“Colour Television For Hong Kong”, ran the South China Morning Post headline 50 years ago last month, on October 1, 1966. The newspaper reported that with the launch of wireless broadcaster TVB the following year, “its stations would be equipped to provide Hongkong with colour television”.
Hong Kong already had cable TV, launched nine years earlier by Rediffusion (Hongkong), which later became ATV.
The first salvo in the cable and wireless war had been fired earlier in 1966, the Post running the headline: “New T.V. Station ‘No Worry’ to Rediffusion” on January 27 – the cable network’s commercial manager, Jock Sloan, telling the newspaper he “believed transmission of television programmes by wire was the only practical method in a city with Hong-kong’s topography.”
The two stations squared off again later in the year. “Bidding Duel For TV Studio Site” ran the headline in the Post on June 21. “In a seven-minute bidding duel in the City Hall yesterday afternoon, Rediffusion (Hongkong) Ltd out-bid Television Broadcasts Ltd to win a new Kowloon block of land suitable for locating sound or television broadcasting studios,” continued the story. Rediffusion secured the lot, in Lung Cheung Road, for $1.9 million. The following year, HK-TVB opened its premises on Broadcast Drive.
As the wireless and cable broadcasters jockeyed for position, on April 24, 1967, a staff correspondent at the Post wrote: “Do not be surprised if both of Hongkong’s television stations broadcast colour programmes.” The stations were said to be “looking forward to the contest”.
The story went on: “Hongkong will be the first place in the world to have a service begin in colour (HK-TVB has announced that is its intention) and only the third or fourth place in the world to have colour.”
The wireless station was first to the punch, broadcasting in colour from launch on November 19, 1967. Programming that day featured live transmission of the Macau Grand Prix. Shows during the first week included Dr Kildare, Lost in Space, Gilligan’s Island and, of course, Coronation Street.