LONDON: UK communications overseer Ofcom, ever eager to prove that its expensive existence benefits Britain's media industry and consumers, has spent a lot of the latter's money on surveying the media scene in eleven other nations.

The survey outcome, of course, underscores just how lucky Britons are to have the services of such a faithful watchdog.

And, as is often the case when funded by taxpaying milch-cows, the study does not stint itself in terms of coverage. Ofcom's opus compares the lot of UK viewers with those of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the USA.

And for good measure it also gathers data from the so-call BRIC nations - the giant emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Key points from the survey:

  • The UK has the highest take-up of digital television of the twelve countries surveyed. At the end of 2006, 76% of UK households were digital, driven mainly by growth in digital terrestrial TV (Freeview). The US and Japan were next with 61% and 60% respectively.

  • Digital radio is becoming increasingly popular in the UK with one in five adults owning a digital radio set. Digital radio coverage was highest in the UK and Germany at over 80% for both countries.

  • Broadband takeup continues to increase in the UK with over half of all households connected at the end of 2006, putting the UK slightly ahead of the US for the first time.

  • UK adults spend more time on social networking sites than their European neighbours, with four in ten UK adults saying that they regularly visit the sites. The UK adults who visit the sites spend an average of 5.3 hours each month on them and return to them an average 23 times in the month.

  • In the UK and the US, women use the internet more often than men. In the US, 52% of internet users are women and in the UK the internet is used equally by men and women except in the 18-34 age group where women spend more time online than men (57% compared with 43%).

  • Advertisers in the UK spend more money per person on internet advertising than any other country, at £33. This is twice as much as France, Germany and Italy combined. At 14% of total revenues, spend in the UK on online advertising overtook magazine advertising for the first time and was more than the total spend on outdoor, cinema, and radio advertising combined.

  • In the UK, around 40% of households already take a bundled service. A typical family household in the UK with two parents and two children, who use a basket of communications services that includes a landline, basic pay-TV and the internet, will pay £25 a month on a triple-play deal. This compares with £27.22 in France and £39.77 in Germany. The same family in the US will pay £69.54.

  • The US leads the takeup of high-definition television with 10% of homes capable of viewing HDTV in 2006. This compares to 6% in Japan and 1% in the UK. The US also has the greatest number of available HD television channels at 44, followed by Japan with 19 and then the UK with 12.
Comments Ofcom ceo Ed Richards "The report shows that convergence, bundling and the move to digital communications is a powerful global phenomenon."

He then delivered a commercial on behalf of his sponsor: the British taxpayer. "It's important to understand international comparisons so Ofcom can develop better policies to serve the interests of consumers and citizens in the UK."

To view the full Ofcom report click here.

Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff