You need a TV licence if you watch or record live TV programmes as they’re being broadcast, or watch or download BBC programmes on iPlayer. If you don’t have a licence or fail to repay your arrears, you could receive a court fine.
It’s a criminal offence to watch live TV or use BBC iPlayer unless you have a valid TV licence. Without one, you risk prosecution and can be issued a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs.
You still need a licence even if you don’t own a television and only watch BBC iPlayer on a phone, tablet or computer. This doesn’t just apply to live TV, but watching programmes after they’ve been shown.
The rules can be confusing. To check if you should have a TV licence or to find out how to register as not needing one, read the FAQs on the TV Licensing website.
What happens if I don't have a TV licence?
If you don’t have a valid licence, the process that is usually followed is:
- You’ll receive a letter asking you to get in touch to start making payments or explain why you don’t need a licence
- An enquiry officer could visit your home to find out if you need a licence
- If the enquiry officer finds that a licence is needed they will try to get evidence of this
Failing to pay at this stage could result in court action using the evidence collected by the enquiry officer. The court can issue a fine of up to £1,000 which will show up if your criminal record is checked. Your TV licence must still be paid in addition to the fine.
What happens if I don’t pay my TV licence arrears?
You may have seen in the press that the government is considering cancelling fines and criminal records for TV licence non-payment. However, these are only proposals at the moment, so you should assume that failing to repay arrears could still lead to a fine and a criminal record.
Because of the serious consequences of not paying the licence fee, it’s important to treat any TV licence arrears as a priority bill.
I’m in arrears or struggling to pay my TV licence, what can I do?
If you’re struggling to pay arrears or keep up to date with monthly bills, this may be a sign you need debt help. Contact us for free, confidential debt advice, or take two minutes to answer a few simple questions, so we can understand the best way to help you.