Originally Posted by foxeng
Actually, color had nothing to with the freeze in issuing construction permits for new TV stations in the late 40s and early 50s. It had to do with channel allocations.
When TV started in 1939, there were only 6 channels, 1-6. When TV restarted in 1946, channel 1 had been deleted in a political move by RCA to kill FM (the original FM band had been in the channel 1 region and the move to its current location guaranteed that all FM receivers would be obsolete and TV would have a chance for those relocation dollars, a move that kept FM as an also run well into the 70s) to give TV a chance to get started. (FCC records show NBC had a CP for channel 1, but it was never built, probably due to the fact that FM broadcasting was already there. CBS had a CP for channel 2 that they built and became WCBT/WCBS. NBC built on channel 3, but moved to channel 4 [which became WNBT/WRCA/WNBC] as WWII closed down TV for the duration. Dumont got channel 5 [WABD/WNEW/WNYW] and the new network, ABC received channel 7 (WERA/WABC], setting into motion the channel lineup in NYC that we know today.) TV went from channel 2-12 with channel 13 being added shortly thereafter in 1948 due to the demand for TV stations. Even with the addition of channel 13, it was clear there was not enough TV real estate so the FCC put a freeze on all new construction permits of TV stations until the FCC could work out a new channel plan that eventually became the now familiar 2-83 Table of Assignments for each community that was cut back in the 80s to 69 and then in 2009 to 51. The freeze was lifted in late 1951. In the beginning there were more UHF channels available in the Table than VHF. In the larger cities, those owners lobbied to have the Table changed to VHF assignments and over time, more and more stations were crammed into VHF, and only the poorer owners could get an assignment on UHF since they didn't have the money to fight the FCC for the lower channel allocations. Since it cost more to construct and operate UHF, those stations were limited in coverage and up until cable carriage, many failed in a short time frame.
CBS had a 625 line mechanical wheel system for color (called Sequential Color) that was not backwards compatible to NTSC, that the FCC tentatively approved in the late 1940's. RCA, the developer of NTSC, was working on an electronic color standard for NTSC, but was mired down in technical problems trying to make it backwards compatible. In 1952, RCA finally got it to work and demonstrated it to the FCC. With a lot of political push, David Sarnoff, chairman of RCA, got the FCC to reverse its earlier decision on color and to use the RCA NTSC color standard. On January 1st, 1954, NTSC color became the color standard for the USA. WNBT New York (now WNBC-TV) broadcast the first commercially broadcast NTSC color signal on December 20th, 1953 as a test in preparation for January 1st. On that New Years day, NBC did broadcast the Tournament of Roses Parade in "Living Color" over the NBC network. Those early adopters who had a color set, (which were very few) watched the parade in color. It was several years before there were any really scheduled color programming. NBC led the way, being owned by RCA but even then, it was years before NBC's schedule was predominately color (early 60's) with mostly specials and limited series programming in color. Bonanza, which started in 1959 was commissioned by NBC to be in color from the start to showcase color beyond specials. Star Trek, on NBC, in 1966 used abstract colors to to showcase color. That is why you see all the "out of this world" colors in the original series that you don't see in the other Star Trek series.
ABC and CBS were not in a big hurry to go color. ABC was financially not able to for years being the perennial last place until the 70s and CBS, having lost the color battle, refused to buy RCA color equipment, waiting until 3rd party manufacturers like Norelco came out with their equipment in the 60s. True story, in the early 60's, CBS had a contract to air a Fred Astaire special. It was shot at NBC in color on video tape in the 50s and since CBS had no color video tape machines, the special was fed live from NBC on their color video tape machine over a special video tie line to CBS and out on to the CBS network.
While the audience embraced color as a theory, those who had bought black and white TV's in the mid to late 50's were not in the mood to spend money for a new TV that cost twice to three times as much as their few year old black and whites (remember, the $100 color sets were at least 30 years down the road, TVs, black and white or color, were considered a luxury item in the 50s and 60s with black and whites starting in the $200 range in 1950s money!) with limited chances to view color programming (sound familiar?).
With limited programming and high receive equipment costs, it was into the early 70's until the last black and white programming disappeared and color sets began to out sell black and whites, even though the small portable TV's (13 inch and smaller) sold at the time were still black and white well into the 80's.
I know in my own family, we bought a 1955 Philco black and white TV and it was something my parents saved for waiting for the first TV station to come to our area before they bought it. In 1962, the NBC affiliate went color and my father started saving for a color set. In 1964, he bought a RCA color console. That set lasted until almost 1990 when the parts got too expensive to repair. My mother still has the cabinet as a nik-nak cabinet. The 1955 Philco lasted well into the 70's. My parents put it at their beach house and I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon on that TV. When it become too expensive to repair it was taken to the dump. My father had recently won a "RCA Portable" color TV. It was a "small" 19 inch that weight almost 100 pounds! That TV lasted until the 1990s.
Moral of the story is people didn't throw stuff away like they do today and that slowed overall acceptance of color receivers (and indirectly color broadcasts), even though the public wanted color broadcasts in a way that they didn't with HD, even though HD acceptance took only a 1/3 of the time of color due to the change in culture.