Thousands of UK households still watch black & white TV

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jan 6, 2014

As our industry focuses on the advanced consumer goodies being unveiled at the giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, in the UK the TV licencing authority has released its annual figures on TV licencing.

For those who may not know, the BBC is not funded through either advertising or government grant, but by a TV license which must be paid by every household containing a television set. The vast majority of households watch TV (and pay the license), in part due to the myth of “detector vans” which are supposed to roam UK suburbia electronically sniffing out illicit television viewing (though nobody knows how they are supposed to work and the authority isn’t saying - so it’s safe to assume they don’t).

Be that as it may, fear of the detector vans seems to have kept most households paid up.

But some may have discovered another way to contain TV costs. A citizen might smuggle untaxed TV programming into the household under cover of a ‘Black and White’ TV license at the bargain basement price of just £49. A full colour license is £145.

If the authority thinks black and white licenses might be seen as a handy cover story for full-colour TV-watching, it’s not saying. It simply observes that only 0.04 per cent (11,550) of UK households now hold a black and white license - 48 years after the introduction of colour TV and despite the necessity now of having to obtain a digital conversion box. This year’s B&W total is only about 1000 down on last year’s total of around 13,000. They seem to be sticking at it.

Some observers think there is a ‘hard core’ of viewers who prefer their picture in nostalgic black and white in much the same way as a large segment of music listeners still swear by vinyl. Or perhaps they just like antique TV sets. (Or who are colour blind... Ed)

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