IN the UK, any household watching or recording live television must hold a TV licence.
In recent years, this has been extended to include BBC programmes on iPlayer, whether they are live, catch up or on demand. But does everyone really need a licence? Here’s the lowdown on how to avoid paying – legally.
A colour TV licence currently costs £154.50 a year and is needed by anyone intending to watch or record TV programmes while they are being shown on air.
And it’s not just live events like sports, news and music that fall under this category.
Live TV in this sense covers all programmes on any channel, including soaps, series, documentaries and even movies, while they are being broadcast.
But, you don’t need a TV Licence if you never watch or record programmes on any channel while they’re being shown and never download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.
This means that other catch-up TV services, which allow the streaming or downloading of programmes after they have been shown on their respective channels don’t require a licence.
How to watch TV legally without paying for a licence
THE following services are still openly (and legally) available to you – as long as you aren’t using them to watch live TV:
On demand TV – like catch-up TV and on demand previews – which are available through services like ITV Player , All4 , My5 , BT Vision/BT TV , Virgin Media , Sky Go , Now TV, Apple TV, Chromecast , Roku and Amazon Fire TV
On demand movies – from services like Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video
Recorded films and programmes – either via DVD or Blu-ray, or downloaded from the internet
YouTube – On demand video clips through services like YouTube
If you never watch BBC and only watch all your programmes using the catch up services of other channels, it may be possible for you to legally ditch the licence, saving yourself £154.50 a year.
If you’re absolutely sure you no longer need a licence, you can formally let TV licensing know.
Although there’s no legal obligation to do this, the organisation says doing so will prevent an increasing number of letters coming your way.
The first thing to do as part of this process is cancel your payments.
If you pay by direct debit you can cancel it by filling out TV Licensing’s contact form, informing them you no longer watch TV and confirm your current address.
You’ll also need to cancel your direct debit with your bank.
If you pay with a TV Licensing payment card, you’ll need to call 0300 555 0286.
Everyone who no longer requires a TV licence then needs to fill out a No Licence Needed declaration form.
After this is done, households are reminded to keep the confirmation email from TV Licensing as proof.
TV Licensing may visit your property once you’ve cancelled your licence to ensure you are telling the truth and no errors have been made.
The bureau says these inspections find one in five households who have cancelled their TV licence actually still need one – that’s around 900 households a day.
If you do need a licence, you’ll need to pay the full licence fee as soon as possible or risk prosecution plus a fine of up to £1,000 (or £500 if you live in Jersey, or £2,000 in Guernsey).
Watching “live TV” without a licence is against the law, but while you cannot be imprisoned for TV Licence evasion, you can be jailed for non-payment of a fine imposed by the court.
All over-75s in the UK have previously been eligible for a free TV licence, but they’ll need to pay for it from June next year, the BBC has announced.
Although, households with at least one person receiving pension credit – around 900,000 currently – will not have to pay.
Those who are blind or severely sight-impaired are eligible to a 50 per cent discount.
A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “Fewer than 2 per cent of households don’t need a licence and there are more licences in force than ever before – 25.8 million.
“TV Licensing provides a wide variety of payment methods and we work with more than 400 money advice and community organisations in the UK to provide support to help people pay.”
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