What can I watch without a TV licence?


General Finance

The TV licence is a necessary purchase for most of us. After all, even though no one wants to pay £145.50 a year, we can’t do without TV, right?

Well, you might not actually need to pay for a TV licence, depending on how and when you’re watching telly. And we’re not trying to encourage you to break the law and just not pay the bill – you might be able to do this entirely legally. Read on to find out when you might not need a TV licence to watch programmes on TV.

After the broadcast

If you’re watching any programmes after they’ve been broadcast on TV, you won’t need a TV licence to do this. This includes anything you’re streaming or downloading from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player or All 4. There have been discussions recently about people potentially needing a TV licence to watch BBC iPlayer in the future, but thankfully that’s not the case at the moment. As long as you’re not watching anything live, you don’t have to pay for a TV licence.

This also includes streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, as they don’t broadcast shows live. Obviously, you’ll be paying to use these services (£5.99 a month for each service) but you won’t need to pay £145.50 a year for the TV licence on top of this.

If you’ve decided that you don’t need a licence, you’ll need to fill out a declaration form to tell the TV licensing people this. They may decide to send someone round to your house to check that you’ve not got a set to watch TV live, but as long as you’re not breaking any rules, this isn’t anything to worry about.

Live TV

You’ll need a TV licence if you’re planning on watching any TV programmes live. This doesn’t just apply if you’re watching programmes on the BBC – it’s for ALL live shows. So if you go onto the Channel 4 website to watch live, you’d need a TV licence to be able to do this. If you don’t want to have to pay for a licence, you’ll have to wait for the show to finish airing and watch it on catch up afterwards.

You’ll also still need a TV licence if you want to record live TV and watch it later. This applies whether you’re using Sky+, Virgin’s TiVo service or an old-school video recorder. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to watch the programmes after they’ve been broadcast – you’re still recording them live so you’d need to pay for a TV licence.

If you decide to ignore the rules and watch TV without a TV licence, you could be in for quite a big fine. The TV Licensing website claims that you’ll be prosecuted, could face a court appearance and a fine of up to £1,000. If you’re in Jersey, the fine can be a maximum of £500 and in Guernsey, it can go up to £2,000.

Update 31st May 2019: for more info, read our more recent blog on TV licensing.

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