Over 7,000 People Still Watch Black And White TV In The UK

A TV pitchman presents a product in black and white.
James Steidl / shutterstock

In an age of cutting edge technology which can deliver streaming video from anywhere in the world to a smartphone at your fingertips, it may seem a little strange to consider that some people — thousands in fact — still watch television in black and white. According to Sky News, however, that is the reality for at least 7,000 individuals living in the United Kingdom today.

The numbers were more easily attainable in the British jurisdiction, given that there are laws in place pertaining to households requiring a television license. According to TV Licensing, all residents of the U.K. whom “watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service,” or “download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer” are subject to the licensing fee of £150.50 — just under $200 in U.S. currency. Amusingly enough, laws remain on the books within the TV Licensing legislative apparatus that distinguish the cost of a standard license, the aforementioned £150.50, and a black and white TV license, which costs just £50.50.

As the numbers have been officially tallied, one can assume that all 7,161 households under the purview of the program are paying their dues.

U.K. bureaucrats and attendant law enforcement officials take a lack of a license quite seriously, having caught more than 26,000 citizens just last month in streaming or watching television and video content without having the appropriate TV license. The maximum fine is a whopping £1,000 — £2,000 in Guernsey — and does not include any associated legal fees or further penalties incurred in the process of the violation.

While there may be a certain nostalgia factor to watching over-the-air television broadcasts in monochrome, bringing back memories of classics such as I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver that predate the advent of color television, it remains a small sliver of the overall television watching audience. As TV Obscurities details, adoption of color television was slow, at least in the United States. While early adopters of color television sets began buying them as early as 1954, black and white television sets retained a majority market share up until at least the summer of 1971.

It would be the 1970s that brought the world into color for television audiences, making the black and white sets of the past an obsolete technology — although, apparently, one that some small slice of British citizens continue to cling to today.

As a spokesman for the U.K. TV Licensing organization remarked, “Over half of the UK’s TVs now connect to the internet so it’s interesting that more than 7,000 households still choose to watch their favourite shows on a black and white telly.”