Britain's 'wired generation' shuns traditional media for a life online

BRITAIN'S "wired generation" is increasingly shunning television, radio and newspapers in favour of online networking, websites and downloading media to phones and iPods.

The 16-24-year age bracket now watches TV for an hour less per day than the average viewer and listens to 15 minutes a day less radio than average.

They also say they read fewer newspapers because of their internet use.

The findings emerge in Ofcom's communications market report for 2005.

It says Britain's young people arrange their lives online and via mobile phones. But rather than just surfing the web, teenagers are increasingly fixated by networking websites such as Bebo and Myspace, which allow users to create virtual communities.

More than 70 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 said they used social networking websites, far higher than the UK average of 41 per cent. The urge to network is further illustrated by the fact that 37 per cent of under-24s say they have contributed to a blog or website message board, more than double the percentage among net users as a whole.

The younger generation's reliance on mobile phones was also underlined by Ofcom's research. The under-24s make seven more mobile calls and send 42 more texts per week than the wider UK population.

Claire Woffenden, deputy editor of Web User magazine, said young people were ditching traditional media for new technology because of the interactivity and personalisation it allowed.

"What's appealing is being able to dictate their own agenda tailored to their own tastes," she said.

"Why listen to the radio, when you can create your own personalised radio station? Instead of regimented TV listings, the likes of YouTube mean you can watch video clips on a variety of subjects whenever when you want to, or become an instant celebrity by creating your own."

The increasing use of mobile phones is not just confined to teenagers, however. Ofcom says that one in ten households now rely exclusively on mobile phones and nearly a third of people regard their mobile as their main telephone, even if they have a landline at home.

Mobile phones also appear to have doomed the public payphone. For the first time, none of those surveyed relied on payphones for their main means of making and receiving calls, compared to 2 per cent in 2004.

Elsewhere, Ofcom said the number of households with broadband connections increased by nearly two thirds between 2004 and 2005, to a total of nine million. The watchdog believes intense competition between internet providers has meant a price-cut bonanza, with the cost of a broadband connection falling from around 41 a month in 2004 to around 16 a month last year.

Jim McCafferty, a telecoms analyst with Seymour Pierce, said he believed broadband customers were benefiting from a price war.

He said: "It is just like mobile phones - in the early days you had low take-up because of the cost, and as you drop the price to a mass market level, it takes off.

"If you go back five years, the number of providers was smaller and the monthly cost was far higher. Now you have five, six or seven advertisers getting their message across, not just one."

Radio for the iPod generation

THE BBC is in talks with technology companies to develop a plug-in device that turns MP3 players into digital radios.

While the BBC last night refused to name its potential partners, Apple, maker of the iPod, is understood to be one.

The device would be a small tube containing a DAB digital radio chip that clips on to an MP3 player. Users of the iPod already use tiny bolt-on transmitters, such as the iTrip, to play their MP3 collections through car radios.

BBC officials stressed last night that talks were in their early stages. However, the corporation believes part of its public service mission is to make digital radio as available as possible.

Simon Nelson, controller of radio and music interactive at the BBC, said: "We need to ensure there are devices that can enable people to listen to radio - especially on something they already carry around."

The BBC is also looking at a digital plug-in that could work with car radios.

Apple recently signed deals with Mazda, Ford and General Motors, which will manufacture 2007 models with a docking system for iPods.

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