Editorial: Colour television

To celebrate the Timaru Herald reaching its 150th anniversary, we're taking a look at some of the issues which have caught our attention over the years.

September 4, 1971

The recommendation of the Broadcasting Authority that the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation should convert its existing television channel to colour by October 31, 1973, is not likely to be adopted without very close scrutiny, not to say misgivings, by the Government.

It cannot base a decision purely on popular inclination or demand, even less on an eagerness to keep up with the overseas Joneses. Some critical economic and political issues are involved.

As the Minister of Broadcasting, Mr Walker, pointed out in tabling the authority's report in parliament, several of the recommendations, if implemented, would have far-reaching implications, the effects of which would extend well beyond the fields of television and the electronics industry. The capital cost to the Broadcasting Corporation of installing colour transmitters would not be unmanageable, but colour receiving sets are notoriously expensive. Any sudden burst of buying would impose inflationary strains which the economy may be ill-equipped to bear. The whole structure of credit could, in particular, be effected.

When this likely development is considered in relation to the authority's recommendation on the vexed question of a second channel, the magnitude of the decision facing the Government becomes obvious. The authority suggests that within two years following the introduction of colour the Government should empower it to receive applications for a second channel, also in colour. It is all very well to argue that all this spells progress and New Zealand as an advanced country should keep up with the play. But proper attention to the priorities of the television service - and the economy in general - should suggest the desirability of caution. The paramount need is still to improve the coverage, variety and standard of the present service.

Where is television sweeping us? Change is not intrinsically bad, but we are confronted with an instrument capable of bending minds on a scale and to a conformation undreamed of in the past. As a result the world of tomorrow threatens to be one of diminished individual responsibility and reduced personal freedom. Television itself ought to be acquainting us of these risk. But, it is to be feared, the safe-playing broadcasting bureaucracy has no stomach for serious, informed discussion. They evidently prefer to serve pap to their toothless, captive audience.

The Timaru Herald