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Is Cancelling Your TV Licence To Save Money A Good Idea? | TV Licence

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

A look at the pros and cons of cancelling your TV licence in order to save money.

A look at the pros and cons of cancelling your TV licence in order to save money.

A popular way to reduce your monthly expenses is by cancelling streaming services, but what if you cancel your TV Licence? What does that mean you can or can't watch going forward? The answer is that If you watch or record shows as they're being shown on telly in the UK ('live TV'), you need to be covered by a TV licence. You also need one if you use BBC iPlayer.

So if you watch tv as it's being broadcast, on any device, including a TV, computer, laptop, phone, tablet, games console or digital box, you WILL need a TV licence.

If, however, you choose to watch the programme after it has been broadcast, so not at the time of it actually being shown on live TV, you don't need to buy a TV licence. Live TV means any programme you watch or record as it’s being shown on TV or live on any online TV service. It’s not just live events like sports, news and music. It covers all programmes on any channel, including soaps, series, documentaries and even movies. If you’re watching live TV, you need to be covered by a TV Licence:

  • if you’re watching on TV or on an online TV service

  • for all channels, not just the BBC

  • if you record a programme and watch it later

  • if you watch a programme on a delay

  • to watch or record repeats

  • to watch or record programmes on +1, +2 and +24 channels

  • to watch live programmes on Red Button services

  • even if you already pay for cable, satellite or other TV services

Worth noting, and why I underlined it, if you record a programme to watch later, you will need a TV licence!

You don’t need a TV license if you only watch on-demand programmes on any TV service apart from BBC iPlayer.

You don’t need a TV Licence to watch videos or clips on demand on YouTube. But you do need a TV Licence if you watch TV programmes live on YouTube. An example of this would be watching Sky News live. But it isn’t just live news or sport which needs a licence – it’s any programme which is part of a TV channel, broadcast or transmitted for everyone to watch at the same time.

If you’re watching away from your home on a phone, tablet or laptop, and:

  • You plug your device into the mains; you’ll be covered if that property already has a TV Licence (e.g. you go to a friend’s house and they have a licence). Otherwise, you’ll need to buy a separate TV Licence for that property.

  • If your device is not plugged in (i.e. you’re watching or recording live TV programmes on any channel or downloading or watching BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer, using devices powered solely by internal batteries), you will be covered by your home TV Licence.

If you are watching programmes from outside of the UK, especially important now, there are so many international tv channels available through cable and satellite, and especially the internet; you will still need a TV Licence to watch any TV channels live (broadcast or online), even if these are from outside the UK. This applies no matter what device you’re using.

If you are sure you do qualify for not needing a TV licence, you can then apply to cancel your TV licence and get a refund for any outstanding time left. You can apply to do this here.


  1. Check that you won't need it again before it expires.

  2. Understand and confirm that, unless covered by a licence, you and anyone you live with WON'T LEGALLY BE ABLE TO:

  • Watch TV on any channel via any TV service (e.g. Sky, Virgin, BT, Freeview, Freesat)

  • Watch live on streaming services (e.g. All 4, Amazon Prime Video, NOW, ITV Hub, Sky Go)

  • Use BBC iPlayer*

This applies to watching on a TV - or on any device.

The current cost for a TV licence is £159 for a colour TV and £53.50 for a black and white licence, so that's a decent saving, but falsely claiming you no longer need a licence isn't advised; it is an offence under section 363 of the Communications Act 2003 to watch live on any channel, TV service or streaming service, or use BBC iPlayer on any device, without a valid TV Licence, those found to be still using licence fee required programming, face prosecution plus a fine of up to £1,000 (up to £2,000 if you live in Guernsey), so it's false economy to blag the system!

If you or someone you live with are over 74 and receive Pension Credit, you can apply for a free TV Licence. Pension Credit can be in the licence holder's name or their partner’s name if they are a couple.

Images in this article are courtesy of Unsplash and are used under the Unsplash License.

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