East: Thousands Caught Evading TV Licence

4 February 2012, 07:24 | Updated: 4 February 2012, 11:48

TV Licensing have released new figures which show more than 2,900 people in Suffolk and 2,800 people in Norfolk were caught watching TV without a valid licence in 2011.

They are among almost 390,000 people caught watching TV illegally across the UK. 

However, the estimated evasion rate remains steady at around 5%, as it has done for the last five years. This means the vast majority of people, or 19 out of 20 households and businesses, are correctly licensed in accordance with the legal requirements.

Pauline Gillingham, a TV Licensing spokesperson for the South East, said:"TV viewing is as popular as ever, with the percentage of households who have a television set at 96.7%, and it's our role to make sure everyone is aware of when they need to be covered by a licence.  On behalf of licence fee payers in Suffolk and Norfolk, we are committed to tackling evasion and enforcing the law amongst the small minority who should pay, but don't. It's only fair.

People are given every opportunity to pay, but, if they fail to do so and watch TV illegally, we will seek a prosecution. The penalty is a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs and a victim surcharge.  Anyone found guilty is also required to buy a TV Licence at £145.50 if they still need one or they could face a second prosecution. It's really not worth the risk."

TV Licensing say they want to make it as easy as possible for people to pay for a TV Licence and therefore offer numerous ways to spread the cost, including Direct Debit and a weekly or monthly cash payment plan. Information to help people decide which payment option will work best for them can be found on the TV Licensing website - www.tvlicensing.co.uk.

More from TV Licensing:

A colour TV Licence costs £145.50 and is required by anyone watching or recording TV programmes as they are shown on TV.

A TV Licence doesn't just cover you to watch TV at home on a TV set. With today's technology, you can watch TV on more devices than ever, whenever it suits you best, including online via a computer, tablet or smart phone.

TV Licensing has more than 30 million UK addresses on its database and can tell at the click of a button which addresses are unlicensed.

An unlicensed address will receive a number of reminder letters and possibly a phone call before a visit from an enquiry officer is scheduled - but if someone is then caught watching TV illegally, they risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

Detector vans and handheld detectors can be used by enquiry officers to check if an unlicensed property is watching TV illegally, but the database is the main enforcement too.

People can start paying their licence fee within minutes by visiting www.tvlicensing.co.uk/info or by calling 0300 790 6112. Direct Debit is the most popular payment method, chosen by almost 70% of payers. 2.3 million people paid via the website in 2010/11, with more than 1.4 million payers receiving an e-licence rather than a paper licence in the post. TV Licensing's cash schemes are also popular, with more than half a million payments paid by text message.

Mike Harris From TV Licensing Speaks To Heart