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Saying no to TV saves us £145.50+ a year

Posted by on Monday 6 December 2010 in frugal | 4 comments

Over the weekend, we got a letter from the TV Licensing Authority – a prompt to confirm that our circumstances had not changed, that we’re still not watching TV.

For a long time, the TV Licensing agency’s website was vague – it seemed to suggest that you needed a licence if you owned a TV — it seemed deliberately unclear and phoning the agency wasn’t much better. Now it’s a lot clearer: you only need it if you have a device (including computers, phones, games consoles, digital boxes or recorders) that you use to watch or record a television program as they’re being shown on TV or virtually the same time.

You don’t need one to watch pre-recorded DVDs/VHSs or play games – which is all we use our TV for: we’ve not watched broadcast television for years and years. It saves us £145.50 a year.

(I’m in no way advocating cancelling your TV license if you do watch TV as it’s being shown, on whatever device. As it’s classed as a tax, it’s a criminal offence to avoid paying if you should be. But if you don’t watch television, you can register that you don’t need a licence at http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/noTV )

But the £145.50 is just the tip of the iceberg really. As we’re already using cable services for our landline and broadband internet, chances are, we’d have signed up with our cable provider for TV instead of sorting out a Freeview box or whatever. Our cable provider’s cheapest (non-offer) TV service costs £6.50 a month = £78 a year, but I could see it as a slippery slope – certain channels are only available on the more expensive packages – £11.25 or £23.50 a month… And we’d see a whole lot more adverts and lifestyle inspiration ideas – it’s hard to know how much more that would cost us a year…

For some people, TV – the licence and any monthly cost – is a good deal when you consider it on a per-hour-of-entertainment basis. But for us, it’s not a good deal at all, so we’ve opted out.


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  1. Su

    I LOVE not having a tv! I don’t have a tv at all and haven’t done for about 5 years now I have so much more time to do stuff that I want to. I don’t have a really annoying box sat in my living room. In fact if I go to somebodys house and they do have a tv I now find it incredibly distracting.

  2. kate@livingthefrugallife

    I have wondered about that tax of yours over there. I remember seeing rather minatory signs in the tube that said the government had a list of every British household that had NOT paid this tax. Seemed a bit big brotherish, I must say. How would you prove you weren’t watching your tv if the government came nosing around? Would it be guilty until proven innocent? We don’t have a tv, but we do watch dvd’s (some of them of tv shows) from the library with a projector. In fact, I’m off to go pick up a couple that are on hold for me.

    • louisa

      Hi Kate,

      It doesn’t particularly seem big brotherish to me – they have all the addresses anyway because of the electoral roll/council tax (we tax we pay to our local councils to provide local services like libraries, street lighting and police/fire) but thankfully the govt is too inept to link up exactly who lives where, so it’s about the household, not the person in the house.

      There is a guilty until proven innocent thing – an assumption that everyone has and watches broadcast TV so everyone should pay — it’s very much opt-out than opt-in. While that’s annoying, I guess it’s the most practical way of dealing with it since considerably more people watch than don’t watch.

      As for finding out who is cheating, before computer databases made it easy to check who did and didn’t have a licence with the flick of a switch, there used to be a lot of propaganda about “detector vans operating in your local area” – they would supposedly “detect” when people were watching TV etc. There used to be cartoons of people watching TV in underground bunkers to avoid the vans. But a friend who used to work there told me that’s a load of rubbish – there were vans but they weren’t as magic as they claimed, and there was very very few of them (perhaps 50 in the whole country).

      Nowadays, they have the database, which rules all. If you opt out, they say they might visit to check you’re not fibbing – I suspect they’ll check whether or not you have receiving equipment and whether or not it’s tuned in (we do have a TV but it’s not tuned in to any channels, we don’t have cable or satellite or a receiver for digital TV. As I said, having a TV is fine, watching TV shows on pre-recorded DVDs is fine, it’s watching stuff as it is broadcast that needs the licence).

      In my experience (and that of friends), if you live in a poor area, you’re more likely to get a visit and they’ll be aggressive & assume you’re lying, whereas if you’re in a more well-to-do or generally better educated area, they’re more willing to accept that you don’t watch TV.

      In general, I support the TV licence though for people who watch TV – better than a tax on everyone whether they watch or not, and while I don’t think the BBC is perfect by any means, without having to bow to advertising, it does have freedom to make different types of programmes than commercial stations.

      Cor, long comment!

      -louisa :)

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