Information Display looks at TV licenses, viewing trends, and the new Energy Star standard in the U.S.
TV Licenses Are a Global Norm
It may come as a surprise to citizens of the U.S., Canada, and a few other countries to learn that much of the rest of the world pays a license fee for the privilege of watching television. Countries that tax televisions include the UK, the Republic of Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Japan, Israel, South Africa, and many others.
In the UK, residents must pay an annual fee of £145.50 for color and £49.00 for a black-and-white TV. Even if you catch all your shows on a smartphone, you are not exempt. TV licensing, the eponymous arm of the BBC, states on its Web site: "You need a valid TV licence if you use TV receiving equipment to watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV. 'TV receiving equipment' … includes a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box, DVD/VHS recorder, or any other device."1
Just because the license exists doesn't mean that everyone pays the fee. TV licensing uses penalties and a public-relations campaign to encourage compliance, as well as enforcement officers, hand-held detection devices, and specially equipped detection vans to discover scofflaws watching illegally behind drawn curtains. In the 2009–2010 period, collection costs came to 3.5% of the total collected.
The UK TV licensing fee may sound expensive to those unaccustomed to it, but consider that it enables about 14 advertisement-free BBC television stations in addition to ad-free radio and Internet programming, and it starts to seem like a bargain.
In the U.S., Average Person Watches Almost 5 Hours of TV per Day
According to the latest Nielsen State of the Media Fact Sheet, the average American watched 34 hours and 39 minutes of TV per week in Q4 of 2010, a year-over-year increase of 2 minutes. The heaviest users of conventional TV continue to be adults 65+ (47 hours 33 minutes per week), followed by adults 50-64 (43 hours per week). The group behind all others continues to be teens aged 12-17, who watch the least amount of TV (23 hours 41 minutes per week).2
Energy Star 5.3 Is Here
A revamped Energy Star standard for television went into effect in September. The latest standard calls for qualifying TVs to adhere to a "hard cap" of 108 W no matter what their size if they are to earn the well-known blue sticker. (For analysis of the new Energy Star standards, see the interview with plasma pioneer Larry Weber in this issue.) Among those sets that qualified for certification under the previous version, 4.2, 14% consume more than 108 W (mostly 2010 models).
Because Energy Star is not a regulatory program – it has no bearing on whether particular electronics can or cannot be sold; only whether they can bear the sticker – it remains for consumers who want larger TVs that consume more than 108 W to decide whether they will buy them anyway. Many experts think they will. Still, Energy Star has a "trickle over" effect. States such as California that traditionally seek to regulate these matters more aggressively often take their cues from voluntary compliance programs like Energy Star.