This briefing provides statistics on the TV licence fee and general television viewing trends. The Licence fee concessions and payment amounts are set by Parliament under the Communications (Television Licencing) Regulations 2004 (as amended). As described in a September 2017 NAO publication:

“People must be covered by a licence to watch or record live TV on any device, including computers and smartphones”

Currently annual TV licence fee is £154.5 for colour and £52 for a black and white.

Key points

Licence fee revenues reached over £3.7 billion in 2019

TV licence fee revenues grew from £3.51 billion in 2010/11 to £3.69 billion in 2018/19 (in cash terms). During the period between 2010/11 and 2017/18 the cost of TV licences for over 75s accounted for around 16-17% of the total licence fee income from the DWP. In 2018/19, it accounted for 13% due to the BBC partly taking on the funding of TV licence fees for the over 75s.

Licence fee accounts for three-quarters of BBC funding in 2017/18

Total BBC income in 2018/19 was £4.89 billion, 75.5% of which came from the licence fee revenues. The remaining 24.5% or £1.20 billion came from commercial and other activities (such as grants, royalties and rental income).

95% of households own a TV in 2018

In January 2019, around 27.2 million or 95% of all households in the UK owned a TV set. The number of households owning a TV increased by 4.8 times over the last 60 years, compared to 1956 when only 5.7 million or 36% of all households had a TV.

Estimated TV licence evasion rate rose from 5% in 2010/11 to 6.6% in 2018/19

The BBC’s Licence Fee Unit estimates for evasion showed the highest level in Scotland (10%) and Northern Ireland (9%). The evasion rate in England and Wales was around 6% in March 2016.

Additional information

More information about the Parliamentary debate on the TV licence fee is available in the Debate Pack for the Westminster Hall debate on E-Petition 170931 (17.11.2017).

Detailed information about TV licence fee collection, concessions and complaints is available on the TV licencing website.

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