390,000 viewers caught without a TV licence in 2011

London is the worst offender in terms of total numbers, with at least ten cities having 4,000 or more evaders

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Almost 390,000 people across the UK were caught watching a TV without a valid licence during 2011, according to figures published by TV Licensing.

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That’s around five per cent of the viewing population, or 1 in 20 households.

More than 50,000 evaders were tracked down in the Greater London area, 17,400 in Glasgow, 10,700 in Birmingham, 8,200 in Liverpool and 7,700 in Manchester, with over 4,000 in each of Nottingham, Bristol, Belfast, Hull and Edinburgh.

The report stressed that the majority of households were watching legally, with over 25 million valid licences across the country and the estimated rate of evasion remaining steady.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “TV viewing is as popular as ever, with the percentage of households who have a television set at 96.7 per cent…  

“On behalf of licence-fee payers, we are committed to tackling evasion and enforcing the law amongst the small minority who should pay, but don’t. It’s only fair.”

A colour TV licence costs £145.50 per year, with evaders liable to face fines of up to £1,000. 

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Despite the traditional image of detector vans circling neighbourhoods in search of offenders, its unclear how many are active these days and most evaders are caught by comparing a database of UK households against records of licence holders.