Does it cost more to watch TV in hospital than in prison?

13 June 2019
What was claimed

It’s free to watch TV in prison.

Our verdict

In-cell TVs costs £1 per week for prisoners to rent, but they can be removed as a disciplinary measure.

What was claimed

It costs £8 per day to watch TV in hospital if you’re 82.

Our verdict

Costs vary by hospital. In some hospitals in England some TV channels are free for a limited number of hours, or free in children’s wards during the day. In others it can cost £8 per day for the cheapest TV package outside of these set hours, and in some hospitals it is free at all times. We’ve not seen any differences in the cost for adults based on their age.

“Can anyone tell me why it costs £8 a day to watch telly in hospital when you’re 82, but it’s free in prison”.

Twitter user, 11 June 2019

This week the BBC announced that it plans to scrap free TV licences for most people over the age of 75 from June 2020. After that only households with members aged 75 and over, who also receive pension credit, will be eligible for a free licence. The BBC estimates this would be around 1.5 million households. Roughly 4.5 million households received a free over-75s TV licence in 2017/18. A standard TV licence costs £154.50 a year for a colour TV.

Following the announcement there was a lot of discussion about the cost of TV licences and access to television more generally. This included the claim that it costs £8 per day to watch TV in hospital, but in prison it is free.

As part of a privileges scheme rewarding prisoners for good behaviour they can access TV in their cells. This privilege can also be removed as a punishment. A prisoner must pay the weekly rental cost of £1 per week for a television. If prisoners share a cell then the cost will be split between all prisoners in the cell.

Choice is limited to nine channels—BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV3, VIVA, Film 4 and ITV4 (or E4 in female prisons). Prison governors are allowed to change the selection of channels if they wish, but they must not exceed nine and subscription services are banned.

In hospitals the situation can vary from one organisation to the next. The Department for Health and Social Care told us it doesn’t produce any formal guidance on this and that decisions on bedside TV and entertainment packages were made by individual NHS trusts. It added that free TVs are available in day rooms and communal areas in hospitals.

Some hospitals use TV systems provided by companies like HTS or Hospedia. On its website, Hospedia says that some of the TV services it provides are free: children’s programmes in children’s wards during the day for example, or channels one to five in the mornings in adult wards. Other packages incur a fee, for example a wider range of channels, including sports and films.

For example, as of April 2018 at County Durham and Darlington NHS trust, TV was free on channels one to five in the mornings, according to a response submitted by the trust to a freedom of information request. Charges range from £7.90 per day for the “1 Day TV Bundle” through to £24.90 per day for the “3 Day TV & Movies Bundle”.

Other hospitals provide TV free of charge to their patients in all or some wards. Others don’t provide individual TV services to patients and only provide TV in communal areas, free of charge.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.