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26th May 2019

Colour TV is 50 – but some Suffolk viewers still watch in B&W


This Saturday (July 1st) marks 50 years since the first colour transmission on the BBC, but new figures from TV Licensing reveal more than 8,000 homes across the UK still enjoy programmes in black and white.

The TV Licensing B&W Index, shows large urban areas hold the majority of black and white TV Licences, with more than 1,500 homes in London watching in black and white, followed by 377 in Birmingham and 276 in Manchester.

Almost 70 postcodes dropped out of the Index in the past 18 months, including Thetford and Southwold, as entire suburbs convert to full-colour viewing. A further 313 postcodes across the UK boast a sole black and white viewer in their community.

Ben Craig, TV Licensing spokesperson London and South East, said: “It is striking that in an era of HD TV and spectacular true-to-life pictures, there are still more than 8,000 viewers, including 46 in Suffolk, content to watch spectacular programmes like The Night Manager and Planet Earth in monochrome.

“Whether you watch in black and white on a 50-year-old TV set or in colour on a tablet, you need to be covered by a TV Licence to watch or record programmes as they are broadcast. You also need to be covered by a TV Licence to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer, on any device.”

While the figures reveal there may be life in the oldest TV equipment yet, BBC statistics indicate emerging technologies are changing the way many of us watch TV.

Fewer than 500 families had a colour TV set in 1967 when Australian John Newcombe took the Wimbledon Mens’ title in 1967. Comparatively, more than 9 million people tuned in to watch Andy Murray contest the title last year, with BBC iPlayer recording the highest unique browser reach on record, with an average of 19.9 million unique browsers weekly across June 2016.

Jeffrey Borinsky, an electrical engineer and collector of antique television and radio sets from London, said:
“Television in the UK started just over 80 years ago, the first proper TV service in the world. For the first 30 years you had no choice, you watched in glorious black and white.

Then in July 1967, when David Attenborough controlled BBC2, a lucky few could watch in colour. Starting with Wimbledon, a whole range of programmes then followed, from Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation” to snooker. The UK was first in Europe but the Americans had had colour for over 10 years.

So who’s still watching in black and white? There are still over 8,000 black and white licences in force. Many enthusiasts in the UK lovingly restore and use old black and white TVs, there is something magical in re-creating history. Do you know somebody who only uses a black and white TV?”

A TV Licence is needed to watch or record live TV, or watch or download BBC programmes on iPlayer. A licence costs £147 and can be bought in minutes at tvlicensing.co.uk/SouthEast

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