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The Problem of Lines and Colour

Practical Television, February, 1961.
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Recent announcements in the Press, coupled with questions and answers in the House of Commons have again brought to us and the TV industry a spate of enquiries on the advisability of buying a new set. These periodic reports of impending changes in our television system cannot but harm trade by putting doubts into the minds of the public who may be on the point of purchasing a new receiver. Unfortunately the BBC aggravated the present situation by announcing that it would endeavour to show colour at the next Radio Show, and permission was asked of the PMG (Post Master General) whose reply was that no permission could be given to go ahead with colour until the report of an investigating committee was received, and the earliest that this was expected was at the end of this year. This publicity also set off a battle in the trade, the preliminary announcement in the Press resulting in one of our largest manufacturers circularising the Trade to the effect that under no circumstances would they manufacture sets to receive colour on the 405-line system - because it is obsolete. Readers will remember that the colour system which has been proposed is an adapted version of the standard American system, which is based on 625 lines, and therefore it is, at the best, a compromise. This manufacturer also stated that if permission to radiate colour on 405 lines were given to the BBC they would apply for permission to transmit colour broadcasts on 625 lines.

As an immediate result of this circular, another manufacturer sent out a letter disagreeing with the point of view that the 405-line system is obsolete, and that the controversy was injurious to trade. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the differing points of view, there is little doubt that the moment a suggestion is made that there will be some kind of change in our television system the news is completely devoured by the general public, and proof of this is in the number of letters which we immediately receive either asking whether the information is correct or not, or asking what the writer can do to enable him to participate in the change. In our opinion the first step is to make a change in the number of lines, and then to introduce colour, but no matter what changes are made by the transmitting organisations, they must be made in parallel with existing systems. It has already been stipulated that any colour system must be 'compatible' which means that it must be received by owners of black-and-white apparatus with the same high quality that they pick up black-and-white transmissions, and if the number of lines is changed, there must be the same protection for the owners of existing apparatus. They must still have facilities for receiving pictures on their receivers without any deterioration in quality and without any additional expense. In general, a 405-line receiver cannot easily be modified to receive 625 lines, so new transmissions must definitely be introduced. As we have stated before, this means the introduction of new bands, and whilst it may be possible and practicable - for the television authorities to radiate on such new channels and in new systems, the viewer must not be left in any doubt as to the utility of his receiver for the period of its serviceable life.

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