THOUSANDS of people across West Lothian have been caught watching television without a licence.
TV Licensing have revealed that more than 3400 licence dodgers were caught in West Lothian by their inspectors in 2010.
This compares to more than 1100 in East Lothian, more than 1200 in Midlothian and more than 5800 in Edinburgh.
Places in West Lothian where the most evaders were caught include Livingston (more than 1200), Bathgate (more than 1500) and West Calder (more than 190).
The telly licence dodgers were among more than 71,200 people caught watching TV illegally across Scotland.
But the television licensing authority are warning that no-one can escape paying the licence fee.
The average evasion rate across the UK remains at a low of just over five per cent, meaning that almost 95 per cent of properties are correctly licensed.
Fergus Reid, TV Licensing spokesperson, said: “It’s not fair on the vast majority of people in West Lothian who pay their licence fee for some people to watch TV without paying.
“We try to give people every chance to get on the right side of the law, but ultimately if they fail to pay, we will take action.”
A colour TV Licence costs £145.50 and is required by anyone watching or recording TV programmes as they are shown on TV, whether they are using a TV set, computer, or any other equipment.
TV Licensing have over 30 million UK addresses on their database and can tell at the click of a button which addresses are unlicensed – detection is now only a matter of time for those who do not have licences.
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 £1000.
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 tool.
Fergus Reid added: “We take television licence evasion very seriously, and any householder or business caught watching TV without a licence can face a prosecution and a fine of up to £1000.
“We do understand that some people may find it difficult to pay their licence fee in one go, which is why we offer numerous ways to spread the cost, including monthly Direct Debit, which can be set up very quickly online, and a weekly or monthly cash payment plan.”
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 69 per cent of payers.