/ Technology

Do you own a black and white TV?

black and white tv

Around 8,000 people in the UK have a licence for a black and white TV. Are you one of them?

We were really surprised to discover that out of the 25.8 million TV licences that were in force in the UK in the 2016-17 financial year, 8,242 of those were for black and white TVs.

And it threw up a big question: how can you only watch TV in black and white?

Analogue TVs

It turns out that you can still use an analogue TV set, despite the fact that the switchover from analogue to digital was completed in October 2012 – although, you need a digital television converter box and a Scart cable.

The box connects to your aerial (which will have to have been upgraded to digital) and your old telly via a Scart lead, and gives you free-to-air digital channels on the Freeview platform.

It makes sense that you’d want to make the most of a perfectly good older analogue TV set. However, any black and white sets still in use must be pretty ancient.

We couldn’t find out exactly when manufacturers stopped making black and white tellies, but our (imperfect) collective memory reckoned the last ones must have been made in the 1980s or possibly the 1990s – if you know more precisely, please tell us!

Black and white TV

I shared this information on Twitter and got some interesting replies. One of my Twitter followers, who served as a Trustee of the BBC until April 2015, said:

If you are really keen to switch to black and white, you can still pick up TV sets on sites such as eBay. We had a look and found several, ranging from a 5.5-inch portable (accepting bids from a tenner) to a rather fabulous orange space-age number for £220.

So we’re intrigued. Are you one of the 8,000 who only has a black and white TV licence? As it costs only £49.50 a year compared to the annual fee of £147 for a colour set, we can see why it would be attractive. Do let us know if you’re one of the last hold-outs – and why.

Comments

I initially started reading this thread about TV licensing but it then deviated to a lot of technical stuff and and has further moved on to nostalgic reminiscing. So I thought I’d add that in the mid 1980’s I bought a very old “posh” B&W television in an auction. It had a wooden cabinet with two hinged doors. On the back was a large lever with the word FOCUS written beside it. When you moved it, the picture became sharper.

Viktor Bishop says:
17 June 2020

Max ruby
Grandfather
Black whale tv snoozy tea Penelope pitstop
London Town
Grandfather mom kids next door zero zombies
Grandma
Grandfather dad father kids next door and his dad father

bill haylor says:
28 August 2020

I only watch 0ne programe for 30 minutes each day, so would prefer black and white cost

Viktor Bishop says:
20 November 2020

Viktor
Numbuh three
Grandpa
Dad father
Bad darim
Mushi
Grandpa dad father father
Kids next door
Crown
Kids next door

Mike says:
10 October 2020

Black and white tv is better than colour and is less straining on the eyes (also cheaper) plus when your watching snooker or football you have to be a detective- which is the red one??
Just a shame no one sells a hdmi convertor that converts colour input to B&W output so everyone could enjoy on new TVs

Mike – On every television set we have owned in recent years it has been possible to adjust the settings to render the picture in monochrome. I assume that is the still the position. It doesn’t mean you don’t need a colour TV licence however.

You say that black-&-white is less straining on the eyes than colour. There is a much wider range of colour gradation and picture intensity on modern televisions so that you can watch colour images comfortably without eyestrain. It is possible to alter the colour balance, brightness and contrast almost infinitely as well to moderate the screen backlight to provide a picture tone to suit your preferences. This can all be done via the remote control from your chosen viewing position so that you get the picture quality you like the most. If it all goes wrong you can restore the default settings instantly and start again.

There used to be much more variation in picture quality between different types of programmes [studio productions, outside broadcasts, videotape inserts and ciné film] and between shots from different types of camera, but I find these variations are now much less pronounced. Consistency across broadcasters and input sources has improved considerably so that even shots from tiny drone cameras are virtually indistinguishable from those from large studio or outside broadcast cameras.

It remains the case that older films made for the cinema and early videotaped material will appear different from the latest pictures because the production technologies and colour rendering techniques have advanced but for many viewers the tones and styles of the period productions is one of their appealing features and often reflects the director’s deliberate artistic style and creation of a mood.