HC Deb 18 December 1963 vol 686 cc1222-4
9. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Postmaster-General what progress is being made towards the establishment of a colour television service in this country; and if he will make a statement.

10. Dr. Broughton

asked the Postmaster-General what progress is being made towards the broadcasting of colour television.

Mr. Bevins

As HON. MEMBERS know, a choice has to be made between three systems, and it is highly desirable that European countries should choose the same system, otherwise we shall be unable to exchange colour programmes with them and export opportunities will be reduced. There is to be a meeting in London in February of the appropriate international agency, which I hope will lead to an agreed recommendation about adopting a common system for Europe.

Meanwhile, my Television Advisory Committee is due to meet in January, and I hope to have soon afterwards its advice on the policy to be followed.

Mr. Smith

Would my right hon. Friend agree that as a country with one of the leading television services in the world we ought to be taking a lead in this matter and not necessarily wait for other European countries to make their decision? Would he not also agree that perhaps overall the American system may suit our needs best and may be cheapen than the German P.A.L. system and the French Secam system?

Mr. Bevins

Any suggestion that we are dragging our feet in the matter of colour television is quite wrong. It is vitally important to the future of our radio industry that we should, if possible, have a system which is common to Europe, because, if we do not have that, our opportunities for exporting both programme material and radio components will be much less than they otherwise would be.

Dr. Broughton

Will the Postmaster-General give an assurance that he will do all that he possibly can to try to put us in the van of progress in colour television? Is it not the case that we have lagged behind, because colour television is already being shown in parts of the United States? Does not he agree that it is desirable and important that we should take the lead in this matter?

Mr. Bevins

I am in no doubt whatever that we have taken the best initiative that we can. The number of people in America who see colour television is less than 1 per cent. of all viewers. The sets are very expensive indeed. I am sure that we have played this at the right pace so that by about 1965 we shall have colour television in this country and, I hope, at prices which people will be able to afford.

Mr. F. Harris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is about six years ago that Members saw samples of colour television in the House? Is there a chance that there will be colour television during my lifetime?

Mr. Bevins

Assuming, as I do, that my hon. Friend survives about another eighteen months, yes.

Mr. Mason

Is it not a fact that a sub-committee of experts of the European broadcasting services who have been examining the matter of European compatibility in colour television should have reported by now suggesting what would be the best colour system? Has not the right hon. Gentleman or the B.B.C. yet made up their minds whether it shall be N.T.S.C., P.A.L. or Secam? Unless they make up their minds very quickly for the spring meeting of the International Radio Consultative Committee, the timetable the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned for introducing colour television in 1965 will not be achieved.

Mr. Bevins

These discussions have been going on for some time and the Post Office and the B.B.C. have played their respective parts. We are hoping that agreement will be reached at European level in February of the coming year.

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