Tuesday, 12 April 2016

How to Avoid Buying a TV License, Legally!

I've never had a TV license. I once payed towards a shared license we used at a student house in 2009, but this is only time I've ever paid any money towards a TV license fee out of my own pocket. I use my TV every day, mainly to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or to play Xbox games. Am I breaking the law? HELL NO.

I was living in my first house in Reading after my Uni graduation when a License Inspector first ever knocked on my door. "According to our records, you have not purchased a television license", droned the man. On this occasion I let him into my house to actually see that my TV was not hooked up to an aerial or any sort of Sky dish etc. He marked his form to say that I was "compliant in not owning a license" and we didn't hear from anyone again.

However, since I've moved into my new build house back in 2014 I've received 3 letters stating the corporal punishments in store for me for not paying for a TV license. These letters are pretty threatening and pretty bold, and I can understand why some people would just pay the TV license fee if they had any doubts at all that they were in the wrong. My letter stated the following:

  • We can apply to a court for access to your property.
  • An officer can take your statement under caution: anything you say to the officer can be used against your in court.
  • You risk a fine of up to £1000 plus legal costs
  • If your property is found to require a TV license you will still be required to purchase one

Dramatic, right?

So, how can you legally avoid buying a TV license? All you need to know is the below:

  • If you watch LIVE TV you need a license. It doesn't matter if you're watching on the tele, on your iPad, on your phone or on your computer; if you're watching television that is being broadcast live you need a TV license. 
  • Being compliant in not watching live TV does not mean missing out on your favourite shows. Services like BBC iPlayer and 4OD upload new episodes of all their TV programs just after they go out live, sometimes within the hour. By watching Coronation Street an hour later than the live broadcast on the ITV Player you are being compliant and staying legal. 
  • You need a license to record live TV. If you are using Sky to record your favourite shows and then watch them later on, you'll need a TV license. I don't know why you'd need to do this anymore, as most of these shows are available online after they've been broadcast, if you know where to look.
  • Listening to the radio (even BBC stations) does not mean that you need to purchase a TV license. 
  • You can surrender your license immediately and stop paying your direct debit. This might mean that an Inspector turns up at your house with his briefcase and clipboard, but as long as you honestly are only watching catch-up TV you have nothing to worry about. 
  • If you have a TV in the house but don't watch it, you don't need a license
  • You can still watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, 4OD, BBC iPlayer (this one may soon be changing!), ITV Player and YouTube without needing a license. There are a load of other services that you can still access, but these are the main ones I use every day. One common question that I hear all the time is whether you need a TV license if you are using your Xbox to play games on Xbox Live. No- you don't! You're not watching live television or recording it- game away. 
  • If you are watching live TV and not paying for a license, the TV Licensing team CAN CHECK. What I mean by that is that they have the technology needed to check whether you are watching live TV. The finer details of how they do this aren't available, but hand held frequency scanners are the main detection method used. 

Do not pay for a TV license if you don't need to. The letters that drop onto your doormat are intimidating, yes, but be educated and know your position before the Inspectors visit. The people who go door to door to get you to sign up will always, ALWAYS, tell you that you need a license. They get paid per license issued. Be direct and be firm: you don't need to cough up £150 for them if you are following the law! 


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