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Questions and Answers

The information below is taken from scans of BBC letters provided under the Freedom of Information Act.

1) Whether non-TV owners need to notify TVL/BBC

2) Whether a TV licence is required for the simple possession of a television

3) Whether a TV licence is required for a television that is used for playback only (i.e. watching DVDs and videos)

Note: this answer does not appear on the TVL website. Here is a screen shot from that site that deals with the same question: - 1 December 2006  

Is the statement - that people "need to notify us in writing" - true?

4) Whether unlicensed persons are obliged to reply to TVL/BBC letters

The following conclusions can be drawn from the above information:

First, letters from TVL/BBC can ask for a response, but they cannot compel. Their letters can be ignored. A householder's need for a licence arises only if he or she undertakes an activity that is licensable (watching or recording broadcast television); if not, there is no need for the householder to communicate with the licensing authority.

Second, the expression "TV licence" is a misnomer, since a TV does not require one (otherwise, they would be issued when the TV is sold). The licensing requirement is for the receiving of television broadcasts. This includes satellite and overseas broadcasts, as well as domestic terrestial channels. A licence is not required for the ownership of a television, or its use for DVDs, video games, etc.

The legislation is worded:

(1) A television receiver must not be installed or used unless the installation and use of the receiver is authorised by a licence under this Part.

(2) A person who installs or uses a television receiver in contravention of subsection (1) is guilty of an offence.

(3) A person with a television receiver in his possession or under his control who -

(a) intends to install or use it in contravention of subsection (1), or

(b) knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that another person intends to install or use it in contravention of that subsection,
is guilty of an offence.

(Communications Act 2003, chapter 21, part 4)

Update August 2009: TVL/BBC has provided the following information to anti-TV licence campaigner Vladimir Bukovsky, who owns a television able to receive broadcasts, but pays no licence fee. The information is in the form of three letters, the first two of which assure him that he is under no obligation to buy a licence, unless he watches broadcasts.

These statements may come as a surprise those who have believed previously that a TV need only be installed for receiving broadcasts to be subject to licensing requirements, as opposed to used.

Nevertheless, the 3 August letter explains that Section 363 of the Communications Act 2003 must be read in conjunction with Regulation 9 of the Communications Regulations 2004, which refers to installation or use of apparatus for the purpose of receiving television programme services. If one does not intend to watch broadcasts, then installation ceases to have that purpose.

Mr Bukovsky received a third letter which underlines this: