Despite what you may have heard, it is perfectly legal to listen to radio via Freeview, Freesat or a Sky set-top-box without a TV licence.
So, if you're ditching "live" TV to save some money, perhaps making do with just 'catch up' instead, you don't need to get rid of any of your existing televisions, cut any cables or remove your dish or aerial. Nor do you have to de-tune anything (a Sky box, for instance, can't be detuned).
There's a lot of misinformation about this on and off-line, so I understand you might not want to simply take my word for it. So, here it is from the horse's mouth:
Yes, that's right, no TV Licence is required to listen to radio, no matter how you listen to it. And yes, it's also right that the chaps at TV Licensing don't proofread what they publish on the web.
What radio is available via TV that isn't available via, y'know, radio radio?
Glad you asked! Via Sky, or what is know as a 'free-to-air receiver', there's around a hundred. Give or take (skip to the bottom of this regularly updated page here). There's not quite as much via Freesat, and Freeview is probably on a par with what a regular radio would pick up in many cities.
Anyway, back to TV Licensing and the law...
If you aren't paying for a TV Licence, and you do use a televisual device to listen to radio, you'll have to be very careful how you use it to remain within the law.
- Never watch a TV broadcast on it
- Don't accidentally watch a TV broadcast on it
- Never record a TV broadcast on it
- Don't accidentally record a TV broadcast on it
Now, this is where it gets interesting. Most TVs or set-top-boxes automatically tune into the first channel stored on it when it's first turned on, tuned or retuned. Usually there's no way of disabling this or forcing it to go to a channel of your choosing.
So, if your device does this, but you quickly tune away to a radio station, are you still breaking the law? Honestly, I have no idea. And I have a feeling TV Licensing wouldn't be too forthcoming with a clear answer to that question. Just remember, the onus is on them to prove you're watching TV without a licence*. If you're not watching TV without a licence they can't "catch" you.
*They do this not with a detector van, for what it's worth. They prefer the use of glorified salesmen that go by the scary title of 'enforcement officers'. These guys actually work for the 'business process outsourcing company' Capita and work on commission (hence 'glorified salesnen'). They rely on 'evaders,' who don't know their legal rights, self-incriminating themselves. Even if you're legally licence-free, I feel it's best not to talk to them at all. Which is your legal right.