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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.

You will need to ensure you put beyond use any TV signals.  
  Photograph: Shutterstock
You will need to ensure you put beyond use any TV signals. Photograph: Shutterstock
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.

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Monday, 15 February 2016

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 flag
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Sally J.
7:56 AM

Questions and eyebrows, no doubt. But if you can answer honestly that you don't watch or record live TV, and that the aerial is still connected because you listen to Freeview radio, then that is the end of the matter.

My gripe is that the advice on this page and (I now see) copiously throughout this site, that (expensively and/or inconveniently) rendering equipment unable to receive live TV is a legal requirement, is simply wrong.

As for hassle vs. cost: the only real hassle is if you believe the scare-mongering and incorrect advice. And for many people 146 p.a. is a significant sum (congratulations if it's not for you).

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Sally J.'s 1 post GB flag

12:44 PM

Sally J.: 'But if you can answer honestly that you don't watch or record live TV, and that the aerial is still connected because you listen to Freeview radio, then that is the end of the matter. '

But they wont answer honestly, will they? And speaking as someone who does pay their licence fee, why should they dodge the colunm, just because they say so? Listening to Freeview? If they wanted to do that, they could just have a radio....

145.50 a year equals less than 40p a day per household. For that you get BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 (now, alas, online only due to the need to save money), BBC4, CBBC, Cbeebies, BBC News, plus Red Button (for the moment), plus Iplayer, local and national radio and the website. With no adverts. And any other terrestial broadcaster as well. 40p per day is less than the cost of the average newspaper, and is probably the most cost effective way to get the most entertainment/information for the least money.

And for those who are cutting the cord - they are going to need broadband to watch anything online - how much does that cost per year?

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Saturday, 1 April 2017
3:33 PM

If a TV License inspector turns up at your door don't let them in and don't talk to them. You are under no legal requirement to do either.

Inspectors have been known to make stuff up and get you in court. Don't let them give you the rope to hang yourself.

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David's 20 posts GB flag
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