Sign in / Join

50 years ago: color appeared on TV in France

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – – – | October 1, 1967: viewers in Paris, in front of the first color program broadcast on French television

Four standing men, looking gravely in front of a sober decor, from which emerge some more vivid spots, contemporary furniture orange and green: this is the first color image broadcast on French television 50 years ago.

On October 1, 1967, the Minister of Information, the Gaulist Georges Gorse, inaugurated in person the first color program in the studios of the young French television and radio station (ORTF), which does not exist than for three years.

The sky blue jacket and the minister’s red tie contrast with the anthracite costumes and the dark mines of the three ORTF leaders who surround him.

AFP announced in a telegram: “Georges Gorse, Minister of Information, surrounded by several leaders of the ORTF, including Mr. Jacques-Bernard Dupont, CEO, announced at 2:30 pm to viewers the start of broadcasts in Colour”.

“And here is the color, on the appointed day and at the appointed hour!” said the minister as the image changes from black and white to color, according to the video archive kept by the Ina (National Institute of Audiovisual).

Georges Gorse is addressed only to a handful of viewers, having one of these new posts using the French color broadcasting system, Sécam.

– “1,500 color receivers” –

“I know that for the moment our color images are only accessible to privileged few and that they are still somewhat confidential,” the minister acknowledged.

The vast majority of the eight million television sets in France are in black and white: only 1,500 stations are in color, according to Ina.

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | History of the development of French television from 1935 to the conversion of different channels to color from 1967

“The program, which is broadcast today, is above all a running-in program,” AFP reported. “In addition to the news, it includes a report, a film, + L’eau vive +, whose exteriors were filmed in Haute-Provence on the banks of the Durance, documentaries on art, cartoons, etc. “.

The color will progressively impose on the small screen. The third French channel will be broadcast in color since its creation at the end of 1972. But it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that the first channel (which became TF1 in 1975) converted to color after stage modernization of its network of issuers.

Without the appearance, the arrival of color represents an industrial and diplomatic stake for France of General de Gaulle. Since the 1950s, the United States has been using its own color broadcasting technology, the National Television System Committee (NTSC).

But the American system is of mediocre quality: it is nicknamed Never Twice the Same Color (“never twice the same color”) in reference to the instability of the colors on the screens.

In 1956, a French engineer Henri de France developed a more stable process, the Sécam system (for color sequential memory) while the German group Telefunken developed its own standard, Pal, derived from the American system.

“Gaullian diplomacy will make exploitation of this French technology one of its battle-horses,” explains Pascal Rozat, consultant to the Ina in the article “History of television, a French exception?”.

The Sécam standard was adopted by the USSR: in October 1967, the first color images were broadcast simultaneously in Paris and Moscow. But it fails to impose itself in Western Europe where the Pal system spreads everywhere.

The isolation of the French standard will end with the arrival of compatible Pal / Sécam devices in the 80s. This will not prevent the French system from being mocked and its initials Sécam diverted into: “Especially Avoid Compatibility With the World “and” Elegant System Against the Americans “.

Terms of service