Is a TV licence required if I only use my TV to watch DVDs?

Anyone in the UK who watches TV has to pay a license fee every year. The money raised from this is used to fund the BBC. This is a matter of much controversy, made significantly worse by the tactics used by “TV Licensing” in trying to hunt down and executedeal with people who don’t pay. Tales of invasions of privacy, intimidation, and general all round nastiness abound online. This is not the place to rehash those, or even the concept that just because they declare that it’s their “standard practice” to turn up at your home and demand access to prove you’re not doing something illegal that you have to let them or that they have any right to do so whatsoever.

Instead I’m going to focus on one simple question that seems to have lots of people confused. More and more people are giving up on broadcast TV altogether, and buying or renting all their TV shows on DVD to watch. So, do they still need a licence?

TVL et al have been very successful in their misinformation campaigns here, as numerous people seem to think that the answer is “yes”.

The true answer is remarkably difficult to find, but is buried rather deeply on the BBC’s website in the section where they publish their responses to Freedom of Information queries. Of course these are published as PDFs to make it less likely anyone will stumble over the information, and, just to make it even more difficult, the PDFs are image scans, so Google etc can’t even index the underlying text.

So, as a public service, here are the steps to convincing yourself (or others) that you don’t need a license if you only use your TV to watch DVDs:

  1. Visit
  2. Find response SR2006000623 – TV Licence Requirements
  3. Download the PDF
  4. Read the answer to question 2: “Is a TV licence required for a television that is used for playing DVDs and videos (i.e. not for receiving or recording broadcasts)?” [you may also need the context of answer 1: “A licence is not needed simply because a television receiver is owned”]

Next week: How to deflect accusations of shady behaviour by doing everything under a name of an entity that doesn’t really exist in any legal form…

30 thoughts on “Is a TV licence required if I only use my TV to watch DVDs?

  1. I think you’ll find that the BBC releases a lot of it’s programmes on DVD. These are not available free to license payers who’s money funded the production, nor is there any form of discount for license payers.

    Only watching DVD says nothing the level of your funding of the BBC.

  2. Since I live in the Republic of Ireland, I do not know the details of the UK laws regarding the BBC licensing. But I am of course aware of the basics. And as a regular listener to BBC Radio I also hear way too many silly ads for ever new and easier ways to pay one’s TV license.

    Here in Ireland the license is directly connected to the TV set. So it appears that just by owning a set one would have to pay the license, even if one would only use it for watching DVDs.

    As I have no interest in TV and am not willing to pay for something that I do not use, I do not own a TV set for more than ten years now. I love good films though. So I watch my DVDs on my computer.

    News I get from the radio and via the internet, and it appears that I am a lot better informed than most people who watch TV.

  3. Not sure if you’ve seen this site:

    Its the story of one guy who decided a few years ago to stop watching TV, and to buy any programmes he wanted on DVD/VHS.

    There is a (very long) collection of “interesting” (or aggressive, depending on your viewpoint) letters from the BBC/TVL people (it turns out they are one and the same, despite what they’d have you believe), and includes some good information on what the legalities of the subject actually are.

  4. I wonder if severing the aerial cable, or taking down the aerial itself, can help the cause of people who only use TV for DVDs and don’t pay the licence fee.

    If the dread ‘visit’ happens, and inspectors are shown a severed cable or cannot identify an aerial, their own observations might be able to be used against them in court, since they would have to confirm there was no reception link to broadcast material.

    Perhaps they would argue that a severed cable COULD be reconnected the minute they were gone and therefore still constitutes reception potential.

    There has to be a way round this for people who genuinely only use TV for DVDs and are being bullied into funding a service they never use.

    Any test cases on this? Any successful tried and tested strategies?

  5. It would appear as if the TV Licensing Agency supports other media channels. But the truth is…it doesn’t, As a statement that was sent to me from itv; They do not recieve any funding from the licensing agency that is why they choose advertising. The Channels with no ads involved recieve no license funding what-so-ever. So is the BBC Lying to the tax payers. I would just like to point out that the Government take no part in the license because it is down to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The object for 2009 is to scrap the TV License alltogether ready for when the public go digital. “YOU ARE PAYING TO VIEW VIA SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE.”

  6. Indeed. It seems that they’ve both reorganised this part of the site (the relevant disclosure log is now at, and also updated it to a more recent selection of requests, none of which deal directly with this.

    There is, however, one regarding using a TV solely to listen to digital radio which is itself rather interesting as that cuts out the often mooted claim that if you don’t watch TV (but only DVDs) you should detune it. AFAIK there’s no obviously simple way to set your TV up so that you can only listen to digital radio but not watch digital TV.

    I’m taking this as quite a strong statement from the BBC then that the burden is going to clearly be on them to show that you were actively watching or recording broadcast TV, and that the fact that you merely have a setup that provides you with the ability for you to do so is not enough. (Of course, we already know that that’s the position, but it’s the clearest acknowledgement of it I’ve seen from them recently.)

  7. Just to let you know that the link in your article doesn’t work any more, and putting “SR2006000623” in the search box on the page that does appear finds no results. A google search for the same thing finds this blog first followed by only three or four other sites, all of which now have dead links.

    Any idea whether this is because of a change in the law or just to stop people from finding the information? (And how about doing another FOI request through, so the result will be publicly archived?)


  8. I personally was shocked when I moved to UK from USA. I could not understand that people here are obligate to pay so much money for nothing. BBC is complete crap for me. They do not have anything competitive with private free TV. All they show is like 19 centuries programs . Complete nonsense for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. government not involved? i should coco, of course its a perfect medium for mass control, and get the suckers to pay for it, , yeh and keep dame judi and all the other leeches in luxury as a spin off, what a laugh. john lennon summed up the masses correctly.

  10. Nice idea, but the link to the BBC site reveals nothing – either the freedom-killers have removed the offending document or there’s a typo in the link. Keep up the good work though, we do not have to allow the TVL people onto our property, let alone into our home – they’re agency staff working on commission and they will never darken my doorstep.

  11. @David
    Hello, i’ve only fairly recently discovered this discusion forum, and I apologize for any unwanted intrusion on my part. If you still require that BBC document “SR2006000623” (The BBC’s Sent Response to an FOI request)I have it in pdf format. I can provide it as an attachment in an email if you want.
    You might find this site very interesting indeed and a excellent source of BBC licence-related responses to numerous FOI requests:

  12. On top of this now, the big media (not BBC) has petitioned the government (successfully) to do it’s bidding re: copyright enforcement. That’s right, our tax dollars are being used to prop up the failing business model of an industry that refuses to adapt and embrace new technology. It’s just so infuriating….

  13. I have recently changed viewing habits to JUST DVD , on my very Old tube. I am keen to learn of the document “SR2006000623” ( The BBC’s sent Response to an FOI request). I would respectfully ask anyone who has access to this info tp pease send me a copy on my yahoo e mail , if at all possible. I think this site IS GREAT :D Keep up the good work ;D

  14. After my partner was made redundant then bankrupt we asked about concessions for TV Licence NONE of course BUT we got a letter stating it was our right to use TV monitor for DVDs and Vidoes so long as we didn’t recieve live broadcasts – we unplugged the aerial. POSSIBLE to get a neighbour/friend to video fav shows??? WE CHOSE to buy cheap DVDs and join a rental club.
    AS 60,000 go bankrupt every year in UK HOW LONG CAN THE POOR AFFORD to FUND THE RICH?

  15. ayo.. this is what i just found on the tv licence site……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it’s being broadcast. This includes the use of devices such as a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder.
    It costs £145.50 for colour and £49.00 for a black and white TV Licence.
    Pay for your TV LicenceFor your home

    To understand your specific TV Licence needs, please select the relevant category.
    StudentsTenants and lodgers Aged 74 and overCare home residentsBlind/severely sight impairedArmed forces personnelSecond homeMoving homeFor your business or organisation
    To understand your TV Licence requirements, please select a category from the following list.

    Ask TV Licensing a question A TV Licence is not just for TV sets

    Watching TV on the internet……You need to be covered by a licence if you watch TV online at the same time as it’s being broadcast on conventional TV in the UK or the Channel Islands.
    Video recorders and digital recorders like Sky+You need a licence if you record TV as it’s broadcast, whether that’s on a conventional video recorder or digital box.
    Mobile phonesA licence covers you to watch TV as it’s broadcast on a mobile phone, whether you’re at home or out and about.

  16. so basically u dont need a tv licence if u DO NOT watch live tv (as its being broadcasted) on either ur tv or any other gadgets that are out there.. same goes for recording.. so if ur like me and just use ur tv for dvds, ps3, xbox and internet, catchin up online etc, 40d and them tings there.. u dont need a dam licence.. so when they come to ur yard tell dem to fukk offf

  17. My mum was getting worried about TV Licence due to the fact that she’s refusing to pay for it anymore. In question to the links, I managed to do a quick scanning search and found the documents. I’m not sure if they’re the exact same ones, but these were the nearest ones I could find. Hope this helps :)

    There’s a whole list of questions at this site:

  18. I know people say you don’t need a TV licence for DVD’s/VHS ect, but what about if you don’t watch BBC at all? i prefer ITV ect, and thinking of getting cable anyway so is there a way to block all BBC channels so i don’t have to pay them?

  19. firstly damien if you are watchin any uk tv station you have to pay for licence so blocking out bbc if possible makes no differance [if its live tv you are watching] however if you only watch caqtch up services on tv or internet or phone and nothing live then no licence is needed also if just using tv to watch dvd video or bluray no licence required

    i updated tv licensing with my situation in august renewal time they sent me a non license so to speak they say they may do a visual check and then send a letter again in 2 yr time

    but i askede many questions before i did there form for not paying and all came back as not needing a licence thoughg to be safe i told them yuers i have 3 freeview tvs but all 3 i have deleted all c hannels in them and taken off all cables

    they said makes no differance as long as you dont watch anyting live then thats good enough for them

  20. I think is unfair to pay tv licence for people which watch foreign channels only. I mean satellite dish etc…

  21. I’m understanding this now but have one other question. If you have a contract with BT Vision, Sky, Virgin or whoever. You’re normally locked into that for the duration, a year, two years or whatever. If, in the middle of the contract, you decided to give up live broadcasted tv and disconnected boxes, receivers, satellite dishes or whatever, would the fact that the actual contract was still live cause you problems with the claim that you no longer watch live tv?

  22. James if you disconnected your box so you had nothing to recevie a signil on then no you wouldnt need a licence. The TV licence inspector will want to check that you dont have anthing connected and if at all possible WILL find a way to make you look like youve been trying to pull fast one, so DONT have any boxes laying around the house uf and when they knock. You just have to make sure there is nothing you could pick up a TV signil from connected to your TV. Watching DVDs/ playing games consoles, or even watching BBC iPlayer or a simular catch up service is fine and your dont neew a TV licence. Even after you disconnect your box/ dish etc and rhey see you cant receive TV as it is broadcast this more than likely wont stop them for long though. They will leave it a few months then be back to their harassing letters and visits to your home months wanting to prove you dont have a watch TV all over again. So if and when you prove you dont have the necessary equipment to receive tv as it is broadcast you should remove all implied right of access in writing and if they continue to call round seek legal advice about taking them to court.

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