News National On This Day: Colour television comes to Australian screens

On This Day: Colour television comes to Australian screens

Bert Newton has been a star of Australian television since its inception in 1956. Photo: Getty
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The year was 1975 and when the clock struck midnight, something magical happened in homes across Australia.

After two decades of displaying films and shows in black and white, on this day colour suddenly appeared on television sets around the country.

It was one of the fastest transitions to colour TV in the world, with all stations moving to colour using the European PAL standard mandated in 1968.

Like many inventions before it, such as the rotary clothesline and automatic dishwasher, colour TV was a revelation.

From now on, Australians would experience the green grass and colourful sea of spectators while watching the VFL, or the bright blazers of reporters delivering the news.

The nationwide update had been a long time coming.

Australia was years behind Britain, Sweden, France, West Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Malta and even New Zealand.

Americans were ahead by nearly two decades, as colour TV was introduced in the United States as early as 1954.

But despite the delay, Australians were excited.

They were initially notified about the change in 1972, when prime minister William McMahon announced that colour transmission would begin on March 1, 1975.

In the lead up to the event, dubbed ‘C-Day’, the government ran a campaign called, ‘March first into colour’ to promote colour TV to the Australian public.

A scene from the popular sitcom Happy Days circa 1975. Photo: Getty

Advertisements for colour television sets began appearing from brands like Sanyo, Rank Arena, Sharp, Panasonic and Sony.

According to archival newspaper reports, colour TV sets were flying off the shelves before C-Day as Australians scrambled to buy one for their home.

However, despite the increase in sales, most Australians did not have a new set – colour television sets were a luxury item.