Black and white television

The Office for National Statistics reports that, in 2016, 21% of adults in the UK used smart TVs to connect to the internet and watch TV programmes, while the TV licensing authority says that over half of UK homes now access TV content over the internet (a proportion that is sure to grow).

Yet while some of us are catching up on Netflix on our laptops and making the most of the iPlayer on giant HD screens, around 9,000 households in the UK are merrily getting by in monochrome.

A small number when you consider that around 25 million licences are currently in force.

But a not insignificant number when you consider that tech companies stopped manufacturing black and white TV consoles around 40 years ago (although, of course, you can still buy these antique sets on ebay).

For some of its history (from 1936 to 1967) television in the UK was available only in black and white. Colour broadcasts began on BBC2 in 1967, then on ITV and BBC1 in 1969.

To pay for all this new-fangled colour gubbins, the Government introduced colour TV licences in January 1968. They cost £10; twice the price of the black and white TV licence. Today, there continues to be a financial incentive to limit yourself to 50 shades of grey. From April 2017, an annual TV Licence will cost £147, and a black and white licence £49.50.


Even if you have a colour set and licence, you may still see some programmes in monochrome, such as Dad’s Army, pictured above. The first two series were recorded and screened in black and white and the BBC is currently (2017) showing repeats of those 1968 originals.

If you grew up with black and white television, as I did, there will be some shows you will only be able to visualise in black and white. I remained innocent of the fact that Andy Pandy‘s striped suit was blue until the BBC transmitted some colour episodes in 1970 (and they did that only because the 26 1950s versions were almost worn out).

The Man from UNCLE is another one that stays in black and white for me. Ilya Kuryakin will perpetually dash through the tailor’s shop into HQ in an indeterminate dark suit, although only the first (and best) 1964 season of UNCLE was shot in monochrome. Samantha will eternally twitch her nose in Bewitched‘s chiaroscuro, a pale wind will forever blow about the dark Z-Cars, and William Hartnell will always battle the daleks without benefit of a colour palette.

If you’re still watching television in black and white, perhaps you’d also like to listen to the news on the radio in Latin?


Perhaps you could listen to the news while the iPlayer warms itself up…


4 thoughts on “Black and white television

  1. Seems very odd that people are plugging set-top boxes into black-and-white televisions; they’d have to now that the analogue signal has been turned off. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it…


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