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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Britain enjoying 'digital boom'
Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles at microphone

The net, mobile phones and MP3 players are revolutionising how Britons spend their time, says Ofcom's annual report.

It reveals that older media such as TV, radio and even DVDs are being abandoned in favour of more modern technology.

It also shows that women, in some age groups, are the dominant web users and older web users spend more time online than any group.

Among children it showed that web and mobile phone use is growing at the expense of video games.

Digital Britain

"As a whole people are using communications services more than they were five years ago," said James Thickett, Ofcom's research director.

The 330-page report takes a comprehensive look at the way Britons use new and old media and reveals a nation in love with its media, gadgets and hi-tech gear.

Nathaniel Pascal with game controller

The average Briton now spends 50 hours per week on the phone, using the net, watching TV or listening to the radio. However, the mix of how much time is spent on each one has changed radically over the last few years.

Daily mobile phone use is up 58% on 2002 and, over the same period, net use has grown 158%. By contrast Britons spend far less time watching TV, listening to the radio or chatting on a fixed line phone.

The report, the fourth annual survey from Ofcom, revealed big differences in the technologies that different sectors of the population prefer.

  • Among Britons aged 25-34, women account for 55% of the time this group spends online

  • 16% of Britons aged 65+ spend 42 hours per month online - more than any other age group

  • More than 75% of 11 year olds have their own TV, games console and mobile phone

  • 15% of 13-15 year olds and 7% of 10 year olds have their own webcam

Young people now spend as much time on their mobile phone as they do playing computer and console games. Proving more popular among younger people are mobile music players and using the net.

Declining among younger people was listening to the radio and playing video and computer games.


"Young people have always had a lot of distractions for their time," said Alison Winter, head of research at commercial radio's industry body Radio Centre.

Research carried out by the Radio Centre showed, she said, that although overall hours of listening among some groups are falling people are being smarter about how they listen.

Many sought out podcasts or looked online for shows they had missed, said Ms Winter.

Also, she said, had the radio on while they were online or used other communication services.

Ofcom's report echoed this observation and said Britons were getting increasingly sophisticated in their use of communications technologies.

For instance, a teenager playing an online game might take a picture of a high score or achievement unlocked while they play then text or e-mail it to friends or add it to a website or Facebook page.

The report also revealed that patterns of use could change again as the latest technologies come into wider use.

It revealed that the UK now has about 450,000 subscribers to high-definition services. Of those questioned by Ofcom, 43% said they watched more TV since getting HD. A minority of that group, 36%, said they now watched six or more extra hours of TV every week.

Ownership of a Digital Video Recorder also seems to have a significant effect on viewing habits. Ofcom found that many prefer to watch programmes saved on their DVR rather than a DVD.
Older men playing video games, BBC
Older people are keen consumers of modern technology
Price cuts

Mr Thickett said the watchdog had seen two big trends over the last 12 months.

He told BBC News: "We've seen a need for greater control of the services you are getting and we've seen this by sales of digital video recorders.

"Second is a need for greater mobility. People are increasingly using their mobile devices for a range of functions such as camera, downloading music or listening to the radio," he said.

The report also revealed that although Britons are using more media and technology than ever they are spending less on it.

"For the second consecutive year in a row the price of communication services has fallen," said Mr Thickett.

Ofcom said strong competition and the "bundling" of services had let the communications industry realise economies of scale and drive prices lower. The monthly household spend on communications is now 92.65. In 2005 that monthly spend was 94.03.

"It's great for consumers," he said, "they are getting greater choice at lower prices than have ever been had."

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