TV Licensing: Black and white is still alright

Over 13,000 people in the UK enjoy black and white TV.

Figures released today by TV Licensing reveal after nearly 46 years of colour transmissions, more than 13,202 black and white TV Licences are still in force across the UK in 2013.

Despite the historic switch to digital television last year, and an increase in the sale of flat screen televisions, tablets, laptops and smart-phones over the Christmas period, some homes in the UK just cannot bear to part with their trusty black and white television sets.

The number of black and white licences issued each year has, understandably, steadily been declining. In 2000 there were 212,000 black and white TV Licences issued, but by 2003 that number had shrunk to 93,000 and in 2006 the number was less than 50,000. At the start of 2013, just 13,202 black and white licences were in force across the UK.

Stephen Farmer, spokesperson for TV Licensing, said:

It’s remarkable that with the digital switchover complete, 41 per cent of UK households owning HDTVs and Britons leading the world in accessing TV content over the internet more than 13,000 households still watch their favourite programmes on a black and white telly.

John Trenouth, a Television and Radio Technology Historian, added:

Although 13,202 monochrome licences may sound a lot, it's now a tiny percentage of the 25 million licensed viewers in the UK. The numbers of black and white TV sets in regular use has fallen dramatically over the last few years, hastened by the fact that it's now almost impossible to replace them and by the need to buy a suitable set top box to continue to use them after digital switchover.
The continued use of black and white TV sets, despite the obstacles, is more likely to be driven by economics than by nostalgia. For low-income households the black and white licence fee is an attractive alternative to the full colour fee. There will always be a small number of users who prefer monochrome images, don't want to throw away a working piece of technology or collect old TV sets. Maybe these will still be around in 10 years from now when the number of black and white licences will have fallen to a few hundred - about the same number of black and white sets that were in use on the opening night of BBC television 70 years ago.

According to this year’s figures, London leads the way in black and white penetration, followed by Birmingham and Manchester.

Top 10 black and white cities:

  1. London - 2,715
  2. Birmingham - 574
  3. Manchester - 413
  4. Glasgow - 256
  5. Liverpool - 185
  6. Leeds - 183
  7. Bristol - 180
  8. Nottingham - 161
  9. Belfast - 143
  10. Sheffield - 118

Some black and white TVs may require a colour licence if they can receive and record programmes in colour, for example when using a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) connected to a black and white TV.

The cost of a black and white TV Licence remains frozen at £49 until BBC Charter Review in 2016. A colour licence costs £145.50. A TV Licence is needed if you’re watching or recording programmes at the same as they’re shown on TV, and can be bought online in minutes at www.tvlicensing.co.uk.

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