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Colour Television

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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asked the Postmaster-General, in view of his decision against a limited service of television by the British Broadcasting Corporation in colour, if he will give further details of recent inquiries about progress in this field abroad; and if he will make a statement.

Three countries have public colour television services. In the U.S.A., after seven years of colour, there is about one colour set in a hundred; in Japan about one in 7,000: in the U.S.S.R., I am told, the public sees colour only on sets installed in "Palaces of Culture".

The price of a colour set to the public is about £210 in U.S.A. and between £420 and £520, according to size, in Japan.

All three countries use the American system, or a variant of it, and tubes based on the American "shadowmask" tube, an improved version of which has recently been produced in U.S.A. An alternative colour system is the "SECAM" system developed in France, but I do not think it offers any advantages over the American system.

Does my right hon. Friend consider that these figures give him any further guidance as to the advisability of allowing the British Broadcasting Corporation to introduce a colour service on present line standards?

I share the inference which I think my hon. Friend wishes to be drawn from his question, but the most important consideration is that the Government ought to make as soon as may be a decision on the future of line standards so that we can then proceed to get on with sensible planning in colour television.

In view of the fact that practically all the technical experts in the B.B.C. and in the industry responsible for the development and manufacture of the equipment are of the opinion that the 625-line standard is the appropriate line standard, what additional technical information could be made available to the Pilkington Committee? Is not the Postmaster-General dragging his feet? In spite of the science with which he blinded us in his first reply, is it not about time he got going with colour television?

I think that all the answers that I have given about television have been grossly over-simplified. I have never attempted to blind the House with science in this matter. It is perfectly fair to say that the technical considerations here are no real bother to me or to anyone else. We can get over those. Of course, there are the wider social, financial and economic implications which we have to consider very carefully.

Bearing in mind what my right hon. Friend has said, when does he personally think that the British public will have the opportunity of having coloured television?

That is not easy to say, but I should have thought that, if we had a decision on the future of line standards in the next six or twelve months, we might have a limited colour television service in this country within about three years.


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the 625-lines standard has now been proved to be the most suitable system for the transmission of coloured television; and what is the most recent technical advice he has received on this matter.

I agree that present indications are that colour could be introduced at least as successfully on 625 lines as on 405 lines. In this connection, the B.B.C.'s colour transmissions on 625 lines in Band V next year will be an important experiment. The first and fundamental question to be settled is whether or not we should adopt the higher line standard. Once this is settled progress in colour should be possible.

As it is impossible to convince the right hon. Gentleman, I have no desire to ask a supplementary question.