Television licence

From Academic Kids

A television licence is an official licence required in some countries for all owners of a television receiver. Television licensing is common in Europe, Africa and Asia, but not used by sovereign countries in the Americas. It is not used to restrict people from owning a television, but as an annual tax to fund public television broadcasts.




In Austria, the television & radio licence varies in price depending on which state one lives in. All are in euros and are paid annually.

State Television licence Radio Licence
Burgenland 233.76 67.80
Carinthia 255.36 73.80
Lower Austria 243.36 70.20
Upper Austria 206.16 60.60
Salzburg 243.36 71.40
Styria 262.56 76.20
Tyrol 233.76 69.00
Vorarlberg 206.16 60.60
Vienna 242.88 70.68


The licence fee in Denmark is DKK 2 040 per annum for colour TV, DKK 1 310 for black and white TV and DKK 320 for radio.


The licence fee in Finland is 193.95 per annum for TV.


In 2004, the television licence fee in France (mainland & Corsica) is 116.50 and in the overseas departments (where viewers receive RFO rather than France 2-France 3-France 5-Arte) it is €74.31. Source:


The licence fee in Germany is 193.80 per annum for TV and radio.


In 2005, the television licence in Ireland is 152. It is free to anyone over the age of 70 and to some over 66. The licence fee is the primary source of revenue for RT…, the state broadcaster; however, its radio and TV stations also broadcast advertising to supplement this income.


The license fee in Norway is NOK 1 969 per annum (2005). The fee is mandatory for any owner of a TV set, and is the primary source of income for NRK.


The licence fee in Sweden is SEK 1 920 per annum. It is collected on behalf of the public broadcasters by Radiotjšnst.


The licence fee in Switzerland is CHF 450.35 per annum for TV and radio.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, these fees are set by Parliament and go directly to the funding of the BBC, enabling it to run without the need for funding by advertisements. The licence fee, initially for radio sets (exempt since 1971), was mandated by the 1904 Wireless Telegraphy Act. The fee was originally 10 shillings (£0.50) and in 2005 was £126.50 for colour TV and £42 for monochrome TV. There are concessions for the elderly (free for over 75s) and blind people (50% off).

It is believed that approximately 5% of TVs are unlicensed. With the BBC's increased worldwide output (including its online services) there has been a debate as to the abolition of the TV licence, which has been denounced as unfair by competing television companies.

According to the definition of TV receiving apparatus [1], a licence must be obtained for any device which is "installed or used" for receiving broadcasts, which potentially covers devices such as a tuner card in a PC or a portable television. However a television installed and used for some other purpose, such as a closed-circuit monitor, video player or a games console, is exempt provided it is never used for receiving broadcasts.

Enforcement in the UK is done by maintaining a database of all addresses in the country, with electronics retailers being subject to large fines if they do not pass on the addresses of anyone buying television receiving equipment. Addresses with no licence are assumed to have a television, and are subject to repeated mailshots and visits by the enforcement agency, which causes resentment on the part of those with no television. In addition to the database, electronic detectors are used to pick up the small amount of energy re-radiated by the local oscillator in the tuning circuitry. It's open to doubt how well the much advertised detectors would work on a tuner card within the electrically noisy Faraday cage enclosure of a PC: the simpler method of calling round and looking for the aerial or an operating television would seem more effective.

The scheme has been condemned as a regressive tax, in that the very poorest are those least likely to have a licence, and least able to pay the fine for not having a licence. A report ("TV sinners", March 1998) by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux pointed out that failure to pay the fine is the single largest reason for the imprisonment of single mothers. However, supporters of the licence fee claim that it helps maintain a higher quality of programming on the BBC compared to its commercial rivals. Some also claim that it also leads to better programmes on the commercial channels as they seek to draw viewers/listeners away from the BBC's output.

Cash Easy Entry & Monthly Cash Plan

Since the mid 1990's there is a scheme available which was designed specifically for single parents and those claiming an Income Related State Benefits, called Cash Easy Entry. The applicant or potential licensee will contact TV Licensing and register their details. They then receive a plastic swipe card to take to the Post Office or PayPoint and complete weekly instalments for the TV Licence.

There is also a Monthly Cash Plan card based scheme available for those people who:

  • Don't receive any benefits
  • Can't afford a licence in full
  • Don't have a bank account

The Monthly Cash Plan works on the same basis as the Cash Easy Entry scheme and has been designed so as not to discriminate against those that don't receive benefits. Further details can be found on [1] (


The Wireless Telegraphy (Television Licence Fees) Regulations 1991 gives the following definition:

  • The following class or description of television receiving apparatus is hereby specified for the purposes of the definition of "television receiver" in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949[5], namely such apparatus installed or used for the purpose of receiving television programme services, as defined by section 2(4) of the Broadcasting Act 1990, whether or not the apparatus is installed or used for other purposes.

North America

The reasons why the idea of a licence fee never caught on in Canada or the United States bear some differences.


The Canadian public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation lagged slightly behind the private American broadcasters in providing radio and then television service to Canadians. Thus unlike the BBC, the CBC has always had to compete with other English language stations for its viewing audience - or more accurately, for most of its viewing audience. Many, but not all Canadians have access to radio and television signals from stations in the northern U.S. Thus, a licence fee to own a television would almost certainly have been viewed as patently unfair by those Canadians who could only watch one and later two channels, while others would pay presumably the same fee and get four and later five. Moreover, by the late 1950s through to early 1960s, close to every Canadian household would acquire a television set, thus giving the argument that a licence fee is fair to those who do not own a television limited weight. As a result, the Canadian government chose to fund the CBC from its general revenues, although CBC Television also sells advertising to cover some of its expenses.

United States

In the affluent U.S., privately-owned radio (and later television) stations selling advertising quickly proved to be commercially viable enterprises during the first half of the twentieth century, which presumably proved to the American government that it did not need any sort of scheme such as a licence fee to force the end user to pay for the services he or she was listening to or watching. The United States did eventually create the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967, which would eventually be used to help fund the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. However, this endeavour is funded through general revenues, and PBS, NPR and their affiliated stations also receive substantial funding in the form of donations from private citizens.



The cost of the TV licence for a household is S$110. Additional licences are required for radios which is S$27 and TVs in vehicles S$110.


South Africa

The licence fee in South Africa is R225 per annum for TV. The concessionary rate is R65. It is available for:

  • A receiver of a social grant from the State, on the basis of being an aged or disabled person or a war veteran, as defined in the Social Assistance Act of 1992.
  • A person of 70 years or older, as from the beginning of the first licence year after turning 70, subject to certain provisions.



Radio licence fees were introduced in the 1920s to fund the first privately-owned broadcasters which were not permitted to sell advertising. With the formation of the government-owned Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1932 the licence fees were used to fund ABC broadcasts while the privately-owned stations were permitted to seek revenue from advertising and sponsorship. Television licence fees were also introduced in 1956 when the ABC began TV transmissions. All licence fees were abolished in 1974 by the Australian Labor Party government led by Gough Whitlam on the basis that it was an unfair and regressive tax. The ABC has since then been funded totally by government grants, now totalling around $800 million a year.

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