On 1 March 1975 Australian television stations officially moved to colour. Colour TV had been around for a while overseas and there had been experimental telecasts in Australia. Some advertisers were quick to capitalise on the potential to show their products in appetising colour while others resisted the additional cost involved.
In February 1972 the Australian Government announced that all Australian TV stations would convert to colour in March 1975. The transition was expected to cost the ABC around $46 million and the commercial channels $70 million. Some stations had already installed colour-compatible equipment.
Test broadcasts in colour began in October 1974. Strangely, one of the earliest shows broadcast in colour was The Black and White Minstrel Show. It could never happen today! On the ABC’s show Aunty Jack, the characters made a comical attempt to fight off the advance of colour, in mockery of conservative, change-resistant attitudes.
Of course, viewers who wanted colour TV had to purchase new sets. It also meant that television commercials, which had previously been shot in black had to be shot in colour at considerably higher cost. I was working in the advertising business at the time and some of our clients (notably Peters Ice Cream) were reluctant to go to the additional expense, arguing that most viewers were still looking at the ads in black and white.
They misjudged the speed with which Australians would embrace the new technology. By 1978, 70% of households in Sydney and 64% in Melbourne had colour TV sets. Australia had one of the fastest change-overs to colour television in the world. In 1978 the Melbourne Cup was first televised, live and in colour, to a national audience – a great opportunity for the consumption of chicken and champagne Australia-wide.