Do I need a TV licence? Lucy Frazer says a BBC licence fee increase would be too much

 (Andy Hepburn / PA)
(Andy Hepburn / PA)

Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, has said that an increase to the BBC licence fee by almost £15 would "absolutely" be too much. Ms Fraser added she was concerned a "significant rise" in the fee would add to cost-of-living pressures.

For the past two years, the licence has been frozen at £159 but it is due to rise in April in line with inflation.

It's currently expected to increase to £173.30 a year, but Ms Frazer said she was looking at which measure of inflation to use to calculate the rise.

The Prime Minister has also said the BBC should be "realistic about what it can expect people to pay" for the TV licence fee during times of high inflation".

Rishi Sunak said the BBC should "cut its cloth appropriately" and welcomed savings it was looking to make.

Asked whether he thought the licence fee was sustainable, Mr Sunak said: "It's really important that, when things are difficult, everyone is doing what they can to ease the cost of living on families."

The corporation has not confirmed next year's cost but has said that it had previously agreed increases in line with inflation to start from 2024.

Nowadays, you only need a licence if you are watching specific channels in specific ways, but for many this raises more questions than it answers as to whether you actually need a TV licence or not.

We take a look at the rules around them, and help on how to stop paying for something you do not need.

What is a TV licence?

A TV licence is an annual fee that allows you to watch at home and on the go on your TV, tablet, mobile, computer, console or set-top box.

If you watch or record shows as they're being shown on television in the UK, you need to be covered by a licence. You also need one if you use BBC iPlayer, but you won't for other channels' catch-up services.

How do you sign up?

You can sign up online by typing in your postcode. It will then allow you to type in your address, and either register or renew a licence that may have previously been set up on the property in which you live.

How much does it cost?

A TV licence costs £159 a year. You can spread the cost with a Direct Debit or pay by debit/credit card, or via bank transfer. It costs £53.50 a year if you only watch TV in black and white.

What happens if you don’t have one and are watching TV?

TV Licensing can come round to check whether you actually do need a licence – and Money Supermarket say that these inspections often find one in five households do. If you do need a licence, you'll need to pay the full fee, and you could risk prosecution plus a fine of up to £1,000, or up to £2,000 in Guernsey.

Also, while you cannot be imprisoned for TV licence evasion in itself, you can be imprisoned for non-payment of a fine imposed by a court.

I don't watch live TV – can I cancel my licence?

You only need a licence if you actually watch live television, or use BBC iPlayer.

For example, you don't need a licence for on-demand content like Netflix or Prime Video, but you do if you watch live sports or pay extra for one of its live add-ons.

To cancel your licence, fill out TV Licensing's refund and cancellation request form. Once your request is approved, your licence will be cancelled and you'll be refunded (if applicable) automatically. You don't need to cancel your direct debit if you have one, TV Licensing will do it for you. If you pay with a payment card, you'll need to get touch using the TV Licensing contact form.

Anyone who no longer requires a TV licence can fill out a 'no licence needed' declaration form. After this, keep your confirmation email from TV Licensing as proof.

Be aware that, once you've cancelled, you can expect a visit by TV Licensing for an inspection, and will be fined if you do need one.