Television licensing in the United Kingdom (historical)

The first broadcasting receiving licence was introduced in 1904 to cover the reception of radio broadcasts.

Historical timeline

Amateur radio reception licensing

The introduction of receiving licences was implemented by the General Post Office (GPO) using powers within the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904. Section 2 of the Act allowed the Postmaster General to charge for the issuing of licenses permitting the "experimental" receipt of radio transmissions. The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904 was introduced as a temporary measure, and required annual extensions by Parliament until replaced by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1924.

A return made to Parliament in June 1906 showed that in the first two years of operation only sixty eight receiving licences were issued. By April 1913 the number had, according to figures then released by the GPO, risen to two thousand.

The First World War resulted in all licence holders receiving notice on 1 August 1914 from the Postmaster General that they were required to dismantle their receiving equipment, their broadcast receiving licences having been suspended.

In 1920, the Post Office licensed a small number of experimental transmitting stations, making general broadcasts.

BBC

At the instigation of the Post Office, the British Broadcasting Company was established in October 1922 by a group of radio manufacturers to produce radio programmes for the users of their products. Initially the broadcasts were funded by the sale of radio receiving sets, and carried sponsored programmes.

As part of the agreement with the Post Office, the Postmaster General started to apply a condition to broadcast receiving licences that the equipment used be "Type Approved by Postmaster General" and marked with the BBC logo.

Initially, the fee for receiving licences was 10 shillings, and remained at that rate until after the Second World War.

With the forming of the public British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927, the Post Office dedicated nearly the entirety of licence fee income to the funding of the BBC.

Television

The standard broadcast receiving licences covered reception of the BBC's 405-line television service between November 1936 and September 1939 at no additional cost.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 led to the suspension of television broadcasts in the UK.

The television licence was introduced in June 1946 to coincide with the post-war resumption of the BBC service the same month. Television licences always included a licence to receive radio broadcasts.

From 1971, only the reception of television transmissions required a licence, and radio-only licences ceased to be issued .

Colour television

The colour television licence (actually a "colour supplementary fee" of £5 on top of the existing monochrome licence) was introduced in 1968, following the commencement of BBC2 colour transmissions the previous July.

Changing cost of the licence fee

The costs of the various licence fees have been increased over the years, and while this has often been done annually, there have sometimes been gaps of varying length, which will have resulted in an overall lowering of income in real terms to the BBC, sometimes at times of high inflation. The green line on the chart shows the computed split between radio:TV licences before 1970, and the split between colour:black-and-white from 1970 onwards, as indicated by the numbers shown in the lower table number of licences issued. The computed split is the simple value for the total of the licences issued (at whatever price) divided by the number sold.

DateRadio onlyMonochrome TVColour TV
cash
Colour at
2013 prices[1]
November 1922£0.5 (10s)
June 1946£1£2
June 1954£1£3
August 1957£1£3 + £1
Excise Duty
October 1963£1£4
August 1965£1.25 (£1 5s)£5
January 1968£1.25 (£1 5s)£5£10£151.70 £170.35
January 1969£1.25 (£1 5s)£6£11£159.38 £177.83
July 1971£7£ 12£155.04
April 1975£8£ 18£156.69
July 1977£9£ 21£126.34
November 1978£10£25£129.89
November 1979£12£34£163.11
March 1985£18£58£155.79
April 1988£21£62.50£145.87
April 1989£22£66£142.94
April 1990£24£71£140.47
April 1991£25.50£77£143.9
April 1992£26.50£80£144.11
April 1993£27.50£83£147.18
April 1994£28£84.50£146.30
April 1995£28.50£86.50£144.74
April 1996£30£89.50£146.23
April 1997£30.50£91.50£144.94
April 1998£32.50£97.50£149.33
April 1999£33.50£101£152.35
April 2000£34.50£104£152.36
April 2001£36.50£109£156.92
April 2002£37.50£112£158.59
April 2003£38.50£116£159.63
April 2004£40.50£121£161.70
April 2005£42£126.50£164.38
April 2006£44£131.50£165.61
April 2007£45.50£135.50£163.63
April 2008£47£139.50£162.64
April 2009£48£142.50£168.10 £187.74
April 2010£49£145.50£162.93 £183.24
April 2011£49£145.50£154.87 £174.17
April 2012£49£145.50£149.70 £168.79
April 2013£49£145.50£145.50 £163.80
April 2014£49£145.50£141.71
April 2015£49£145.50£138.92
April 2016£49£145.50£136.30

The licence fee is frozen in cash terms at its April 2010 level until April 2016. Historical price conversion as per RPI figures from "Office for National Statistics - Dataset selector". Retrieved 2013-08-24., RPI projections from "Bank of England - Publications - Numerical Parameters for Inflation Report Probability Distributions for CPI Inflation and GDP Growth". Retrieved 2013-08-24..

Number of licences issued

The number of licences on issue at 31 March or 1 April by year is as follows:

YearTotalIssued free to
blind persons
Radio onlyRadio + B/W TVRadio + colour TVOver 75sConcessionary
19272,269,6445,7502,263,894N/AN/AN/AN/A
19282,482,87312,2342,470,639N/AN/AN/AN/A
19292,731,87214,5052,717,367N/AN/AN/AN/A
19303,092,32416,4963,075,828N/AN/AN/AN/A
19313,647,72221,3043,626,418N/AN/AN/AN/A
19324,621,80531,5134,590,292N/AN/AN/AN/A
19335,497,21735,8505,461,367N/AN/AN/AN/A
19346,259,65339,2246,220,429N/AN/AN/AN/A
19357,011,75341,8686,969,885N/AN/AN/AN/A
19367,616,82244,3807,572,442N/AN/AN/AN/A
19378,127,63646,4758,081,161N/AN/AN/AN/A
19388,588,67649,7308,538,946N/AN/AN/AN/A
19398,968,33852,6218,915,717N/AN/AN/AN/A
19408,951,04553,4278,897,618N/AN/AN/AN/A
19418,752,45450,5558,701,899N/AN/AN/AN/A
19428,683,09847,4568,635,642N/AN/AN/AN/A
19439,242,04048,3999,193,641N/AN/AN/AN/A
19449,554,83848,1249,506,714N/AN/AN/AN/A
19459,710,23046,8619,663,369N/AN/AN/AN/A
194610,395,55147,72010,347,831N/AN/AN/AN/A
194710,777,70449,84610,713,29814,560N/AN/AN/A
194811,179,67652,13511,081,97745,564N/AN/AN/A
194911,747,44853,65411,567,227126,567N/AN/AN/A
195012,219,44856,37611,819,190343,882N/AN/AN/A
195112,369,02758,16111,546,925763,941N/AN/AN/A
195212,753,50660,10511,244,1411,449,260N/AN/AN/A
195312,892,23161,09510,688,6842,142,452N/AN/AN/A
195413,436,79362,38910,125,5123,248,892N/AN/AN/A
195513,980,49662,5069,414,2244,503,766N/AN/AN/A
195614,261,55162,7458,459,2135,739,593N/AN/AN/A
195714,525,09962,4537,496,3906,966,256N/AN/AN/A
195814,646,35061,3876,494,9608,090,003N/AN/AN/A
195914,736,41357,7845,423,2079,255,422N/AN/AN/A
196015,005,01154,9584,480,30010,469,753N/AN/AN/A
196115,176,72550,8523,858,13211,267,741N/AN/AN/A
196215,372,21946,7823,491,72511,833,712N/AN/AN/A
196315,698,99143,3713,212,81412,442,806N/AN/AN/A
196415,884,67940,3372,959,01112,885,331N/AN/AN/A
196516,046,60334,3552,759,20313,253,045N/AN/AN/A
196616,178,15631,4992,579,56713,567,090N/AN/AN/A
196716,773,20529,6622,476,27214,267,271N/AN/AN/A
196817,645,82127,5642,529,75015,068,07920,428N/AN/A
196917,959,93324,9662,438,90615,396,64299,419N/AN/A
197018,183,71922,1742,279,01715,609,131273,397N/AN/A
1971 (1)(2)15,943,190N/AN/A15,333,221609,969N/AN/A
1972 (1)16,658,451N/AN/A15,023,6911,634,760N/AN/A
197317,124,619N/AN/A13,792,6233,331,996N/AN/A
197417,324,570N/AN/A11,766,4245,558,146N/AN/A
197517,700,815N/AN/A10,120,4937,580,322N/AN/A
197617,787,984N/AN/A9,148,7328,639,252N/AN/A
197718,056,058N/AN/A8,098,3869,957,672N/AN/A
197818,148,918N/AN/A7,099,72611,049,192N/AN/A
197918,381,161N/AN/A6,249,71612,131,445N/AN/A
198018,284,865N/AN/A5,383,12512,901,740N/AN/A
198118,667,211N/AN/A4,887,66313,779,548N/AN/A
198218,554,220N/AN/A4,293,66814,260,552N/AN/A
198318,494,235N/AN/A3,795,58714,698,648N/AN/A
198418,631,753N/AN/A3,261,27215,370,481N/AN/A
198518,715,937N/AN/A2,896,26315,819,674N/AN/A
198618,704,732N/AN/A2,679,39616,025,336N/AN/A
199722,000,000N/AN/A500,00020,800,000N/A700,000
199822,300,000N/AN/A400,00021,300,000N/A600,000
199922,800,000N/AN/A300,00021,900,000N/A600,000
200023,300,000N/AN/A200,00022,400,000N/A700,000
200123,400,000N/AN/A100,00019,700,0003,100,000500,000
200223,800,000N/AN/A100,00019,900,0003,600,000200,000
200324,100,000N/AN/A100,00020,100,0003,700,000200,000
200424,500,000N/AN/A100,00020,400,0003,800,000200,000
200524,700,000N/AN/A100,00020,600,0003,800,000200,000
200625,000,000N/AN/A100,00020,800,0003,900,000200,000
200725,100,000N/AN/A33,00020,900,0004,000,000200,000
200825,248,000N/AN/A28,00021,081,0003,953,000186,000
200925,364,000N/AN/A24,00021,154,0004,000,000186,000
201025,459,000N/AN/A19,00021,171,0004,088,000181,000
201125,594,000N/AN/A15,00021,235,0004,156,000188,000
201225,706,000N/AN/A12,00021,306,0004,206,000182,000
201325,783,000N/AN/A9,00021,351,0004,251,000172,000
201425,879,000N/AN/A8,00021,367,0004,328,000176,000
201525,959,000N/AN/A7,00021,420,0004,362,000170,000
201625,997,000N/AN/A7,00021,441,0004,363,000186,000
201726,234,000N/AN/A6,00021,667,0004,385,000176,000
201826,239,000N/AN/A6,00021,611,0004,455,000167,000
201926,183,000N/AN/A5,00021,408,0004,603,000167,000

(1) Owing to industrial action within the Post Office the figures for licences in force (at these dates) do not reflect the true licensing position on those dates.

(2) Radio only and combined radio & television licences were abolished on 1 February 1971. From this date television only licences have been issued.

See also

References

  1. UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
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