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Licensed to kill… or watch, at least

It may come as a surprise to many, but in England, a person cannot watch TV unless (s)he is licensed to do so.

Yep, you need a license – £135 per year for a color television – if you want to enjoy this most obvious of the modern amenities.

I actually knew that a long time ago, but did not pay much mind to it, expecting some form of a bill in the mail. It finally arrived a few days ago. Somewhat belatedly, it was the act of me buying a TV at a specialty store that triggered the process. The fact that we previously bought a TV on eBay did not register with authorities, nor did the purchase of a satellite TV package more than half a year ago. But the bureaucracy did catch up with me. The letter in the mail very politely stated that I should avoid being caught watching TV without a license, and advised me to buy one as soon as possible.

The purpose of the license is to provide subsidy for the five public broadcast channels, which one could catch even on an aerial antenna. The overwhelming portion of the subsidy goes to the BBC, which is doubly revolting to me, as their news coverage has an obvious anti-American slant. But there is no provision for denouncing the public channels and thus exempting oneself from the TV-license law. Want to watch TV? Then pay! Paraphrasing one of my new friends, “Damn socialists!”

I do not know that for a fact, but I think my license will be valid for a year since the date that I bought it on, meaning that I might have gotten away with breaking the law for about 8 months. Neither the letter, nor my British acquaintances suggest that there is a process to recover fees for past unlicensed periods. I heard of substantial fines for the absence of licenses, but was also assured that there are always prior warnings to get the license, of which my letter is an example. If so, then there is a lesson in illegal behavior (call it play-dumb procrastination) in here somewhere…

Anyway, from this point on, I am a law-abiding non-citizen again. At least, until my driving license expires, but that is a storyline for the future…


  1. artemka

    Like the catchy name of this post…
    Just out of curiosity, how much is the license to watch a black-and-white set?

  2. Ilya

    So, that is why I meet many foreign visitors to England – undoubtedly, most of them avid readers of my blog – who insist of putting on a blindfold every time they are near an operating television! They cannot figure out the implication of “in their own home” by themselves…

    The masses are eternally grateful that you came to the rescue and set things right. Well done!

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