HC Deb 15 December 1965 vol 722 cc1247-9
2. Mr. Jopling

asked the Postmaster-General whether his answer on 29th March, advocating the adoption of the National Television System Committee system of colour television, remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

17. Mr. Gibson-Watt

asked the Postmaster-General whether the Government's policy on colour television remains the same as in his anwer on 29th March; and if he will make a statement.

20. Mr. McBride

asked the Postmaster-General if, when he has studied the report of the Technical Advisory Committee recommendations, he will announce the date of introduction of colour television programmes in Great Britain.

Mr. Benn

I cannot add to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden) on 1st December: that is, that the Television Advisory Committee has recommended to me that colour television be introduced on 625 lines only, using the PAL system of transmission and I am considering this advice.

Mr. Jopling

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell us more of what happened at the conference in Rome last week? Further, will he tell us what instructions he gave the British delegation which went to that conference?

Mr. Benn

The position is that at the Vienna conference earlier this year the Government recommended our delegation to put forward the N.T.S.C. system, in the hope of getting general agreement. Since then, we have reconsidered it in the light of the failure to get international agreement about a system. There is no firm decision yet on the PAL system, although the other recommendation about colour being on 625 lines is, of course, in line with the policy put out by the previous Government in their White Paper. Every other European country is in a similar difficulty to our own, and indeed at the E.B.U. conference yet another system was brought forward, I believe a Russian development of S.E.C.A.M. This is really a very intricate and difficult problem.

Mr. McBride

I regret that my right hon. Friend cannot give an opening date. Can he tell me whether the Technical Advisory Committee has estimated the number of sets capable of receiving the initial transmission? Can he also tell me whether the Television Advisory Committee report has any information as to set costs, maintenance and any necessary aerial adjustment?

Mr. Benn

The Television Advisory Committee's function was to recommend to us the best system that it thought we should adopt. The number of sets available would depend on the number of sets manufactured and cannot be estimated with any great degree of accuracy at this stage. There is no doubt that once we can get the firm decision that I am keen to get many of these other questions will be answered.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that over the last 12 months we have deliberately not pressed him on this subject knowing its complexity? As he now says that he hopes to come to a firm conclusion, will he tell us when he thinks this will be and whether he will be able to make the announcement in the House?

Mr. Benn

It will certainly be made in the House of Commons. I was hoping that the hon. Gentleman would comment on the fact that he had said that the announcement had already been made. It has not. This is tied up with the future of the Fourth Channel, as he knows, because of the interest of the I.T.A. in the Fourth Channel. It will, therefore, be announced when the conclusion of the broadcasting review is reached, which I hope will be early next year.