The UK is the only place that I've heard of having a TV licence. My understanding it is funds commercial free tv on BBC.
In the US, the people own the airwaves. They are "loaned" to the broadcast TV people and those stations must meet certain requirements about news, educational tv, and have restrictions on language, scrabble related activities.
PBS is commercial free. It is funded by grants, and donations.
"basic cable" has more freedom about language and scrabble. They pay fees to the broadcast stations to rebroadcast them*. You have to pay a fee, usually based on Tiers.
Premium stations cost and and pretty much have no restrictions.
* These rebroadcast fees are why the broadcast stations are suing Aereo and similar companies. I am a cord cutter. I tried a digital antenna but had problems getting certain stations. Aereo came to Houston. I pay $12.00 a month to rent a remote digital antenna and DVR. I can record 2 shows at a time up to 60 hours storage. I use that Hulu, netflix, and amazon instant to get my TV. I use a roku to get my shows on my TV via the internet. So far the broadcasters have lost their suits.