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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Banishing safe seats, and other proposals to bridge the democratic divide

How to improve key areas of democracy.

Labour’s election train is finally pulling into the station, with its new leader announced in just over a fortnight. However, a summer absorbed in the party’s internal democracy has obscured a deeper truth confronting the country: the general election confirmed that unequal political participation rates in the UK – by age, class, ethnicity and region– have become increasingly hardwired into how our democracy operates.

IPPR’s new report underscores the scale of the democratic divide.  For example, less than half of 18-24 year olds voted, compared to nearly four-fifths of the over-65s, while three-quarters of "AB" individuals cast a ballot, against just over half of "DE" registered voters. Critically, this marks a sharp rise in turnout inequality over time. In 1987, for example, turnout rates by class were almost identical but have steadily diverged since.

Similarly, age-based differences have got significantly worse over time. In 1964 turnout for 18-24 year olds was 76.4 per cent, almost matching the 76.7 per cent turnout rate of those aged 65 or over. By 2005 only 38.2 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted against 74.3 per cent of 65+ year olds, with only a very slight improvement this year.

Underlying growing disparities of electoral voice are striking divergences in perceptions of the fairness and effectiveness of our democracy. For example, IPPR/YouGov polling suggests a striking 63 per cent of "DE" individuals think that our democratic system serves their interests badly, while "AB" voters are evenly split.

Given these signs of democratic distress, there remains a strong case for establishing a wide-ranging constitutional convention to reset how our democracy operates. Yet Westminster shows no appetite for such constitutional reformation, and there would only be so much a civil society-led convention could achieve in terms of practical change.

In our report we therefore propose a series of achievable reforms that could update the civic, institutional and technological architecture of our democracy in the here and now, with the explicit goal of ensuring that all voices are better heard in the political process.

On electoral reform, while we reiterate our support for proportional representation for national elections, we know this simply isn’t going to happen this Parliament. We had a referendum on change in 2011 and it was heavily lost. The energies of electoral reformers should therefore focus on extending PR in local government, where it is more obviously in the self-interest of the major parties, as a means of extending their geographical reach.

In addition, the reduction in the number of MPs provides an opportunity to chip away at the number of safe seats. More than half of seats are "safe", a number that has grown over time, even allowing for the electoral earthquake in Scotland. Safe seats typically have lower levels of participation, lower turnout rates, and less electorally powerful voters. While safe seats will always be with us in a first-past-the-post system, too many can be damaging to democracy.

Given this, we have recommended that the various Boundary Commissions of the UK be given a new duty to consider the electoral competitiveness of seats – ie. to tilt against the creation of safe seats – when boundaries are redrawn. The priority would be to meet their current duties of ensuring the geographic coherence of a seat and roughly equal electorates.

However, where these duties can be met we suggest that the Commissions should consider revising boundaries to reduce the number of safe seats, as a step to increasing participation and the voting power of the average elector. Of course, this will clearly not "abolish" all safe seats – nor should it  but it could help re-empower millions of voters currently with little meaningful say over the outcome of elections and force political parties to up their game in safe seats.

At the same time, the transition to the individual electoral registration process risks excluding millions from the franchise, people who are disproportionately younger, poorer or from an ethnic minority. For example, there are clear inequalities by age and ethnicity in terms of who is registered to vote: in the 2010 general election, for which figures are most accurate, 90 per cent of people aged 55-64 were registered, compared to 55 per cent of those aged 18-24, while nearly 20 per cent of BME individuals were not registered to vote, compared to only 7 per cent of the "white British" population.

There are simple steps the government could take to ensure all who are eligible are able to vote: extending the registration deadline to December 2016, and making support available to local authorities to assist registration efforts, weighted towards authorities with higher levels of under-registration, could help reduce inequalities.  In the longer term, electoral registration officers should be given new duties, and the Electoral Commission more powers, to drive up registration rates, with a particular focus on presently under-registered demographics. 

Finally, we recommend introducing a Democracy Commission. At present, the Electoral Commission effectively regulates elections and party funding. Democracy, however, is far richer and broader than electoral processes. It is about formal representation, but also about participation and deliberation, in what Marc Stears has called "everyday democracy".

A statutorily independent Democracy Commission could give institutional ballast to the latter and help reinvigorate democratic life by providing research, resources and capacity-building to facilitate local, civil society-led initiatives that aim to increase broad-based levels of powerful democratic participation or deliberation in collective decision-making processes.

For example, a Democracy Commission could work with the GLA to introduce participatory budgeting in London, assist the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in instituting a public deliberative body with real teeth over how to integrate health and social care in the area, help the Scottish government conduct citizens’ juries on the future constitutional shape of the country, or support civil-society experiments to bring people closer to collective political decision-making processes in their locality.

We are living in a paradoxical political era, where growing political inequality is accompanied by ongoing social and technological change that has the capacity to collapse unnecessary political and economic hierarchies and build a more inclusive, participatory and responsive democracy. However, there is no guarantee that the age of the network will necessarily lead to democratic revival. The institutions and technologies of our political system, products of the 19th century, are struggling in the fluidity and fracture of the 21st century, inhibiting democratic renewal.

With our economy post-industrial, our ways of communicating increasingly digital and more networked, our identities and relationships ever more variegated and complex, it is therefore critical public policy seeks to update the democratic infrastructure of the UK, and, in so doing, help reverse entrenched political inequality.

Such an agenda is vital. If we simply accept the current institutional arrangements of our political system as the limits of our ambition, we must also content ourselves to live in a divided – and therefore inherently partial – democracy. Yet our democracy is not immutable but malleable, and capable of being reformed for the better; reform today can make democratic life more equal. After all, the story of British democracy’s evolution is one of yesterday’s impossible becoming today’s ordinary.

Mathew Lawrence is a research fellow at IPPR and the co-author of "The Democracy Commission: Reforming democracy to combat political inequality". He tweets at @dantonshead.