Letter: A nation of box-watchers who deserve better

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'No longer a nation of box-watchers' (22 July) comments on the reported decline in television viewing (Henley Centre study; report, 21 July). When people are asked, in effect, to compare what they are doing with what they were doing, they always tend to say that they are doing a bit less (or more, or the same, depending). There is an enormous amount of much harder 'ratings' data that could also be examined.

Four major points are:

1. Any small decline (say an hour a week) would still leave people watching some 25 hours on average;

2. The social class difference you quote in support of a trend (19 hours a week for ABs, 32 hours for DEs) is nothing new. It does not imply a trend.

3. On your front page (22 July) you report the Chancellor hailing a 'surprise jump' in high-street spending and an 'unexpectedly big fall' in the trade deficit. I do not have a panel of wise forecasters. But I would be more impressed by a movement (say in television viewing) which had been expected, rather than just a one-off blip.

4. You rightly stress the cost of 'creating television that is truly good and innovative'. It is tragic that neither the BBC, nor Peter Brooke, nor economic or media commentators, ever suggest that the licence fee might be increased in real terms. Yet there is strong evidence that viewers would pay more for something they use so much.

Yours faithfully,

A. S. C. EHRENBERG

South Bank Business School

South Bank University

London, SE1

22 July

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