Heather's Monthly Articles

U.K. TV License Fee

April 2017

The British Government wasn’t joking when it announced back in the fall that they’d be increasing the cost of the television license from April 1st of this year. Admittedly it’s not a huge increase, just £1.50 (about $2), but it’ll bring the cost of watching television up from £145.50 pounds (roughly $183) per year to £147 ($185).

There are exceptions though in which hipsters and old folk seem to fair best. For those who have black and white television sets for instance, the increase is just 50 pence and they can watch to their hearts content at the bargain viewing rate of £49.50 ($62) a year.

Folk over 75 don’t have to pay anything. And boy do they take advantage of it. According to statistics the over 65s in the U.K. reportedly spend almost six hours a day in front of the telly; more than twice as much as people half their age. Meanwhile those who are registered as blind are given a 50% discount. Seriously.

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The compulsory license fee is a huge generator of income for the BBC, bringing in almost £4 billion pounds annually. No wonder their program costumers can afford to dress their actors in such opulent vintage outfits when required, some of which can cost as much as a thousand pounds an outfit. Whereas the BBC’s competitors who rely on advertising have been known to resort to purchasing their props from the British equivalent of a dollar shop, or using local art students to help create their sets.

Every household with a television, even if they never tune into the BBC, has to have a license. It’s an age old tradition that was started with a £2 fee back in 1946 when the BBC was the country’s only broadcaster. Although paying a license fee actually goes back to 1923, when those owning and operating a radio set were charged ten shillings (about 5 cents) a year for the privilege. In February of 1971, the requirement for people who only had a radio (including car radios) but not a television to pay a license fee was abolished. Since that time broadcast licensing laws have remained pretty much unchanged, but in September of last year, non-television owners who chose to watch BBC programs on their phones or computers were also required to purchase a television license.

How the BBC knows who is using the internet to watch the Great British Baking Show is as mysterious as who gets to eat the show’s leftover cakes. According to the BBC they have a "range of enforcement techniques". The only one known currently though is the honor system, whereby the on-line viewer is asked via a pop-up menu whether or not they have a TV license. Not having one, and clicking "yes" to finding out whether you’re being fooled by the BBC could result in a £1,000 pound (about $1,200) fine. And that’s no joke.

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