I heard something on The Now Show on BBC Radio 4 that I find simply astonishing. It was so insane that I had to verify if it was in fact true. So, in order to fact check the premise of a comedy piece on the BBC, here is an excerpt from the Guardian:
More than 6,000 homes across the UK still have black and white television licences, half a century after the advent of colour on the BBC.
According to the latest figures published by TV Licensing, London leads the way with 1,311 black and white permits, followed by Birmingham with 323 and Manchester with 245.
Published on the 50th anniversary of colour television on BBC One, the figures show there were 6,586 black and white licences at the end of September this year – a fall of 575 from September 2018 and down from 212,000 at the turn of the millennium.
- The Guardian, 13th Nov 2019
On The Now Show and in The Guardian, this has been presented as fact; without questioning any further.
The reason for my astonishment is to do with another fact which I am in possession of:
The analogue TV signal in Northern Ireland has been switched off, completing the UK's transition to digital broadcasting.
It was the last UK region to switch off its signal, bringing an end to the 80-year-old transmission technology and heralding the dawn of the digital age.
It means anyone watching TV with an analogue signal lost all their channels and Ceefax at 23:30 BST on Tuesday.
- BBC News, 23rd Oct 2012
Here's the reason for my astonishment.
Black and White television was broadcast in analogue using the PAL 625 line standard. Colour TV which was then made compatible was also 625 lines. With the end of analogue television broadcast on 23rd of October 2012 it means that everyone with a Black and White television has seen nothing for 7 years unless they have a set top box.
Who are these people?
I can only assume that they are really old people who do not want to buy a new television, or misers who want to save £102.50 per year, as the black and white annual licence costs £52.00 while the colour licence costs £154.50 per year. It also could be that whoever is paying the TV licence is still paying for an old licence and have been so ignorant that they don't miss the 52 quid leaving their bank account every year.
The far less likely option is that we have moved so far into the digital age that we have people who don't watch terrestrial TV but still want to contribute something for the upkeep of the BBC. That says to me that the BBC is considered to be really really valuable by these people.
The BBC does run 40 local radio stations by region; in addition to Radios 1-6, Asian, 1 and 4 Extra, the World Service and 8 non-English Services in the UK. It makes sense that someone would see value in that.
I really want to know what kind of person pays for a licence, for a televsion upon which it is impossible to see any broadcast unless something extra is done to it. Moreover, I want to be such a person. I like the BBC; I want access to BBC TV out here in the remnants of empire.