This article is from the The Young Ones FAQ, by Andrew Wong BritCom@audiophile.com with numerous contributions by others.
The BBC does not rely on advertising for its' revenue. Instead any
household that owns a TV in the United Kingdom must pay a licence fee for
the privilege of owning a television. The money is then handed over to the
BBC and used to fund its' programming.
It's illegal to own a TV without a licence so TV detector vans
periodically patrol the streets looking for TV receivers. Then the house
is checked with the TV licence records, and if the house does not have a
licence, the house is in biiiiiiig trouble - a fine of up to 2000 pounds
(US $3000) can be charged. At the moment, a year's licence costs around 80
pounds (US $120)
Students are reknown for not paying their licence. I only got away with it
because I wasn't in when they came knocking at my door !