TV Licence Number & more: Your Complete TV Licence Guide

TV licence and TV

Do I need a TV licence to watch Netflix? Do agents from TV Licensing really drive around in undercover vans with detection equipment to catch evaders? Perhaps questions like these have crossed your mind or perhaps you’re moving house and aren’t sure what to do with it. Either way, if you feel like you have endless questions about the UK TV licence, have no fear - at Selectra we’ve deciphered all the rules and regulations, and disproved the propaganda to bring you everything you need to know right here.

What is a TV Licence?

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A TV licence in the UK can be thought of as a legal permit - or legal permission - to watch and record programmes on TV. The TV licence scope has been evolving since 1946 when it was first implemented to cover the cost of broadcasting through the 405-line (black and white analogue TV).

Then came coloured television and with it, a supplement fee to the TV licence. If you were lucky enough to have coloured television in those days, it also meant you were charged this additional cost.

A TV licence for a colour TV used to cost £145.50 back in 2015 and has since then increased to £150.50. For those who like a blast from the past and still have a black and white TV, a licence will now cost you £50.50, compared to £49.00 a few years ago. These fees, however, don’t apply to everyone as there are discounts available for people who are:

  • Over the age of 75
  • Living in a residential care home
  • Severely visually impaired
  • To be eligible for discounts as someone with a severe visual impairment, you will have to get a certificate from an authority or from the Health Department, depending on where you live.

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Do I need a TV Licence?

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This is probably the biggest misconception and the most important question when it comes to the TV licence; do I need one or not? The answer is that in most cases related to watching or recording anything on TV, you will need a TV licence. There are only a few exceptions. You don’t need a licence if you are planning to just use your TV as a monitor or to stream content from services like Netflix or similar.

However, you do need a licence if you are planning to watch or record any live TV - including any programme being broadcasted. This includes live BBC programmes on iPlayer or any other streaming device. These rules apply to live content streaming on the following devices:

  • A television
  • A desktop computer
  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets
  • Game consoles
  • Digital boxes
  • DVD/VHS recorders

So if you think you can get away with licence fee evasion just because you're planning to watch and/or record content on your mobile phone, think again!

Remember that “live” doesn't just mean live music or sport events that are being streamed live. While it does include these, it also includes watching and recording any programme, movie and documentary on any channel.

The revenue generated by the BBC and TV Licensing from the collection of TV licence fees is growing every year. Between 2010 and 2017, the revenue generated grew from £3.51 billion to £3.83 billion. This increase in the revenue generation isn't surprising if you consider that an increasing number of households in the UK are purchasing a TV. In 2018, a massive 95% of UK households had a TV compared to the 1960s when only 36% of households did.

Paying to watch and record TV might seem unfair but rest assured that this money, which in 2017/2018 reached £5.06 billion, doesn’t go towards holiday homes or fancy dinners for BBC or TV Licensing staff.

Over 90% of the money that is collected for the licence fee is used for maintaining and providing the programmes that people watch and record, especially BBC content. When you put it like that, it seems a little fairer - if we want to have access to live TV and be able to record it, we have to pay for it.

Get licensed or go to jail: is this really true?


All this talk of TV licences and fees raises some important questions; can I go to jail for not paying the TV licence fee? Am I a criminal if I don’t pay the TV licence fee?

Considering all the TV licence propaganda that has been circling around, it’s really no surprise that some people might have these questions. It seems like no one really knows if you need a TV licence, why you need one or what happens if you don’t have one.

If you are caught without a TV licence but you require one, you won’t get thrown in the back of a police car and taken to jail. Now that we’ve crushed your particular myth, we can explain to you what really happens if you are caught without a TV licence.

In the case that TV Licensing suspects that you’re evading the licence-fee, they will likely start off by sending you a letter. The type of letter depends on the individual case. These are the types of letters that might be sent out:

  1. Reminder letters about the expiry date of someones’ TV licence
  2. Letters to households that aren’t meeting legal requirements
  3. Letters to households that have made any enquiries about payments or refunds
  4. Letters to households about individual queries and cases

If you don’t respond, be prepared to receive progressively sterner letters. If you’re caught ignoring these warnings and continue to watch and record live TV without permission, it’s highly likely that a TV licensing officer might pay you a visit - and it won’t be to have a cup of tea.

Some people might think they don’t need a TV licence and in this case, they can also write to TV licensing to explain why. Normally, an officer will come around to confirm this themselves. Out of all the visits that are made, it’s usually found that 20% of people who thought they didn’t need a TV licence, actually did.

Remember that a TV Licensing Officer can only enter your house with your permission or unless they have a warrant.

If someone who has received multiple warning letters and visits from TV licensing still decides to take no action, they might have legal action taken against them. In 2013, 178,332 people were sued for fee evasion, 153,369 were found guilty but only 32 went to prison.

This gives you an idea of just how many people either aren’t aware of the legal requirements or just don’t take licencing seriously. With only 32 people going to prison, it also shows you that most cases are solved before the need for a prison sentence.

Stack of paper

It might be interesting to note that even though you could be sent to prison for consistently ignoring letters and fines, this still won’t earn you a criminal record. TV licence fee evasion is considered a non-recordable offence, however. If you did spend any time in court, a record will be held at the court. So keep that in mind because past fee-dodging activities could come back to haunt you during any job application processes.

TV Licence Number

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Everyone who has a TV licence will also have a TV licence number which they will need for any communication between them and the authorities. If you don’t know your number, it’s not difficult to find. You will see it on any bills or correspondence e-mails or letters between yourself and TV licensing.

If you are still having trouble finding your TV licence number, you can head to their website, enter your details and they will tell you what your tv licence number is.

Cancel TV Licence

If you no longer want to watch or record live TV or you're moving out of the UK, you may cancel your licence. If you cancel it before it expires, you may be eligible for a refund. When deciding whether to issue a refund, TV licensing takes the following factors into consideration:

  • How long is left before it expires
  • When it was issued
  • Proof of why you won’t need it

It’s always a good idea to stay up-to-date with refund policies, just in case TV Licensing decides to change things up on us. When you do want to cancel your licence or request a refund, you can start both of these processes online.

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Renew TV Licence

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If you do want to keep recording your favourite programmes and watching live TV, you will need to renew your licence. Keep an eye out on the expiry date of your licence because if it’s about to expire and you haven’t done anything about it, you might be receiving one of those letters from TV licensing.

Don’t worry though, renewing your licence is a piece of cake and all you have to do to start the process is head to the ‘renew your licence’ section of the TV Licensing website and follow the prompts. We recommend you renew your licence a month before it expires to avoid any reminder letters or unnecessary conflicts with TV licensing if you end up forgetting altogether.

TV Licence Moving House


I’m moving house, what do I do with my TV licence? It’s important to know that when you move house, you have to update your details with TV licensing as your licence, unfortunately, doesn’t magically move with you.

It’s a good idea to update these details as soon as you can - you can do this three months before you move. If your new or old property is going to be unoccupied at any stage, you may want to let TV licensing know too.

Although it sounds like updating TV licence on your every move is optional, we say it’s best to follow their recommendations and update them on everything. Whether you’re moving house now or later on or whether you’re leaving your property unoccupied, we say it’s best to contact them in every case and let them know. If they don’t hear from you, they’ll contact you anyway so might as well beat them to it.

TV Licence Summary: 5 Simple Facts

    Happy man
  1. Everyone who plans on watching, downloading or recording live, catch-up or on-demand content must have a TV licence.
  2. It doesn't matter which device you're using to watch this content. If you're using anything other than a TV, you still must have a TV licence.
  3. You don't need a TV licence for using streaming services such as Netflix.
  4. If you're caught without a licence, you don't automatically go to jail. You will have a few opportunities to meet legal requirements.
  5. Keep TV Licensing updated whenever there is a change in your situation; if you're moving house or you think you no longer need a TV licence.
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