Television licensing in the United Kingdom

In the British Islands, any household watching or recording live television transmissions at the same time they are being broadcast is required by law to hold a television licence. This applies regardless of transmission method, including terrestrial, satellite, cable, or for BBC iPlayer internet streaming. The television licence is the instrument used to raise revenue to fund the BBC; it is a form of taxation.[1]

A British TV licence

Businesses, hospitals, schools and a range of other organisations are also required by law to hold television licences to watch and record live TV broadcasts.[2] The licence, originally a radio licence, was first introduced by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1923 in November of that year at a cost of ten shillings (£0.50) per annum. The licence was extended to televisions at a cost of £2 in June 1946. The radio part was abolished in February 1971.[3] A television licence is also required to receive video on demand programme services provided by the BBC via its iPlayer service.

Since April 2021, the annual cost is £159.00 for a colour licence and £53.50 for a black and white licence. Income from the licence is primarily used to fund the television, radio and online services of the BBC. The total income from licence fees was £3.83 billion in 2017–18,[4] of which £655.3 million or 17.1% was provided by the government through concessions for those over the age of 75 (this subsidy has now been phased out). Thus, the licence fee made up the bulk (75.7%) of the BBC's total income of £5.0627 billion in 2017–2018.[4]

In May 2016, the government's white paper announced that the licence fee would rise with inflation for the first five years of the Charter period, from 1 April 2017.