5 reasons why you can cancel your TV licence tomorrow

May 5th, 2009 82 Comments By Paul Smith

The BBC may be as British as shepherd’s pie, queuing and Dick Van Dyke, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy parting with £142.50 for a television licence. The concept of paying for a paper television licence is not only antiquated, but increasingly unnecessary in this uber-shiny digital age.

What would you miss out on if you didn’t one one? Aside from live events on television, very little. Whether you’re an impoverished student, an infuriated pensioner, Noel Edmonds or just tight with the notes, here are five reasons why you can manage without a TV licence, or even a TV:

Radio is as free as a bird

Strictly speaking BBC radio isn’t free – all BBC output is funded by the television licence – but the proliferation of radio tuners – both analogue and digital – plus its availability online and in mobile handsets means you won’t be taken to court for listening to the Archers in the shower.

pic one 5 reasons why you can cancel your TV licence tomorrowThere’s an abundance of news content available from other sources

Fifteen years ago, if there was a disaster occurring in the world, you’d usually hear about it first on the radio, and you’d keep listening up until the point you could find a television. Now, breaking news is available online before anywhere elsewhere – not only on established websites such as BBC and CNN, but also on Twitter from the likes of tourist Janis Krums, which is changing the game again. Online streaming mean news and weather reports are available on-demand, so there’s not much reason to turn on the News At Ten.

You don’t need a licence to watch the BBC iPlayer or other non-live services

A quirk of tv licence’s outdated legislation is that it only covers live broadcasts. That means for on-demand services such as the BBC iPlayer that show content after it’s appeared on live television, you don’t need a licence – a point made by the BBC in both their guidelines for watching programmes on a mobile device and on the BBC blog of Ashley Highfield, former Director of BBC Future Media & Technology.

The BBC iPlayer has access to hundreds of hours of television are available to watch online, for free. Some shows aren’t available because of rights issues, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Programmes from across all the BBC’s analogue and digital stations are available for up to seven days on the iPlayer.

picture 2 300x167 5 reasons why you can cancel your TV licence tomorrowThe rules mean not only are BBC programmes free to watch online after broadcast, but so are shows from other broadcasters; there’s the ITV Player, Channel 4′s 4 On Demand and 5′s Demand 5. All three services offer programmes from across their schedules for free, for 28 days. You need to register with 5 before you can use their service, where you also have to option to rent and buy programmes.

Sky offers two services – a live TV service and TV on Demand. Although you don’t need to be a Sky subscriber for the live TV option, there is no mention of requiring a television licence – in fact the blurb actively encourages you to watch the service “at work… or even a wi-fi hotspot”. Strictly speaking however, watching a live television service requires a TV licence. Regardless, you’re not missing out on much – neither one will let you watch Bauer kick terrorists in the face on Sky One. Meh.

What you can’t find On-Demand, you’ll find somewhere else

The DVD recently celebrated its tenth birthday in the UK, and now accounts for nearly 90 per cent of all film and television sales. Demand has driven pricing into the floor, meaning you can pick up plenty of titles and box sets for a few quid. Again, no need for a television since most computers have a DVD player, although you’ll obviously have to sit out if you own a MacBook Air.

There’s also the likes of iTunes for picking up brand new television shows and film releases; there are occasional sales on classic and older titles, so it’s worth a snoop now and again.

There are alternatives to a widescreen television

So you’ve got all this digital content to watch – what do you watch it on? No TV doesn’t mean you have to go without the big picture. 32″ and 42″ widescreen monitor are readily available, and while they still cost several hundred pounds, they’re not so absurdly priced that they can’t be considered as a replacement for a television.

Comments (82) Jump to most recent comment
  1. Posted by Kate April 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I agree with Tink esp, along with others that believe the licence should be a sliding scale according to income. I live with my partner who earns under 15k and I’m a student. Its so difficult for us to pay our other bills never mind £140 on top. Which may be cheap for some but is especially expensive for us.

  2. Posted by Hmm May 29, 2010 at 4:31 am

    Why should people who earn a bit more have to pay more for the same service? The whole point in having more money is that you can have more. It may be expensive for you, but maybe you shouldn’t pay for it if you can’t afford it?

    Why punish those who earn a bit more because they do have a bit more money? Next you’ll be suggesting changing food prices according to income.

    Everyone should pay the same for the same service. That’s the fairest system. If someone is richer then they should be able to afford a TV license and then maybe an Iphone on top of it.

    TV licensing should be more clear on the rulings. Because am I right that if it’s not an item plugged in to the wall then it doesn’t require a license? (hence why pocket TVs never need licenses). And I’ve heard a rumour that you don’t need licensing for live stream on the internet because it’s been published onto a public domain. Don’t slate me for this, I’m just saying what i’ve heard, I honestly don’t know.

    Most of us whinge when advert breaks come up every 15minutes and so a TV License stops that! and also allows for BBC to create some good programs etc. Yer a lot aren’t great but then they have produced some classics. Also, BBC have a much higher quality sports coverage than say ITV and ESPN (though they show sports more rarely).

    Tax is a good thing, people should stop whinging about that too. Tax is what funds teaching, the police, NHS and all over government based services. Besides money isn’t technically ours anyways! I’m pretty sure in England it all technically belongs to the Queen?

    Anyways, we should be more appreciative of what we have. At least we can watch TV y’know, some people in the world couldn’t even afford a cheap TV set.

  3. Posted by mrmolecatcher June 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    check out the site http://www.tpuc.org, there’s a lot of good info on there about how corrupt the bbc is, they’ve been receiving millions of pounds from the people behind the EU and that is a breach of the royal charters rules, also have a look at a talk by john harris called its an illusion, gold dust info, peace.

  4. Posted by wotan June 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Why is there no opera or classical music on any BBC channel? Is the BBC a cultural desert?

  5. Posted by angus cooney August 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I can buy TVL online but I cant quit my TVL online, what’s up with that?

  6. Posted by nick August 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Television sucks,the media are brain washing you all,buy a woodburner and some candles and read a book

  7. Great text and nice blog.

  8. Posted by ripmeoff August 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm


    I find this whole tv license thing to be quite bizarre and an infringement on basic rights. The government is making you pay for the right to

    access the free flow of information. Then they send enforcement squads around to scare you into compliance. Is this Russia or the UK? What business do they

    have to tell you what devices you use on your own property? It’s also regressive because a poor person has to pay as much as a millionaire. I would suggest

    that someone start a mass campaign in which millions refuse to pay the fee. It would so overwhelm the legal system that enforcement could never be

    accomplished. I watch BBC on demand video over here and I don’t pay any fee. Now is that fair?

    I dont watch bbc (jonatan ross,eastender,never mind the b….wath a lot of rubbish)+a lot repeat.but I watch ch 4 itv or Italy with a dish .I dont anderstand way I

    had to pay a licence so all those bbc managers the pay multymilion wages to them self for that crap they produce should be to us to decide

  9. Posted by Stupid Stu October 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Well its an age old argument this, and my opinion is it is wrong. As someone mentioned earlier you dont shop at tescos and pay asda as well. It is essentially immoral. Far as im concerned technology could easily be intergrated that could monitor whether the bbc is being watched or not. Even go as far to not let you recieve that signal unless you have paid for a license. It is a completely corrupt system that we have allowed to happen.

    If the BBC/government started putting information rolls of toilet paper and they said that you have to pay toilet paper license to wipe your arse with the information, would you do it. Answer is no, we have been very much tricked, we are essentially paying the fee to wipe our minds with shit.

  10. Posted by gus85 December 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    i think they should just make it like a the sky packages if u dont want it u dont get it

  11. Posted by Richard January 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    lol at all these comments, it’s a conspiracy!

    thank you mrmolecatcher for this awsome crackpot consiperacy site: http://www.tpuc.org

    Stupid Stu points out that “we have been very much tricked, we are essentially paying the fee to wipe our minds with shit”

    I personally already got bored of my tv when broadband finally made it to my exchange all them years ago, now I just trawl the internet and post comments in message boxes. However IF I had a tv i don’t think £140 is expensive, it’s just the lack of choice that people really don’t like. If there’s one thing the British public don’t like, it’s being told what to do :)

  12. Posted by Gemma L October 25, 2011 at 12:07 am

    £145 is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

    £15 a month!! Most people spend that like nothing and those poor students complaining!

    I am a student and it means that one night a month I’ll stay in with my tv instead of getting leathered!!

    And if people actually paid for their licence it wouldn’t be as expensive!!

  13. Posted by Ian October 26, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Problem I have with the tv licence is like with all licences, there is no choice. What I mean is, if you find a cheaper electricity or gas supplier you can switch, if you find petrol cheaper at asda then esso you get it as asda, there are less expensive clothes in primark, all the supermarkets have price checkers, products can be bought cheaper through on line retailers blah blah blah etc etc. if everyone in the uk who wanted to opt out of a tv licence by having the bbc services removed from their tv sets did so, the bbc would cease to exist. As a consumer, I want a choice, I want options. And now to top it all off, the bbc are the feeling the financial pressure like the rest of the population and are cutting services but not price, in fact, it won’t be long before, just like chocolate bars, the price will go up and you’ll get less product for more money. They should also offer different packages such as, if you need bbc between .8am and 11pm you pay one price but if you want the bit between 11pm and 8 am you pay extra, or even, pay per program so eastenders will cost you a pound per episode, if you want to watch dr who that could be £1.10 or something like that, it’s all possible in the digital age

  14. Posted by D Cosgriff November 29, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Someone should organise a rebellion, people who dont want to pay the TV licence, and agree, that they do not want to watch BBC at all on their television should have the right not to watch and the right not to pay. They should have a method where if you dont subscribe to the BBC just as on SKY, Freeview, Virgin, you cant gain access to the channels you dont pay for. The other option is to introduce advertisements Wonder what the Courts of Human Rights would thing about this situation, has anyone tested this in the Court of Human Rights.
    This is a rrrip off Britain in more ways than one, its seems also the are trying to get rid of the middle class, maybe it will be the ELITE, and Just the Surves in the future.

  15. Posted by Noel Edmonds December 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    The license is necessary as it contributes towards the poor wages the bbc struggle with, for example the BBC last year were noted to have a mere 382 staff earning more than £100,000, with as many as 58 earning more than the Prime Minister’s £194,250-a-year wage. Thats very sad indeed! A “100k list” obtained by The Sunday Telegraph in 2010 showed that the total cost of the high earners’ salaries was the equivalent of the television licence fees paid by 400,000 tv owning households. However, the BBC refused to disclose the names of the majority of those on the list, or say what they do to justify their salaries. Its not as if they have to, as THE BBC WORK HARDER THAN ANY OTHER COMPANY IN THE WORLD.

    Some may argue that in our age of virtually infinite choice of media and tv channels other than just the BBC, that their licence fee is unfair and cruel. Yes, thats around £8 million a day from the public – approximately £3 billion a year, but it goes towards AMAZING SHOWS on the BBC, despite our ever expanding world of choice in our digital FREEview age.

    Ok, £3 billion is a LITTLE excessive, but with our.. sorry.. THEIR poor wages and programmes that you just KNOW need a little more money each year in order to get better, when you watch the bbc you’ll still consider their channels in being the best!!!

    LOL ;) x x x

  16. Posted by David Stamps December 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Its dosent take an iota of common sense to work out that the BBC is now a politically motivated broadcaster. Most of the BBC’s broadcasts are comprised of total B*******. and trash, brainwashing c***.

  17. I agree with wotan and mrmolecatcher and hmm needs to read more, especially on the matter of ‘money’ as few people really understand what it is.

    Check out my own blog for a complete understanding of the deception and look at the other links people have suggested to you here. Then you will be informed.

    “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.” – Justice of the Supreme Court, William O. Douglas

  18. Posted by Gvido December 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I want to see news regarding flooding in UK. But because of my struggle with income I am forbidden by law to watch it. Thanks BBC I can just wait until floods come and sink my head.

  19. Posted by Bitter Truth January 23, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    After all BBC is a network which got footage from Libya / Syria from the insurgents and called them freedom fighters which till date they never boradcasted or published news from the official ruling government…

    Now you can assume what this network is all about.

  20. Posted by Topcat April 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Can’t be botherd with explaning why we shouldn’t have to pay , what I do want to say is I don’t pay a licence fee and haven’t for quite some time, if everyone got online and didn’t feel the need for instant grat, the latest news is at your finger Tips, buy yourself a computer/monitor , get a package…the sooner the better, the BBC is going to fizzle out one day, just give it a few years, people are getting sick of extortion, and when that happens the 100 k gang may have to get a sweat on when their SLKs n JAGs are being repossessed, then they can star in their own sky documentorys of how the demise of a system that well out lived its use, could of gotten away with its criminality for such a long time, long live lord savile hey !!!!!

  21. Posted by shaun watson July 21, 2013 at 8:51 am

    the BBC is government controlled and used for propaganda! it is using OUR money to squander as it feels which is completely wrong! it unethical and illegal so why should we be forced into something we dont want ! it should be a choice whether we want to have a licence, The crap they broadcast is awful and its all repeats

  22. Posted by john January 23, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    i have gotten rid of my tv over a year ago because i was 3 days late buying my tv license
    and brought to court and fined 300 euro
    i told the judge it was not my fault because i was on benefits
    4 guards grabbed and told me if i new what was good for me i,d be quite
    i kept talking and i was walked out by the 4 guards i called them all scammers of the irish people robbing them blind they laugh at me and through me out.
    as of now in Ireland 68% of the people that are in jail, are people who could,ent pay there
    tv licence, this is absolutely crazy it,s time for every one to get rid of there tv
    because every thing you see is lie,s,
    it took me awhile to spot what was going on, but i tell you this take a step back and just see it for you self just get a lap top they hav,ent taxed it yet
    for the sake of your children wake up and lets get together and stop this madness

  23. Posted by Dan February 3, 2014 at 1:15 am

    i dont have a tv but keep getting letters threatening to bring me to court form the bbc licensing authority. I do have a computer but dont even watch iplayer or that, just some live sports streaming from time to time. I take it i dont need a license then ? even if it says you need a licence if you own a computer or certain mobile phones !!!

  24. Posted by Tom Keatings February 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Who do I contact at the BBC to inform them that I will not be paying my TV licence ever again and will not be using there television or radio service ever again,I am no longer prepared to pay for a service I simply do not use.

  25. Posted by Guermide February 23, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I have decided after my sky subscription finishes to stop paying the TVL, 145£ a year is a bit too much for some crap on TV, as long as we are not watching live feed to programmes on TV we don’t need a licence and there is no such a think called high detection machines to get a signal from the TV it’s an urban myth and it’s one of their scary tactics to get people to pay the fees so they can have their bonuses.
    They say if you have got a mobile, laptop, mobile phone in the address you need to pay but they don’t mention if you don’t receive a live feed in those devices you don’t pay, they are disgusting people and nasty.

  26. Posted by mommabear March 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Have just received a call from t.v licensing as i haven’t paid it since November. I pointed out that im currently paying off my gas and electric which i deem more important. I also informed them that although i have sky, I don’t actually watch live t. AS me and my 4 year old rent the movies… or watch catch-up thru my sky box. I still have to pay ot or face prosecution. I opt for prosecution as i refuse to pa for something that i do not want or need.

  27. Posted by Tony Broadhead July 13, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    I am totally confused !!! If I watch commercial tv only ie ITV chan 4 etc.. I dont need a license is this correct? thats why we have commercials.
    So why does the BBC in 2015 not have decoder boxes? and it should be called the BBC license
    So I can own a TV and watch commercial or sponsored TV ie Corrie funded TV free of charge without a license is this correct if not why not?

  28. Posted by Jane Laugher July 22, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    The BBC are paedo protectors. I am getting rid of my TV’s and not paying a licence fee any more. I don’t watch the mind control rubbish. The news they dish out is all lies and fabrication. Mad Rupert Murdoch the Mossad Multi Agent and his Zionist friends are controlling the media and causing wars and killing people and stirring up trouble and causing racism and anti Muslim feeling, when the only terrorists are the Bush family and the 13 inbred satanic bloodline families. Why make these degenerates even richer than they are already.

  29. Posted by mjohn July 26, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    The television licence debate of how many people they have caught and been fined i don’t have a tv licence i used to but just have a standard freeview box which i don’t even use as i was told i need a licence i listen to a radio all day and watch Dvds they should scrap it why should we pay for the BBC when they hid certain celebrities’ goings on

  30. Posted by R W October 9, 2015 at 1:22 am

    We shouldn’t pay for tv. We owe nothing. We are threatened and fined imprisoned or fleeced by who? For what? To watch what by who? How much to who, what do they do with it? Soaps & “news”? Anyone remember window tax, would you pay this government for having Windows still. Wake up. Speak up or let them add it to our poll… Council tax.

  31. Posted by FRAMOB November 30, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve tried all the things that get suggested to stop paying my license not because of money but because I’m deaf (Tinnitus ) and as far as subtitles go they are very very poor amount of times times I’ve actually been able to get the whole story or follow drama’s etc is non existent in fact thinking back i would say last time I was able to was before my hearing deteriorated to it’s present state but these people who don’t pay how do they get away with it ?

  32. Posted by Na December 20, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I think the bbc are afraid of going out of business and are trying to save their ass by scaring people. Will stuff them they are nothing but a bunch of corrupted assholes just another way of making money

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