Colour television on BBC One

15 November 1969

Image: an early experimental colour programme, c. late 1950s. Video: the slideshow features audio in this order: Panorama, reporting on the BBC's colour tests in the 1950s. Announcer Sylvia Peters explaining colour television in a promotional film designed for television executives in the 1950s. Announcements introducing BBC Two and its first (un-publicised) colour programme Late Night Line-Up (with Joan Bakewell). David Attenborough, Controller BBC Two, in the 1960s, explaining how colour came to the channel. An episode of Steptoe and Son showing the excitement of owning a colour TV after its introduction on BBC One in 1969. David Attenborough explaining the official colour launch on BBC Two in 1967. The BBC's former historian Lord Asa Briggs and David Attenborough recalling how snooker became popular due to colour on BBC One. The first Panorama in colour. Asa Briggs explaining how families took up colour television.

BBC One launched a full colour service on 15 November 1969. At midnight, An Evening with Petula - Petula Clark in concert from the Royal Albert Hall, was the first transmission. The channel then closed down until 10am. Programmes showing in colour on the 15th included Star Trek and Dixon of Dock Green, The Harry Secombe Show and Match of the Day, plus the feature film The Prisoner of Zenda.

The launch of the colour service was preceded by a promotional programme Colourful One, in which Julian Pettifer looked forward to the advent of colour on BBC One, and Maurice Wiggin of the Sunday Times offered an analysis of the pros and cons of colour broadcasting.

The new service was also extended to ITV, bringing it and BBC One in line with BBC Two, which had been offering colour programmes - including Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and The Eurovision Song Contest - since 1967. BBC One was initially only available in colour to about 50% of households, as transmitter upgrades took time to install, but by 1978, 11 million homes had a colour licence as viewers saw for themselves the benefits of colour television.

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