Trivia 046: Once more, in monochrome

My last post was originally meant to be a lead-in to this trivia factoid. But by the time I started writing the last post, I realized that the story of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was worthy of being a post in its own right. And so, I decided to split today’s trivia into its own post. Because I then fell behind on my uploads and have to do several in quick succession, this actually works out, as they lead into each other. And the post I will be making tomorrow also builds off this theme. So without further ado, here’s another story about a troubled country banning the rainbow.

In 1928, the inventor Philo Farnsworth successfully demonstrated the first working television. Using his “image dissector”, as he called it, he was able to transmit an image of his wife. Development of televisions continued throughout the 1930’s, spearheaded by Farnsworth, who held three-fourths of all patents related to televisions by 1938. While these early television systems were black and white, color television concepts were being experimented from almost the very beginning. However, the first consumer color television set was not produced until 1954.

The biggest challenge to color television was not actually the television itself, but rather the bandwidth required for the broadcast. As a result, it took a while for companies to begin broadcasting in color. But even after color broadcasts became technically possible, that did not mean that they became legally possible everywhere.

When Israel became a state in 1948, they only had one radio station, which was run by the government. They did not have their own television broadcasts until 1966. These broadcasts were run by the Israeli Educational Television, as part of the Ministry of Education. Israel’s government saw the potential for television to be used as an educational tool, but were also fearful of propaganda coming from the neighboring countries of Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus.

Meanwhile, in the United States, NBC, ABC, and CBS were all already broadcasting in color. But although color television sets were outselling black and white sets, Israel refused to switch. In fact, the Israeli government ordered color signals to be stripped out of broadcasts imported from abroad. In arguments reminiscent of those found in Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver (callback to middle school, anyone?), the Israeli government stated that color television would lead to inequality, as color television sets were luxury goods. Apart from a few important events during which the Israel Broadcasting Authority was allowed to transmit in color, regular color programming was not legalized until 1981. And it wasn’t until 1983 that the IBA stopped filming in black and white.

So, in a true example of the phrase “there’s nothing new under the sun”, we have another instance of a country trying to regulate colors because of the effects they might have on such a nebulous topic as “public morals”.

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