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Cord Cutting UK Checklist: keeping it legal

The starting point for us here is doing things by the book. Some of the things you need to do to be a Cord Cutter UK can result in a proper criminal conviction if not done properly.

published on UK Free TV

First things first: being legal

In the sight of the law, ignorance is no defence.   Unlike contract law (such as the agreement you may have made with BT, Sky or Virgin Media) you can be sent to prison if you say you can't watch live television and you can.  It does happen.  

So, you need to ensure that you carefully follow the instructions.   If you are not sure, please post a question.  You can't trick the system here.

Things you will need

If you want to watch long form video in your home but not watch OR RECORD live TV you are going to need:

  • access to a decent broadband service that doesn't have a "cap".  Video uses a lot of "bytes" and a capped service will quickly be overcome by hours of online video.
  • a wireless router (or a keen interest in running Category 5 cables), and probably a Chromecast or similar device.
  • the ability to remove TV signal cables (aerial and satellite leads) from your home, or use exclusively computer screens. The latter might be easier when moving into a new home.
  • Optionally a subscription to "over the top" (OTT) video libraries services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.


Many homes may already have all these, others won't be able to, so I recommended reading to the end before cutting anything.

Important: no Live TV means no Live TV!!!

You must NOT watch any live TV channel online.  The law sees this as the same as having a normal receiver.

This applies to ANY TV channel broadcast in the UK, not just BBC ones.   This includes the BBC News channel in the BBC News Apples and Android apps and on the website.

Millions of British people do this every day!   You might like to find yourself a radio station online if you need a quick fix of live broadcast.

You also need to ensure that everyone in the household complies because the no live television applies to every device, be that a games console (XBox, PlayStation for example), mobile phones, laptops  (Windows of Apple) or tablet computer such as an iPad.    Devices belonging to your work still count toward your household, as do devices in the garden (if you have one).  The no Live TV rule also applies even if you are using a public Wifi from within your property.

Even if it is legal, is it fair?

Before you go ahead, are you sure that you and your household really never make use of BBC news, drama, sport, weather, children's?  Yes, you can get around paying, but will your conscience be OK?   Just asking.

Tomorrow: How much can you save, and how much it costs.

Help with Outside the UK?
I have an old sky box and use it for the free channels. Can i resubscribe to act1
If I buy a freeveiw box in England will it work in Spain?2
Can i use my freeview box in Stavanger Norway and what channels will i be able t3
Can I buy a free to view card for 4 and 5 to watch via my Nokia satellite box in4
I use a UK sky card to receive Uk TV in Australia?5
In this section
4+: Channel 4 ad-free for 4 pounds a month after free trail1
Killing Eve, and killing Dirk2
Quiz: How many TV Science shows are on the BBC right now?3
Is the UK television marketplace of 2019 ready for Disney+ and Apple? 4
Will BritBox survive in a Netflix world5
Go for it! What do you do on cutting the cord day?6

Sunday, 5 July 2015
Bill Kocher
7:46 AM

The law must be changed to include all BBC content. Watching the BBC without paying anything is the same as all the illegal torrent downloads of other contents. This content cost money to produce, ehy should ee expect it for free? I'm sure most people don't realise what is is involved in 'not watching live TV. Your articles show it is going to be difficult for most people to prove this.
Removing all aerials, dishes, apps etc.
iI think paying aroung 18p? a day for the great content the BBC gives us is well worth it.
Unfortunaltely this government has it in for the BBC and I think they would love to sell it all off to thier mates at Sky.

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Bill Kocher's 1 post GB
Sunday, 12 July 2015

4:48 PM

If anyone on this site watched the news last week they would know that the chancellor is going to alter the terms o the BBC licence and put and end to this loophole, which I think is fair, cord cutting is just licence evasion. If it was to be allowed to continue where would the BBC get money for making programs?

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MikeG's 31 posts GB
Monday, 13 July 2015
Jamie Jones
9:41 AM

MikeG: Whilst I agree with you with respect to the iplayer loophole, please remember there are some of us out here who have 'cut the cord' both legally and morally.

I am not a tax evader - I simply don't watch TV programmes, 'live' or on catchup/demand.

cheers, Jamie

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Jamie Jones's 5 posts GB
Jamie Jones
9:51 AM

Bill Kocher: I have internet, wi-fi, and a large connected video projector.

I'm also lead to believe that the panel of connectors n the corner of the living room carries both satellite and UHF aerial signals. (It's a new flat - it was only finished 3month ago)

I can't "prove" I don't watch "TV" (by 'TV' I mean 'everything the license covers') - but fortunately I don't have to.

BBC licensing would have to try and prove that I did.

I'm not anti-BBC - I simply don't watch 'TV' .

I will admit though that I don't like the licensing company, and the bullying misleading tactics they use.

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Jamie Jones's 5 posts GB
Sunday, 19 July 2015

4:50 PM

Obviously Jamie if you don't watch TV then you're not a licence evader, but if the situation of the loophole were allowed to continue I can see a large proportion of the licence payers trying this on, resulting in little money being left to make programs. I doubt it will be long before the loophole is plugged.

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MikeG's 31 posts GB
Thursday, 23 July 2015
Jamie Jones
5:29 AM

MikeG: Yes, you're right.

I'm sure I read somewhere that each time the BBC grumble about the loophole, the government hints that the whole license system needs reviewing, causing the BBC to be quiet because they figure an overhaul would be even more damaging than the current situation.

I may have dreamt that though!

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Jamie Jones's 5 posts GB

8:14 AM

Jamie Jones:
The Broadcast Receiving Licence (TV Licence) is required if you have the equipment to receive live TV broadcasts. Just having the signals available from the cables does not constitute having 'receiving equipment' but if you connect a Freeview PVR/TV or a Sky receiver with connection to a display screen you would then need a licence - even if you don't switch it on.
However, currently, if you do not connect a receiver to either the terrestrial TV (the IEC coaxial socket) or satellite (the 'F' connector) outputs but connect a computer to the internet service to use the on-line services such as iPlayer, 4OD, etc that provide TV programmes that are delayed and not live then a licence is not needed. There are suggestions that the 'powers that be' may decide to change that situation.
Note that sellers of broadcast receiving equipment such as TV sets are required to inform TV Licencing of the fact that a set has been bought by someone living at a particular address, which is why they ask.

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MikeP's 215 posts GB
Tuesday, 3 November 2015
12:52 AM

Bill Kocher: I agree with the principle that all BBC content, whether it is live or otherwise, costs money to produce and it is fair enough to charge those who consume it BUT, as
MikeP: points out, the TV Licence is not a fee for consuming BBC content, it is a permit to receive any content from any provider, via the methods he describes, but only the BBC and the state benefit from it.
All of the commercial channels are self funding, via subscription and/or advertising. My question is:
Why should I pay for BBC programs if I never watch them?
I am obliged to to pay with cash for the TV Licence AND with my time to watch the adverts on the commercial channels. If I only watch commercial channels I am essentially subsidising BBC viewers with no benefit to my self.

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RichardW's 8 posts GB
Monday, 15 February 2016
Sally J.
11:09 AM

I write with great respect and thanks for a terrific site. But the advice throughout this page, that merely possessing TV-capable+connected equipment without a licence is illegal, is simply wrong.

You DON'T need to ensure you put beyond use any TV signals. Just don't use them, even briefly or inadvertently.

You can NOT be sent to prison if you say you can't watch live television and you can. Because you are not required to say you can't, only that you don't and won't.

You DON'T need to remove TV signal cables from your home, or use exclusively computer screens. Just don't use them, even briefly or inadvertently. Might as well unplug them from your equipment, certainly (why not, they're unused now). But you don't need to rip them out of the walls.

Merely connecting a Freeview PVR/TV or a Sky receiver with connection to a display screen does NOT alone mean you then need a licence (whether or not you switch it on). Freeview radio stations are still fine to listen to using your TV, for example.

In all cases, a licence is only required if you do, or intend to, watch or record live TV. If you never do or intend to watch or record live TV, than you don't need a licence - no matter what equipment or connections you possess. If you don't unplug stuff (cables or boxes or whatever), then you must make sure you don't accidentally watch live TV, e.g. by turning on the TV while it's tuned to a live channel instead of an non-live AV source such as a DVD player. (Quickly switching to a recorded source isn't good enough).

But you don't HAVE to unplug or remove anything.

Of course if you're faking the 'Cord Cutting' to dodge the Fee, then having everything still connected might look suspicious to a Licensing Inspector (should you invite one in to see). But that's a different issue. If you're genuine, and don't watch or record live TV, even briefly or inadvertently, then your conscience and the law are aligned, not matter what you don't uninstall.

From the official site:

Official TV Licensing website - Live TV and how you watch it

"One simple question makes it easy to know if you need a TV Licence:

Am I watching or recording live TV on any device?

Live TV means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it's being shown on TV or an online TV service. An online TV service is a service that mainly aims to provide TV programmes over the internet, e.g. on a website or through an app or Smart TV.

If you only ever watch on demand programmes, you don't need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they've been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on live TV."

Or in more legal terms (with my capitals):

Official TV Licensing website - Legislation and policy

"Part 4 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to install or use a television receiver TO WATCH OR RECORD ANY TELEVISION PROGRAMMES AS THEY'RE BEING SHOWN ON TELEVISION without a valid TV Licence. It also makes it an offence for anyone to have any television receiver in their possession or under their control who intends to install or use it in contravention of the main offence (above), or knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that another person intends to install or use a television receiver in contravention of the main offence."

It's ONLY what you do, or intend to do, which counts, not what equipment or connections you have.

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Sally J.'s 1 post GB

4:57 PM

Sally J.: 'Of course if you're faking the 'Cord Cutting' to dodge the Fee, then having everything still connected might look suspicious to a Licensing Inspector (should you invite one in to see). But that's a different issue. If you're genuine, and don't watch or record live TV, even briefly or inadvertently, then your conscience and the law are aligned, not matter what you don't uninstall. '

That sounds great in theory, but saying 'I dont watch anything live' whilst having all the equipment and means to do so would invite some questions from the Licencing people. Its a bit like saying 'I dont intend to break into that house' while dressed all in black, with a balaclava and a bag full of tools - your going to raise an eyebrow or two.

The sad reality is that the vast majority of people who claim that they dont need a licence are just faking it. The really sad thing is that they are going to all this hassle for the sake of 45p a day.

Personally, they should have closed the loop hole a year or two back, but the government is still keeping the BBC on the hook.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
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