Actually, my DH and I recently decided that we were no longer prepared to pay the TV licence, so we have read up on this quite a lot.
In the UK, you are not obliged by law to have a licence just to own a TV. You are only required to pay the licence fee if your television is capable of receiving a television programme signal. Our television is now no longer connected to the aerial, and we only use it to watch DVDs and to play games on the XBox.
However, and this is part of the reason we decided to stop paying, all the publicity material sent out by the TV licensing company suggests that you have to pay in order to own a television set, and that you will be fined if you own a TV and do not pay. In addition, people who have ceased paying, or indeed have never paid because they don't even own a TV, are regularly sent letters from the TV licensing company threatening them with fines and legal action.
I won't go on, because this could stray into political areas quite easily, but the TV licence is something of a hot topic in the UK - you have to pay the BBC (indirectly) even if you don't actually watch any of their programming, but use your TV to watch other terrestrial or satellite channels. Whatever you watch, you have to fund the BBC.
Edited to add: This is why I'm not at all surprised by the attitude of the woman mentioned by the OP...