It may be hard to believe, but more than 9,000 people in the UK are still watching black and white TV.

Nearly 50 years after the former BBC Two controller David Attenborough raced to broadcast colour TV in the UK ahead of his German television colleagues1, 9,356 black and white licences are still in force across the UK.

Despite the switchover to digital transmissions and an increase in the use of HD televisions as well as tablets and smart-phones to access TV content, some UK households are shunning the attractions of 21st Century technology.

The number of black and white licences issued each year has, however, steadily been declining. In 2000 there were 212,000 black and white TV Licences in place, but by 2003 that number had shrunk to 93,000 and in 2006 the number stood at less than 50,0002.

Jason Hill, spokesperson for TV Licensing, said:

It’s astounding that more than 9,000 households still watch on a black and white telly, especially now that over half of homes access TV content over the internet, on smart TVs3. Whether you have the latest 4K TV or a black and white set from the 1970s, however, if you are watching or recording live television, then you do need a TV Licence.

Jeffrey Borinsky, a television and radio technology historian, commented:

There are hundreds of collectors like myself who have many black and white TVs; some of them are purists who won’t have this new-fangled colour TV in the house. We like the glow of valves, rich sound and wonderful warm smell of these old sets. It’s simply pure nostalgia and the joy of seeing old equipment still working in the internet age.

Older people who grew up with black and white still love it and don’t see why they should throw away their perfectly good set to get colour they don’t even want. Unfortunately even the youngest black and white sets are over 20 years old and very few people now mend TVs at all. In a few more years this group will have gone to TV heaven.


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

City Mono licences in force Sep 2015
1. London 2,222
2. Birmingham 429
3. Manchester 313
4. Glasgow 193
5. Leeds 151
6. Liverpool 145
7. Nottingham 123
8. Belfast 100
9. Sheffield 89
10. Bristol 85

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 time as they’re shown on TV or live on an online TV service, and can be bought online in minutes