TV licence: why is the BBC fee increasing, how much will it cost in 2021 - and do I need a licence?

The TV licence fee in the UK is set to rise
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The annual TV licence fee will increase in April this year, it has been announced.

The fee pays for local and national BBC broadcasting as well as online streaming services.

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In January, the UK Government decided to shelve plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence free - so it still remains an offence if you do not pay the bill.

The licence fee pays for local and national BBC broadcasting as well as online streaming services (Shutterstock)The licence fee pays for local and national BBC broadcasting as well as online streaming services (Shutterstock)
The licence fee pays for local and national BBC broadcasting as well as online streaming services (Shutterstock)

So, what exactly is the licence fee, how much is it increasing by - and who is required to have one?

Here’s everything you need to know.

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What is the TV licence fee?

The TV licence fee raises money to pay for BBC shows and services.

That includes TV, radio, the BBC website, podcasts, iPlayer and apps.

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Almost £3.7billion was raised by the licence fee in 2019, which accounted for about 76 per cent of the BBC’s total income.

The licence fee's existence is guaranteed until at least 31 December 2027 by the BBC's Royal Charter.

Watching live programmes without a licence fee is against the law.

In 2018, more than 121,000 people were convicted for evasion, with the average fine being £176.

However the maximum penalty is £1,000.

Why is the fee increasing?

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The government is responsible for setting the level of the licence fee.

It announced in 2016 that the bill would rise in line with inflation for five years from 1 April 2017.

This new rise is the last of the increases, and it is the lowest so far.

From 2022, the government will have the power to set the annual fee again.

How much will the fee increase by?

The licence fee will rise by £1.50.

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This means the full cost of a year’s licence will go up from £157.50 to £159.

In 2020, there was a larger increase when the cost went up from £154.50.

Those who are buying or renewing a TV licence after 1 April 2021 will have to pay the new fee.

If you buy a licence on an instalment scheme which started before this date, such as via a monthly direct debit or weekly cash payments, you will continue to make payments totalling £157.50 until your licence comes up for renewal.

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The cost of an annual black and white licence will rise from £53.00 to £53.50.

The new price works out an extra 43p per day, £3.06 per week, or £13.25 per month for a colour television.

You are able to buy or renew your TV licence online on the TV Licensing website.

What date will the free increase?

The TV licence fee increase will happen from Thursday 1 April 2021.

Who has to pay for a TV licence?

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The law dictates that you must have a TV licence for the following:

- You watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, even if it's not on the BBC

- You watch or stream programmes live on an online TV service such as ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and Sky Go

- You download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer.

The rules apply to any device on which a programme is viewed.

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That means if you watch TV on your desktop or laptop, mobile, tablet or set-top box you still need to pay.

For example, someone who watches a live sports match on a non-BBC channel on a tablet would still need to pay the fee.

However, a licence fee is not needed to view BBC programmes on other streaming services, like Netflix.

You also do not need a licence if you watch non-BBC programmes on online catch up services, as well as viewing videos on platforms like YouTube, according to the government website.

There are different rules and regulations for people, like those who receive pension credit, those who are blind and those who live in care homes or supported housing.