TV licence evasion figures fall
The new numbers were unveiled in answer to a Parliamentary Question; the DCMS also unveiled a new statistical model to calculate the evasion rate - which should be more accurate, since it includes households, businesses and other premises requiring a licence; previously, only households were included in calculations.
The statistics revealed 23.7 million licences are now in force, as of March 2002; this being a 20% increase over 19.4 million in March 1991. The evasion rate dropped from 12.7% in 1991 to 7.9% in 2002 under the new statistical model; the BBC estimates that the 2002 figure under the old model would have been around 4-4.5%.
Zarin Patel, Head of Revenue Management at the BBC - which took over as Licensing Authority from the Home Office in 1991 - said: "Of course, calculating evasion can only ever be an estimate, as the figures on which the evasion rate is based (i.e. number of licensable premises and penetration of televisions) are only ever estimates in themselves.
"We are actively targeting areas such as businesses where television penetration has grown and which were not reflected in the old evasion model."
Discussing the rise in TV licence ownership, Patel continued: "The rise in the figures is due to the increase in the size of the "universe" of television ownership the model now reflects - more than one million licensable premises have been added.
"What is important is that the figures from both models demonstrate a constant reduction in evasion since 1991."
The news comes on the back of growing debate over whether the TV licence should be reduced or even scrapped as the media industry and indeed the public at large debate the future for BBC funding after 2006, the year in which the corporation will be subject to a new Charter. On Monday, the BBC's Director-General, Greg Dyke, came out in support of the licence fee, saying that an alternative subscription model would "signal the end" for the BBC.