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Colour Television

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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asked the Postmaster-General whether he has now completed his re-examination of the British Broadcasting Corporation's case for a limited colour service; and what conclusion he has reached.

On the 13th April, the B.B.C. made further representations to me for a limited service of colour television on the existing line standards. The B.B.C. suggested that a satisfactory colour system is now possible and that it would be wrong to delay the introduction of colour until decisions have been taken on line standards, although they agreed that the case for colour on present line standards is weakened if a decision on future line standards can be speeded up.The B.B.C. also felt that a limited regular service would give experience to industry which would help it to solve problems on possible 625 line colour sets which might ultimately enjoy an export market, and that meanwhile British manufacturers might be able to export components, some of which are common to both line systems.The question of colour television is, of course, within the terms of reference of the Pilkington Committee. I have, however, given further consideration to the proposal for a limited colour service. I agree that such a service could give British manufacturers experience in the development of components and colour receivers. On the other hand, the B.B.C.'s test transmissions in colour are continuing and these are helpful to manufacturers.There is, of course, at present no export market for colour sets of 405 lines and it is by no means clear that a decision at this stage in favour of colour on 405 lines would be likely to assist—indeed it might well prejudice—our future export opportunities. The colour tube, which is the vital component, is not yet in production in this country, though it no doubt will be.Meanwhile, a limited colour service here might lead to the sale, within two years, of 100,000 sets or more, and, pending the actual production of a British colour tube, these sets would require the importation of colour tubes from the U.S.A.: if colour television were now introduced reception could only be possible with American manufactured tubes and these, I understand, cost £65 each. The cost of a set itself might, I understand, be of the order of £200 when sets are produced in large quantities.Moreover, I think it would be unwise—and unfair to the public—to encourage the sale of colour sets on 405 lines in view of the possibility that a higher line definition may be recommended by the Pilkington Committee. The Television Advisory Committee, who reported to me in May, 1960, were firmly—and unanimously—of the view that colour should only be introduced when a decision had been taken on the ultimate line standard for monochrome transmissions and that any decision about colour should, therefore, follow—and not precede—a decision on line standards. I expect to have recommendations on line standards and other matters from the Pilkington Committee within twelve months and the way will then be open for decisions on colour television.Accordingly, I have today informed the Chairman of the B.B.C. that I am unable to accede to the B.B.C. request.

asked the Postmaster-General, in view of the recent successes by radio and television firms in producing a television receiver which is capable of screening pictures on 405 and 625 lines in colour or monochrome, if he will give further consideration to allowing the Pilkington Committee to issue an interim report on the question of lineage and colour.

It is open to the Pilkington Committee to make an interim report on any matter within its terms of reference if it so wishes. It is of course aware of the availability of prototype colour television receivers.