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Colour Launches in the UK

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Colour Launches in the UK 1

So when did this new colour service start for us in Britain? On the 1st of July 1967? Well no that was a one-off PR stunt for Wimbledon. UK launched Europe’s first colour service on Dec 2nd 1967. This was broadcast using the Phase Alternating Line (PAL) system, which was based on the work of the German television engineer Walter Bruch. PAL was based on NTSC but much improved, NTSC was dubbed “never twice the same colour”. For those who may be interested click here to read about the development of the colour shadow-mask CRT.

Radio Times

Colour Launches in the UK 2

On 15th November 1969, colour broadcasting arrived on the remaining two channels, BBC1 and ITV, which were more popular channels than BBC2. Only about half of the national population was brought within the range of colour signals by 15th November, 1969. Colour could be received in the London Weekend Television/Thames region, ATV (Midlands), Granada (North-West) and Yorkshire TV regions. ITV’s first colour programmes in Scotland appeared on 13th December 1969 in Central Scotland; in Wales on 6th April 1970 in South Wales; and in Northern Ireland on 14th September 1970 in the eastern parts.

TV Times

Colour Launches in the UK 3

Colour TV licences were introduced on 1st January, 1968, costing £10 this was twice the price of the standard £5 black and white TV licence.

Initially the service only covered London, southern England, the Midlands and the north. Due to the lack of colour production facilities, the majority of early colour programming consisted of outside broadcasts and movies until the conversion of Television Centre. The initial service was live from Wimbledon, preceded for a few weeks by colour broadcasting of certain shows, colour Trade Test films and Test Card F with its centre photo of Carol Hersee, the daughter of the engineer who designed it. At this time it was estimated that the were 100,000 colour sets.

We had to wait a further two years until 15th November 1969 when all three channels in the UK broadcast colour. At this time it was estimated that the were 200,000 colour sets in circulation, it was not until 1975 that colour sets were finally outselling Black & White.

The following items are promotional items.

The Times

A supplement that would have been found in the Times newspaper.



The BBC Promotional Literature

Promotional literature; source Steve (colourstar).

Apologies these are photos of the items not scans. Items are long gone elsewhere.

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3 years ago

Very interesting to see these.

I’ve been interested in the history of television production and presentation for a long time.

3 years ago

When Colour was launched in 1967 I was working on the bench in an independent Radio and Television shop (called Tee Vee Radio ltd.) in Wembley Park just down the road from Wembley stadium and the London weekend studios. I remember having to go out and help install the first sets that were sold. Although the shop sold a quite a wide variety of makes of black and white television sets,  the owner (Bert) chose only to sell the Thorn 2000 series of colour sets. Be it 19 inch or 25 inch that the customer bought, it was a 2 man job to deliver the set to the customer in the company cream coloured 1966 Austin 60 van (which had column gear change). A good couple of hours could then easily be spent installing the set. First job was to fit whatever type of mains plug required and then the set was allowed to warm up before then checking the purity and static convergence followed by the dynamic convergence etc all the time checking the 405 picture for errors. Nothing was rushed. We used a pattern generator plus the test card of course. Sometimes although the uhf aerial would be new or fairly new the 405 aerial wasn’t always up to scratch and ghosting or snowy pictures was a problem but a lot people seemed to not always worry about such things although some did of course. A good number of then 2000’s were sold as it was quite an up market area. Among the things that I can’t remember though the date when the colour trade test films were first broadcast but it seemed quite a long while before the official launch date. 

Reply to  jcdaze
2 years ago

@jcdaze my dad, Fred Scott would have been working there around that time. Then he moved to spectra in watkin road.

Reply to  Nige
2 years ago

That is amazing. Wow over fifty years ago Fred taught me a lot. I’ve sent you a private message.

2 years ago

Tyne Tees Television went colour on 13 July 1970. My Mother remembers date this clearly because she was heavily pregnant and Tyne Tees kept running a promotion/jingle for the date which also happened to be the due date of my sister and she was getting really annoyed! My sister ended up being premature anyway.

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