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TV licence sales down by 37,000 – do you need one?

TV licence sales down by 37,000 – do you need one?

Under 26 million TV licences were purchased in the UK during the last tax year – 37,000 fewer than the year before.

In its Television Licence Fee Trust Statement, the BBC admitted the sales figures were "not as strong as expected."

It's the first time in several years that the number of TV licence sales has gone down, and the dip from 25,964,000 to 25,927,000 comes at the same time as the popularity of streaming services such as Netflix is rising.

A standard TV licence costs £154.50/year, but there are several discounts available for certain people, and some may not need to get one at all.

Read on to find out if you can cut your bill, or see our 20+ TV licence fee tips.

Only watch catch-up TV? You DON'T have to pay (unless you're watching BBC iPlayer)

If you don't watch or record live TV or BBC iPlayer and only use other catch-up services or streaming services, you may not need a TV licence at all.

TV licences are only needed to watch or record TV at the same time as it's broadcast, or to watch the iPlayer.

So watching catch-up or on-demand TV using services such as Netflix, Amazon or Now TV, or catch-up services such as All 4 or the ITV Hub, doesn't require a TV licence.

The exceptions are if you're watching the iPlayer, or using other catch-up services to watch live TV.

If you don't need a TV licence, you can cancel – our Do I need a TV licence? guide has full info on how to do it. But remember that if you don't pay and you're caught watching live TV or the iPlayer, you could face a fine of up to £1,000 – so only cancel if you're sure you don't need one.

Over 75? You can get a free licence now – but not for much longer

At the moment, all over-75s can apply for a free TV licence to cover their household – but from 1 June 2020, only over-75s who receive the income-related benefit will be eligible.

From next year:

  • Those who will still qualify for a free TV licence will need to use a "self-verification system" to prove they receive pension credit. The BBC says it will work with older people's groups and support organisations to make the claiming process as easy as possible.

  • Those who will be over 75 but don't receive pension credit will be covered by their current free licence until 31 May 2020. After this they'll need to pay, unless they claim pension credit.

    The BBC says it will set up a new payment plan to help over-75s pay for their TV licences after the new rules come in, which will include options to spread the cost as well as telephone support. See our BBC to end free TV licences for over-75s unless they get pension credit – yet 1.3m eligible households don't claim it MSE News story for more information.

You may be able to get a different discount

If you're not eligible for a free TV licence, you may still be able to get a discount if you meet certain criteria:

  • If you're blind or severely sight impaired or live with someone who is, you'll get 50% off the cost of your TV licence – you'll pay £77.25 for a colour set or £26 for a black and white one.

    To claim, you'll need to send TV Licensing a photocopy of a certificate from your ophthalmologist, or a certificate issued by or on behalf of your local authority. Check the TV Licensing website for full details on how to apply.

  • If you live in a residential care home or sheltered accommodation and watch TV in your room or flat, you may qualify for an 'accommodation for residential care' concessionary TV licence, which costs £7.50 per room, flat or bungalow.

    You and your accommodation will need to be eligible for the discount – TV Licensing has full details about who qualifies. Your care home manager will be responsible for arranging this licence, so speak to them directly if you're eligible.

You can also get a discounted rate if you only watch TV in black and white – a black and white licence is discounted to £52.