Comment by Dialogist — November 2, 2008 #

  9. I think the facts are pretty straight on this issue.

    It is clear that we should not have to pay £139.50 a year in order to receive 9 BBC television channels unless we make the choice to do so. We also should not be stopped from receiving other (separately funded) television channels from other providers if we choose not to pay this fee (and not receive the BBC content). However it is a law that we require to do so. The company that enforces this law (TVL) works on behalf of the BBC. The government backs TVL, the BBC and this law. Therefore this is a political issue. I have personally decided to not vote Labour in the next general election because of this one issue. The government has made its support of the TV License fee wholly apparent.

    I have previously voted for Labour in 2 of the past 3 general elections.

    Clearly my one vote will not make a difference. If you feel strongly enough about this issue I would suggest that you make it clear to the politicians who matter on this issue. The loss of thousands of votes would clearly be a cause for concern for the government. A collective approach on this subject will be the only way to gain action from those who have the power to make change. The way in which this fee is implemented and so aggressively enforced is clearly undemocratic.

    A BPIX Mail on Sunday recently found that 74 % of people asked said that the BBC License fee is unjustified.

    That is potentially a great number of votes.

    It is not the people who can afford to pay this license fee who will find it hard to find the money to do so. People who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet then have to pay the equivalent of the average yearly house insurance for television content that they would probably otherwise decide is too expensive as opposed to Free to Air. It is often the less financially advantaged that find television as the best option for entertainment.

    Comment by PLC — November 2, 2008 #

  10. I recently took the advice of a TV license forum which told me how to withdraw my consent for the salespeople (TV license enforcers – very threatening term!) to approach my property. They replied with a letter saying that if I didn’t give a name (although I signed it, they obviously can’t read) they do not need to obey common law – which I gave as my rationale.
    I don’t need a TV at my address, I don’t want to be assaulted or threatened or lies made up about my situation (as they are on record for doing). Therefore I don’t want to meet any of them without the protection of the police as independent witnesses. I also had the guff about interview under caution, but again no mention of tapes, provision of solicitors under PACE or how it would be a legal interview. I don’t think so! On that basis I could interview anyone and create any case against them. How do they get away with it?
    How can these people continue to be allowed to flout the law and be backed by the state. As someone said, perhaps Argos would like to interview me next about my possession of a catalogue and whether I use it with their permission. Stupid, but think about it for a second, it’s not dissimilar.
    Role on the abolition of the license and the end of bullying by government sanction.

    Comment by Chris — November 12, 2008 #

  11. Really interesting thread. Thankyou.
    I would like to add an anecdote regarding the activity of the ‘Enforcement Officer’.

    I begin by holding my hands up to having owned a TV without a current licence. I admitted this to the ‘officer’ who visited. So, my problem is that the law is abused at the doorstep. In brief, the conversation was:

    You are breaking the law
    OK, sorry.
    I will have to prosecute.
    But I am unemployed, the TV was a recent gift, I cant afford a licence at the moment.
    I will have to prosecute….
    (sob) OK.
    (at this point the law was put into his back pocket)
    ….unless you sign this direct-debit now.
    **But I have no money.
    You must sign this direct-debit now or I will issue a prosecution notice.
    (Repeat 5 times from **)

    Once he realised that he was not going to get his commission, the direct-debit form was put away and the ‘law’ once again became important. I was issued the prosecution caution.

    The guy was nothing more than a salesman with the power to legally caution!
    Yes, by law I was guilty. Yet, if I had the money, I could have easily avoided falling foul of the law. I can’t help feeling that I was issued the caution because I am currently unable to set-up a direct-debit….i.e. poor.

    (Incidentally, is there a chance that the EO’s insistence that I set up a direct-debit for which I had insufficient cash flow be considered to be incitement to commit fraud? Just a thought).

    Comment by Martin — November 17, 2008 #

  12. Hi I found this site really interesting,I dont have a tv and havent for some time, due to my opposition to the fee, but also I was not happy with my kids watching tv.I have to say apart from the first couple of days moaning they havent missed it at all, they have portable dvd players and a lot more time is spent doing other things ie reading, drawing even the dreaded piano practice.I know of several families who have also gone tv free lately. I do watch iplayer and itv catch up now and then. I have received a couple of letters I just shred them .. the tv twits can look round if they call, the old telly is long gone. Funny I do not get calls from the dvla asking if I have a car I dont!but I could be using one without a license! I think it is the mean little attitude of the enforcement agency that gets my goat.Just really heartened to see a lot more people questioning the fee.

    Comment by James — November 22, 2008 #

  13. I put a hammer through mine and sent photos of it after having a licence continuously for over ten years. The number of programmes I could watch diminished as they started to put more rock drummer soundtracks on the programmes I liked. I remember the last one I could watch was Gardener’s World, when they introduced a rock soundtrack to that it was the last straw. I wrote and told them I didn’t want to watch any more as I’d developed a phobia on account of the drumming – my ears are badly damaged and pain and ring when exposed to drumming.

    I asked if I’d be given time to sell the set but they delayed answering until the licence fee was due, saying they’d send people around. I didn’t want anyone trampling around my house so took the hammer to the set and sent pictures. Then I felt scared about the wall socket. I thought the cable came from somewhere like a communal arial, but when the water started pouring out of the side of the house I got into the attic and found it was an indoor arial.

    It was a newish house when I moved in ten years ago and 75% belongs to the housing association but such was my fear of the licence people that I then took the hammer to the wall socket and smashed it to bits, rather more damage than was necessary!

    The smashed in tube I kept on display for them to take a look at should they wish to but eventually couldn’t stand the sight of it though more pleasing to look at then Gardener’s World on account of the puerile drumming with every image of a tulip. Eventually I dumped the set, and replaced it with a nice water feature with a lamp under which are two naked lovers kissing by cascading waters from a vase on its side.

    I have a video recorder which I don’t use anymore since I smashed the set but I’m willing to take the hammer to that at a moment’s notice if necessary as it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of packing it for what I’d get for it on ebay.

    I do worry about my computer which I use a lot and bought new a couple of years ago. It has all sorts of things at the back which I don’t use and worry that there might be something in there that they bully and persecute me for, but I keep my fingers crossed as I don’t like much Utube things or the snippets you get. I tried to watch a DVD I bought at a charity shop on my computer – no player – and it was unwatchable because the action was all jerky. I hate mobile phones I’m afraid so they can’t get me there.

    I’d imagine I’d have to get Housing Assocation permission to get rid of the arial in the attic and it might be a criminal offence to chuck it without asking as it’s part of the house and doesn’t belong to me, well, maybe 25% of it does but I’ve dealt with the part that I suppose I could claim, and I’ve filled in the dents of my anger around the socket when my anger died down – months later.

    I’m skilled enough to remove a tv card from the computer if need be but I think maybe the connection is for using a tv as a monitor rather than receiving tv on the computer.

    I’ve looked around for a monitor as I have a couple of cameras and like to video things which I’d like to watch but can’t anymore. They don’t seem to be available in the shops so my film making has become defunct too.

    Even if they took the funding from taxpayer’s money I wouldn’t want to watch it with all the drumming which makes me a bit sick to be honest, but I’m very much against taking it from the taxpayer as I wouldn’t want to be paying vast fortunes to individuals like J. Ross and Ant and Dec and all the others who just make me sick and are vastly wealthy on the backs of others. Really, most of it is idiotic – the rest is boring. Once you turn off rock you’ve no time for it I think.

    Take my advice, buy yourself a box of watercolour paints, a pad and tell them to ‘stuff it’.

    Comment by francie2002 — November 22, 2008 #

  14. People should remember this:
    TVLA have NO POWER IN LAW to enter your property. The ‘enforcement officers’ who may turn up on your doorstep are private employees of a private company with no more rights than you, I, the butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, and you should never *ever* let them into your home.

    I have no tv and after dozens of letters from the TVLA I wrote to my MP. The correspondence between my MP and the chairman of the BBC made it perfectly clear that the beeb would rather continue demanding money with menaces than simply accept a person’s word that they don’t need a licence.

    Ignore the letters and simply bin them. Be polite to the ‘enforcement officer’ if one turns up on your doorstep, simply courteously inform them you don’t need a licence, say a firm goodbye and close the door.

    They won’t get a ‘search warrant’ because that requires giving evidence of an offence before a magistrates court (“Laying an information”), and simply not having a license is not sufficient evidence for the local mags to issue a warrant.

    You don’t have to speak to them. You don’t have to open the door to them. And you most certainly do not have to let them into your home.

    Anyone who tells you differently either works for the BBC or Capita.

    Comment by Gary2 — November 27, 2008 #

  15. I haven’t owned a TV for years as it’s mostly crap and I just wouldn’t watch it.

    I have always advised TV licensing and they have eventually responded with the ‘OK but don’t forget IF you do use equipment to receive/record we’ll be sending the boys round’. Scary !

    Anyway, I’ve used iPlayer for about last year and have NEVER watched LIVE broadcasts using PC. Therefore, I should be legal.

    However, I’ve just noticed they’ve added live functionality, which I will NOT be using.

    So, in fact, according to current legislation I should not need a TV license but the BBC seem to be saying that as soon as live functionality is added to iPlayer, I need one. Er? How’s that then? If I never watch LIVE broadcasts, I’m not breaking the law.

    Seems to me TV Licensing are second only to the Child Support Agency and their IQOR cronies. Now those people are real legalised gangsters and should be stopped immediately-but that’s another subject.

    In the meantime, I’m about to move and will get ADSL broadband. I really don’t want most of the BBC content. Eastenders, the news and maybe some comedy programs is all I’d ever watch and it doesn’t have to be ‘live’ streaming for me.

    I might just never use the iPlayer site again. Whatever happens, I will never buy a TV or a license.

    I’d rather they stick their TV programs where the sun don’t shine and be legal than be ripped off for a load of drivel I can’t stand.

    Comment by Anon Ymous — November 27, 2008 #

  16. […] in December, I explained why I didn’t have a TV licence, and hadn’t for many years. I also said “As the BBC (hopefully) continues to open up […]

    Pingback by Roo Reynolds - Licensed with a Licence — November 29, 2008 #

  17. You all seem a bit confused about the TV license in relation to radio reception. No license is needed to listen to BBC or comercial radio broadcast in the U.K. Many years ago a tv license was required. Now the Tv license covers tv only – no tv = no license required.

    Comment by jim — December 18, 2008 #

  18. They don’t exactly make it obvious, but a little digging found the following quotes on the TVL website:

    “You do not need a TV Licence if you only use your TV to watch videos and DVDs or as a monitor for your games console.”

    “If you only use a digital box with a hi-fi system or another device which can only produce sound and can’t display TV programmes, you do not need a TV Licence.”

    Comment by 4Candles — December 19, 2008 #

  19. Roo – you say that you need a license to ‘watch live broadcasts which originate from the UK’.

    But according to TV Licensing, you need one to watch live broadcasts which originate from outside the UK too. See this from the TV License website, written to foreign military personnel (as if they are the only people who could possibly prefer to watch overseas broadcasts rather than British TV!):

    Does this apply to watching it on a TV, or do you think it includes live streaming from overseas websites (e.g. CNN?) If so, how does a user actually know if something is being simulcast with a TV broadcast in another country (i.e. do I ring up a friend in the US [or the TV company themselves] to ask ‘is this being shown on CNN at the moment?)

    The way out of this problem would seem to be for TV Licensing to say that anything ‘live’, however distributed, requires a TV license. But then this of course includes Traffic Webcams etc.!

    [Roo adds: thanks. I’ve struck out the ‘which originate from the UK’ bit.]

    Comment by Martin — January 20, 2009 #

  20. Hi Roo,

    Since your original blog post the BBC have further (sneakily I might add, with a little text link at the bottom) changed the policy so that when using BBC Iplayer you need a tv licence if you wish to watch a live broadcast (now that you can live stream online) however you do not need one to watch the standard catchup shows. So to legally use Iplayer you either need to only watch shows after they have been shown, or buy a tv licence.

    Comment by Simon Loftus — February 15, 2009 #

  21. Umm… I don’t think that’s sneaky, or a change in the policy. I think that’s pretty much in line with what everything above says, Mr Loftus. A TV licence is required to watch live TV (whether that’s using the new feature of iPlayer or any other mechanism).

    Comment by anon — February 15, 2009 #

  22. Does anybody know if it is possible to get the bbc to block all bbc t.v. programmes being received at my address so that i no longer have to pay a licence fee for programmes i do not watch.i watch one programme a day from the intire bbc t.v. output,i will not be watching ANY when this programme ends it’s run and in any event i could watch it the next day on the bbc i player.In my opinion,the programmes broadcast by the bbc on t.v.would insult the intelligence of a set of mess tins,why should i be forced to pay for c**p i have no disire to watch? why can we not have the option not to receive bbc t.v. broadcasts and so not be forced to pay a licence fee for programmes i/we do not want to watch?i am sure tv sets could be made that do not receive bbc t.v.programmes,this would make it easy to prove that you do not view live bbc t.v. broadcasts.To get back to my original question,is it possible for the bbc to block it’s t.v.signals to a stated address or could they send some one round who could block t.v.sets from receiving live t.v. broadcasts.Sean.

    Comment by sean dobson.bc.dmm — March 11, 2009 #

  23. Sean, the TV license does not give you permission to watch BBC broadcasts, it gives you permission to watch *any* broadcasts.

    The law is that if you watch live broadcasts, you must own a TV license, whether those broadcasts are BBC, ITV, Channel4 or whatever. It’s irrelevant that the money goes to the BBC, without a license, you aren’t allowed to watch other channels either.

    If you don’t want to buy a TV license, then don’t. These days, there’s plenty of content available for free online.

    Comment by thelaw — March 11, 2009 #

  24. I am a little confused by the reply from THELAW.It is only required to have a licence to view B.B.C. programmes,if these broadcasts were blocked,how could you be prosecuted for watching or recording any none B.B.C. broadcast?what would be the offence since you are not required to have a licence to watch or record programmes from other T.V. services.My question was,can the B.B.C. signal be blocked so that you can watch and record programmes from other T.V. services without the T.V.L.A. having a leg to stand on? Why should i have to pay a compulsary licence fee to the B.B.C.? I think that the quality of B.B.C. programmes is so low that they would insult the intelligence of a set of mess tins and i now watch only one B.B.C. programme a day,as from Monday this will go down to zero.The B.B.C. produce the same types of programmes as the commercial channels,why would they do anything else when there is a compulsary licence fee in place? The difference is that unlike the B.B.C.,i do not have to pay directly for c**p i do not watch.Yes,i do know we pay in the shops for the advertising costs.Why can the B.B.C. not be made a subscription service such as sky and others that would solve the problem for everybody who resents paying a compulsary licence for programmes that are similer and no better,often worse,than those produced by the commercial T.V. stations.If the B.B.C. were not running so many digital channels that nobody watches and paying obscence fees to some presenters with OUR MONEY,then maybe they could produce higher quality programmes for B.B.C, 1 and 2. Perhaps some smart Barrister could take the question of the compulsary licence fee to the European Court Of Justice?The B.B.C. might just as well be commercial given the numbers of trailers it runs for it’s own programmes and they have admitted that there will be more repeats,more! have you seen the schedules lately?More game shows,more quize shows,in fact,more of the c**p they currently show.Why should we be forced to pay for this?If the B.B.C.was forced to become a subscription service,unless they got rid of all these “jobs for the boys” digital channels and the obscene fees,unless they started to produce far better programmes,they would loose millions of viewers and they know it which is why they want the compulsary licence fee to remain in place.Sean Dobson.BC.DMM

    Comment by Sean dobson.bc.dmm — March 14, 2009 #

  25. “It is only required to have a licence to view B.B.C. programmes”

    No. That’s not actually true.

    Comment by Roo — March 14, 2009 #

  26. Why is it that the tvl just wont accept some people dont watch tv, they think we are either liars thiefs or just plain mad

    Comment by papalon — July 3, 2009 #

  27. I have found some of the comments upon this site humouress, factual and advantageous in discovering how to defeat the TVL … I thought we beat them in World War 11 … oh no, sorry they were the gestapo/nazi’s …. strange how TVL conjure up such images in ones mind :)

    For those who say that the TVL do not still use detector vans, sorry but they do, I have the misfortune to stop briefly to answer a call outside a building and see a dreaded van depart the said premises :(

    If only I have stopped a few feet further then I might have saved some innocent person being further harrassed by this disgraceful outfit .. oh well always another day to try. (ps they were leaving at about 3 pm ish) most likely to try to catch kids watching tv after school.

    Anyway ….. Television Licences, do I really need one?

    I must confess to actually owning several of these confounded machines, but this does not mean I necessarily need a licence.

    I have one TV in my bedroom, which is connected to a DVD player, it’s there if and when I ever choose to watch it. The TV is not connected to an ariel nor to any channels as such but is tuned to receive pictures from a small camera that shows any callers to my home. I presume that I am not required to have licence for this TV.

    I also own several small portable TV’s that are stored within my loft space, I presume as none are plugged in to an electricity supply, and are not connected to any ariel, I do not need a licence for any of these either.

    I then own a TV that I use as a quad screen for my home based CCTV system, again this is not tuned into any television programmes and has no ariel, I presume no TV licence is required for this set.

    I then own a small entryphone with video screen which is situated within my lounge to let me see any callers in advance of my considering to open the door to ascertain who they may be (I play safe and act dumb if I am unsure of the caller) so presume yet again I do not need a licence for this bit of telecommunication device.

    I then have a 60″ wide projection screen, which does not have any kind of receiving equipment whatsoever, so that doesn’t need a licence,

    Then I have a rather large TV … which is capable of receiving television programmes, but is not connected to any ariel, or tuned into any channels but is connected to a Wii and a PS3, a DVD surround system and also serves as a pc. So I am guessing that as this is not tuned to any Television Channels, and has no ariel connected it is also exempt under the present legislation.

    I am unsure of what the position is if I connect my Sky box to it, as then it is capable of receiving live TV broadcasts which is an iffy situation. its not illegal to own such equipment, just to watch it as it’s being broadcast live.

    As it is possible with a sky box, or virgin one to watch programmes on demand such as pay per view, you only require a licence to actually watch programmes that are broadcast to all, as pay per view, is actually a mini home cinema and not a television broadcast.?

    I then own a portable dvd player which is fitted inside my touring caravan, so this is exempt unless I add a freeview box to it to access tv channels, somehow I cant see TVL raiding every caravan site in the UK to check on all possible caravanners ….. they would stick out like a sore thumb lol.

    Finally, I own an iMac which I use to view iplayer and others such as utube etc, and a laptop that I can also access these sorts of programmes upon.
    I understand it is perfectly possible to download various programmes upon your pc, and then stream it to your TV or Monitor as it would be in such instances …. and as that is not being broadcast live or simultaneously as the terminology states, this too is exempt from requiring a TV Licence.

    So all in all, I think I have the perfect solution to any future visits from TVL, yes they are writing to me with the standard threatening letter, but as I can see them approach my home a long time before they even get near the door (which wouldnt be opened anyway) Don’t you just love CCTV, I guess I will just ignore their pathetic threats and continue to shred the letters as I have done to date.

    Or am I doing something wrong?


    Comment by kazzie — September 11, 2009 #

  28. If I was to puchase a TV License for a Black and White TV but used a Colour TV would they no or find out ?

    BTW – Colour TV Licence (£142.50)
    Black and white TV Licence (£48.00)

    Comment by Ricky — September 30, 2009 #

  29. I want to watch the odd catch-up programme through my TV and Virgin box (my laptop broadband connection is rubbish), /after/ they are broadcast. I don’t really want to pay a license (having just got rid of it), unless I had to, ie. if it was illegal to do so.

    But the TVL say that you don’t need a license to watch iPlayer, (as long as you’re not watching live). And presumably this is the same for 4od and other services you can catch-up on online.

    So, it seems quite a grey area using a Virgin box for catch-up that /can/ receive live broadcast…

    …but aren’t there plenty of people in this situation? And a growing number at that given the rise in on demand services? Shouldn’t TVL/BBC spell it out?!

    Even though it would seem to be legal, In the end I’m probably going to leave the Virgin box disconnected. Yea, that’s right! I’m scared of those big bad bullies and their court threats! I don’t want the hassle!

    Comment by Hannah — October 10, 2009 #

  30. If you have a black and white license, I understand they harrass you for not having a colour license.

    The license is for the use of equipment for receiving ‘live’ broadcast/simulcast. Since iPlayer for non-live doesn’t need a license, it would be perverse to require a license for non-live Virgin, but it would be wise to seek a ruling first.

    You could simply write to TVL for clarification as follows: do you need a license to subscribe to a mixed TV service like Virgin’s which provides live and non-live content, if you don’t watch the live content?

    Virgin may keep records of what you’ve watched – these could possibly be seized as evidence.


    Comment by Tim — November 13, 2009 #

  31. I agree and disagree with many of the comments above. I currently own two monochrome television sets and no colour television sets simply because of the nostalgic value, the reduction in television licensing (£142.50 to £48) and the fact that I don’t notice the lack of colour at all after the first three minutes of watching it (It is only TV after all). I agree that they should never harass any person with threatening letters or, god forbid, the “Secret Police” knocking at your door as the DVLA, as said also above, do neither. I, however, would rather pay for the license than have to sit through adverts that are more mind-numbing that the actual programme itself and offer no intellectual value whatsoever. I still like the idea of having separate licenses for colour and monochromatic television sets, and would have a lot to say if they were ever to scrap that license and charge me the full colour license. All in all I think the license should stay in place for the people who want to use it, as for the people who would rather not watch the BBC’s television service, they should be harassment-free for as long as they don’t watch the service.

    Also, regarding online services that broadcast live programmes, they should have the option to be ignored by the user if they so wish as to avoid the license and should not be forced into paying for a service which they do not use. I also think it obsured of the TVLA to force you to have a license if you watch live ITV and C4, or any other channel for that matter, because thats what the ad’s are for and why the BBC gets all of the money. It’s another desperate attempt for moraless corporations to claw every last penny they think they deserve (which more often than not they don’t) from the honest taxpayers hands. I have one last issue I would like to be addressed, and that is the 7 1/2 year’s worth of license to keep you “6 months ahead of payments.” These fees should be repayed to the person or the estate of the person, upon cancelation of their television license or death, without the licensee having to go to the effort to claim it back. It should go without saying that those fees should be handed back without the effort on their behalf because after all, it’s their money.

    Comment by Jack McAteer — August 6, 2010 #

  32. The Communications Act 2004 Section 11 defines a television set as ‘not being a computer’. See

    I see that one needs a license to view ‘a television programme’, but what is a ‘television programme’, how does it differ from viewing a film on, say, Netflix? I can find no definition anywhere.

    Comment by Raphael mankin — June 10, 2013 #

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