Television licensing in the United Kingdom (historical)

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

Historical timeline[edit]

Amateur radio reception licensing[edit]

The introduction of receiving licences was implemented by the General Post Office 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 replace 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 dismantled 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[edit]

At the instigation of the Post Office, the British Broadcasting Company was established in October 1922 by a group 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[edit]

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 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[edit]

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[edit]

TV Licence 1946–2016 at 2013 prices

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.

Date Radio only Monochrome TV Colour TV
cash
Colour at
2013 prices[1]
Nov 1922 £0.5 (10s)
Jun 1946 £1 £2
Jun 1954 £1 £3
Aug 1957 £1 £3 + £1
Excise Duty
Oct 1963 £1 £4
Aug 1965 £1.25 (£1 5s) £5
Jan 1968 £1.25 (£1 5s) £5 £10 £151.70 £151.32
Jan 1969 £1.25 (£1 5s) £6 £11 £159.38 £157.97
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 £166.77
April 2010 £49 £ 145.50 £162.93 £162.77
April 2011 £49 £ 145.50 £154.87 £154.71
April 2012 £49 £ 145.50 £149.70 £149.94
April 2013 £49 £ 145.50 £145.50 £145.50
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[edit]

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

Year Total Issued free to
blind persons
Radio only Radio + B/W TV Radio + colour TV Over 75s Concessionary
1927 2,269,644 5,750 2,263,894 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1928 2,482,873 12,234 2,470,639 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1929 2,731,872 14,505 2,717,367 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1930 3,092,324 16,496 3,075,828 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1931 3,647,722 21,304 3,626,418 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1932 4,621,805 31,513 4,590,292 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1933 5,497,217 35,850 5,461,367 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1934 6,259,653 39,224 6,220,429 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1935 7,011,753 41,868 6,969,885 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1936 7,616,822 44,380 7,572,442 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1937 8,127,636 46,475 8,081,161 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1938 8,588,676 49,730 8,538,946 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1939 8,968,338 52,621 8,915,717 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1940 8,951,045 53,427 8,897,618 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1941 8,752,454 50,555 8,701,899 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1942 8,683,098 47,456 8,635,642 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1943 9,242,040 48,399 9,193,641 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1944 9,554,838 48,124 9,506,714 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1945 9,710,230 46,861 9,663,369 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1946 10,395,551 47,720 10,347,831 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1947 10,777,704 49,846 10,713,298 14,560 N/A N/A N/A
1948 11,179,676 52,135 11,081,977 45,564 N/A N/A N/A
1949 11,747,448 53,654 11,567,227 126,567 N/A N/A N/A
1950 12,219,448 56,376 11,819,190 343,882 N/A N/A N/A
1951 12,369,027 58,161 11,546,925 763,941 N/A N/A N/A
1952 12,753,506 60,105 11,244,141 1,449,260 N/A N/A N/A
1953 12,892,231 61,095 10,688,684 2,142,452 N/A N/A N/A
1954 13,436,793 62,389 10,125,512 3,248,892 N/A N/A N/A
1955 13,980,496 62,506 9,414,224 4,503,766 N/A N/A N/A
1956 14,261,551 62,745 8,459,213 5,739,593 N/A N/A N/A
1957 14,525,099 62,453 7,496,390 6,966,256 N/A N/A N/A
1958 14,646,350 61,387 6,494,960 8,090,003 N/A N/A N/A
1959 14,736,413 57,784 5,423,207 9,255,422 N/A N/A N/A
1960 15,005,011 54,958 4,480,300 10,469,753 N/A N/A N/A
1961 15,176,725 50,852 3,858,132 11,267,741 N/A N/A N/A
1962 15,372,219 46,782 3,491,725 11,833,712 N/A N/A N/A
1963 15,698,991 43,371 3,212,814 12,442,806 N/A N/A N/A
1964 15,884,679 40,337 2,959,011 12,885,331 N/A N/A N/A
1965 16,046,603 34,355 2,759,203 13,253,045 N/A N/A N/A
1966 16,178,156 31,499 2,579,567 13,567,090 N/A N/A N/A
1967 16,773,205 29,662 2,476,272 14,267,271 N/A N/A N/A
1968 17,645,821 27,564 2,529,750 15,068,079 20,428 N/A N/A
1969 17,959,933 24,966 2,438,906 15,396,642 99,419 N/A N/A
1970 18,183,719 22,174 2,279,017 15,609,131 273,397 N/A N/A
1971 (1)(2) 15,943,190 N/A N/A 15,333,221 609,969 N/A N/A
1972 (1) 16,658,451 N/A N/A 15,023,691 1,634,760 N/A N/A
1973 17,124,619 N/A N/A 13,792,623 3,331,996 N/A N/A
1974 17,324,570 N/A N/A 11,766,424 5,558,146 N/A N/A
1975 17,700,815 N/A N/A 10,120,493 7,580,322 N/A N/A
1976 17,787,984 N/A N/A 9,148,732 8,639,252 N/A N/A
1977 18,056,058 N/A N/A 8,098,386 9,957,672 N/A N/A
1978 18,148,918 N/A N/A 7,099,726 11,049,192 N/A N/A
1979 18,381,161 N/A N/A 6,249,716 12,131,445 N/A N/A
1980 18,284,865 N/A N/A 5,383,125 12,901,740 N/A N/A
1981 18,667,211 N/A N/A 4,887,663 13,779,548 N/A N/A
1982 18,554,220 N/A N/A 4,293,668 14,260,552 N/A N/A
1983 18,494,235 N/A N/A 3,795,587 14,698,648 N/A N/A
1984 18,631,753 N/A N/A 3,261,272 15,370,481 N/A N/A
1985 18,715,937 N/A N/A 2,896,263 15,819,674 N/A N/A
1986 18,704,732 N/A N/A 2,679,396 16,025,336 N/A N/A
1997 22,000,000 N/A N/A 500,000 20,800,000 N/A 700,000
1998 22,300,000 N/A N/A 400,000 21,300,000 N/A 600,000
1999 22,800,000 N/A N/A 300,000 21,900,000 N/A 600,000
2000 23,300,000 N/A N/A 200,000 22,400,000 N/A 700,000
2001 23,400,000 N/A N/A 100,000 19,700,000 3,100,000 500,000
2002 23,800,000 N/A N/A 100,000 19,900,000 3,600,000 200,000
2003 24,100,000 N/A N/A 100,000 20,100,000 3,700,000 200,000
2004 24,500,000 N/A N/A 100,000 20,400,000 3,800,000 200,000
2005 24,700,000 N/A N/A 100,000 20,600,000 3,800,000 200,000
2006 25,000,000 N/A N/A 100,000 20,800,000 3,900,000 200,000
2007 25,100,000 N/A N/A 33,000 20,900,000 4,000,000 200,000
2008 25,248,000 N/A N/A 28,000 21,081,000 3,953,000 186,000
2009 25,364,000 N/A N/A 24,000 21,154,000 4,000,000 186,000
2010 25,459,000 N/A N/A 19,000 21,171,000 4,088,000 181,000

(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[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.

External links[edit]