Some 20 people a day are contacting a Leeds-based debt charity about TV licence arrears, owing an average of £66.
New figures from StepChange Debt Charity show a steep rise in the number of people with TV licence debts.
In 2012, the charity helped 7,593 people with TV licence arrears, owing a collective £500,355. It represents a 56% increase on the number of people seeking help for the same issue in 2011.
The problem is most acute among lone parents.
StepChange Debt Charity is now concerned that people may not be aware of the consequences of falling behind with priority bills like a TV licence.
It is regularly seeing people fined between £100 and £150 for not paying their licences. If the fines are not paid, they could find themselves in court.