You are weird, and 17 other things we learned from Ofcom's Communications Market Report

You oddball. Yes, you.

We are getting more and more connnected

But almost more interesting are the trends which have turned around. Digital radio take-up has declined in recent years, MP3 player usage has flatlined, and mobile broadband is less used than it has ever been since Ofcom started tracking it. At least some of that is likely to be cannibalisation by smartphones, which can do all of that and more. And sure enough, "internet on mobile" is the fastest growing category on either of these tables.

No one wants to give up TV

When people are asked the one activity which they couldn't give up, watching TV is still number one by a huge margin. But using mobiles is steadily becoming more and more of a necessity — and no wonder, because they can do almost all the rest and more.

Because we all watch it all the time

We're actually spending more time in front of the TV than we did five years ago, and slightly less time using the internet on computers. We've doubled the amount of time on a mobile, but from such a tiny base, there's a lot more to go.

Media "stacking" and media "meshing" are things

This is basically OFCOM splitting the commonly accepted definition of "second screening"—literally using a second screen while you watch TV—into two different things. Media meshing is doing something related to what you're watching on telly, while media stacking is doing something completely different. Meshing is what the broadcasters want you to do, since it increases the value to advertisers and allows them to demonstrate how engaged you are with their content. Stacking is what you actually are doing, though. More than half of us have done something else while watching TV. Young people do both more, but the difference is stark when it comes to meshing. 

Tablets get shared around

If you're the only person who uses your tablet, you're in the minority. Two thirds of them are used by someone else, normally partners or children.

You are weird

Only 32 per cent of the UK get their news from the internet. You—yes, you, dear reader—are an odd minority.

That said, this figure is self-reported, and it shows. The thought that 79 per cent of the country doesn't "use" word of mouth for news is faintly ridiculous. So it may be the case that people actually do use websites for news, but just don't think of it because it's part of a larger process of general newsgathering.

Even so, it's clear that TV rules the roost. And not even the rolling news channels, just good, old-fashioned BBC One. Remember that, next time you wonder why Ed Miliband is prepared to sound like a robot to get his talking point on the 6 O'clock News.

YouTube isn't as popular as it seems

Slightly over half of Britain admitted to "regularly" viewing video clips. Again, it may be a reporting error, but it's far lower than regular visitors of the New Statesman website may expect.

No-one uses their DVR

Two thirds of Britain has the ability to time-shift their viewing of TV, thanks to services like Sky+; but only a tenth of the country actually does it. 

The five-channel model of TV is out of date

Almost every home now watches at least 15 minutes of TV on a channel other than the big five once a week, and nearly 50 per cent of our watching time is spent on these other channels. The big losers have been BBC One and ITV, which no longer command anywhere near the share they did in the 1980s.

Men like sports, women like "living"

BBC One is the channel with the best male/female balance, while some channels have an unusally gendered audience: News is blokey, apparently, while all the ITV channels except the deliberately male-focused ITV4 have strong female audiences.

A fun quirk, that CBBC apparently has a "younger" audience than Cbeebies, is probably due to the fact that parents are more likely to watch TV with their toddlers than with older children. That would also explain the gender balance for those channels, since stay-at-home parents are overwhelmingly women.

Spotify is boss

But there's still room for more book clubs in the market, at least.

Rich people have more devices

Not particularly surprising, maybe; but there are a couple of quirks in the data. The most interesting is the flat graph for games consoles, which supports anecdotal evidence that these all-in-one entertainment boxes are a favourite of poorer families. The PS3, for instance, is also one of the cheapest internet-enabled devices on the market.

People who don't have the internet don't want the internet

A lot of ink is spilled on the "digital divide"—the damage caused by being offline in this day and age—but by far the most common reason given for not having the internet is a lack of interest. Just under a quarter can't afford it, and at least eight per cent of them wouldn't want one even if they could.

Amazon has taken ebay's crown

Meanwhile, the legacy retailers are far less popular.

Texting is dying

Landlines got more expensive last year, even though we used them less

On average, we made fewer calls, but paid more for the whole thing. "NTS" calls refer to phone calls to 08 numbers.

The 18 month mobile phone contract is no more

In boosting us all onto 24 month contracts, the carriers get an extra six months of locking us into the stupidly high fees we invariably accept for the latest mobiles. Stupid us.

Spare a thought for poor Royal Mail

The surprising thing about this is how long it took. The internet's been killing post for decades, yet we still sent well over twice the letters in 2007 as we do now. Well, unless you are under 35; then you've never used the post.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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