Look away now: not everyone watches TV

The industry doesn't like to think about it - and the licensing people can't accept the idea - but there are plenty of people like Matt Salusbury for whom the box plays no part of their lives

Television executives already wincing at their falling advertising revenues can wince a bit more later this month when seven days are officially given over to boycotting the medium.

For me, along with just over one in 50 of the UK population, complying with Turn Off the TV Week won't be a problem - I don't have a telly in the first place.

For some, this boycott is a serious business. From 24 to 30 April, anti-consumerist groups such as Adbusters and White Dot will be leading a campaign targeting pubs and restaurants that choose to distract customers with television coverage.

The activists are planning to go out armed with hand-held remote control devices called TV-B-Gones, which are capable of turning off a TV from up to seven metres. Several thousand of these have reportedly been sold globally. Not great news for those planning to head down to their local to watch the Premiership face-off between Chelsea and Manchester United on 29 April.

The White Dot website, (www.thewhitedot.com) has drawn up a target list under the heading "Supporters tell us where to zap". It includes pubs in Liverpool, London, Brighton and Norwich, a shopping mall in Hertfordshire, a students' union in Lancashire, an Ikea store in Bristol and a hairdresser's in Eastbourne.

The correspondent irked about her former hairdresser's complains: "Used to be a lovely place to relax and get my hair done. I really liked the woman there and what she did with my hair. But now they have TVs on either side, in the mirrors and, when you lean back to get your hair shampooed, on THE CEILING! I'll never go back."

But for those who've not tried it, living without television can be a liberating experience. Many of those already in my position came into their TV-free state of grace through a happy accident. Like myself, most of the half-dozen I interviewed moved into a house with no telly in it, never got around to hooking up a new set and - in a kind of TV-free epiphany - realised they didn't really miss it.

Anti-TV zealots such as "Lorraine", who has three children and thinks it's a "bad influence" on them, are the exception. TV-free people tend to be childless and unconventional. (Opinions not influenced by TV often seem weirdly original to many.) For various reasons, many of them didn't want their real names in print.

One female TV-free friend told me: "Since I left home when I was 19, I have never had a telly. There was always somebody else's telly in the house. Then when I got my own place, 11 years ago, I just didn't miss it. Other people's houses are where I watch telly. The licence people check up on me; they really, really irritate me. They don't believe me. If I watch TV for too long, I feel ill. I don't tend to buy into ads. I've got a selective attitude. You don't miss anything."

College lecturer David Coleridge took his rental TV back to the shop in 1997 when he prepared to go abroad for a long sabbatical. Days later, Princess Diana died, and Coleridge realised he didn't feel the lack of TV coverage at all. Since then, he's never looked back. But, like all the TV-free people I spoke to, this hasn't stopped Coleridge's life from being an intermittent war with TV Licensing, which cannot imagine anybody living without the goggle box.

In a recent doorstep conversation with "Crispin" from TV Licensing, Coleridge told the inspector he was not inviting him in. Coleridge says: "Just because you don't have a telly it doesn't mean you have to let the TV licence guy in."

Non-TV owners generally know that TV Licensing has no power to enter your home without a warrant. I fully expect a knock on my own door after two years of "Read my lips - I do not own a television" explanations. Their attempts to frighten me have been ineffective. Somebody came round when I was out to warn me that the proper TV Licensing squad would be round "with a van and everything" but they never showed up.

TV Licensing's press office admits it has no figures of its own for how many households had no TV, and relied on figures from Barb, the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.

Barb's figures for January 2006 are based on an estimate of 25.8 million "private domestic households" in Britain and show that 25.2 million households owned a TV last year, which means that there are about 600,000 households without tellies. (There are just over two people in the average household.) Barb's figures suggest a slight increase in TV-free households of late - up almost 100,000 from half a million in January 2005. But that's still only 2.2 per cent of the population, insignificant enough for broadcasters and advertisers to sleep comfortably at night.

The overall trend in TV-free households has been one of slight but steady decline since the start of the century, down from 1.1 million in 2001 to less than half a million last year. The Office of National Statistics no longer tracks in detail the acquisition of tellies in its General Household Survey of consumer durables, and assumes that the proportion of households without TVs is still around its 2002 figure of 1 per cent. Market research company TNS's TV Average Reach 2005-2006 figures show that 94 per cent of the population watch TV in an "average" week, so during any given week 6 per cent of us don't bother with the telly at all.

Other evidence suggests that those who do watch are viewing slightly less of it. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's Trends in TV report reveals a peak of four hours' viewing a day in early 2004, but year-on-year figures show that viewers watched an average 3.42 hours a day throughout 2005, down from 3.46 hours a day throughout 2004.

Anti-TV fanatics may find that their biggest ally will be the Government's planned 2010 analogue TV channels switch-off. Given the costs of a new digital box, new recording equipment, new sockets, and fitting a digital aerial, some fear that, in remote regions, switching off the analogue signal will mean no telly at all.

The tiny TV-free community has celebrity role models such as John Humphrys on their side. The undoubtedly well-informed Humphrys has not owned a telly since 1999. To prepare for his speech at the 2004 Edinburgh International Television Festival, he asked 16 channel controllers to send him their 10 best programmes on DVD for him to view.

Humphrys' speech became an anti-TV rant as he described his astonishment that TV execs sent him programmes such asBreast Uncupped. "If they really think this is the best, God knows what they think is the worst."

You won't catch me ranting against telly like that, though. I even occasionally go to friends' houses to watch their TV, and it becomes a social occasion.

One thing puzzles me, however. How do those in "television households", given that typical weekly TV consumption amounts to almost two-thirds of a full-time job, find the time to do anything?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

European Retail Sales Manager, Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: My client is looking for an...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits