40 years since first World Cup in colour

Monday (31 May) marks forty years since TV sports coverage changed forever, as Mexico 1970 became the first World Cup broadcast in colour. Now, as millions across the UK gear up to watch this year’s tournament on some of the latest technology, TV Licensing can reveal more than 25,000 homes are still watching in black and white.

South Africa 2010 will mark another breakthrough for TV sport, becoming the first World Cup to be shown in Freeview HD and on mobile phones. All matches will be streamed live online and numbers watching key games are likely to far exceed the average 75,000 UK viewers each match of Germany 2006 attractedi, when watching football online was in its infancy.

Industry figures also suggest record numbers will watch on the latest plasma and LCD TVs, with over 30 million sets sold since Germany 2006ii. Sales more than doubled in the months leading up to the last World Cupiii, and a similar spike is anticipated this year.

In contrast, 4,900 homes in London, 1,200 in Birmingham and 700 in Manchester still own black and white TV Licences, and seem content to enjoy this year’s World Cup in good old-fashioned monochrome – just as in 1966, when England last won it.

TV Licensing is reminding people that whatever equipment you use to watch this summer’s tournament – whether a black and white or colour TV, computer, mobile phone or games console - you need a TV Licence if you want to watch or record the coverage as it is being shown on TV.

Ian Fannon, spokesperson for TV Licensing, said: “Technology has come a long way since Geoff Hurst scored the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup, and people look set to view this year’s World Cup in more ways than ever before. However, the law remains the same – you need a TV Licence to watch or record programmes as they are being shown on TV.

Whether you plan to catch the games on an old black and white set, on the latest plasma, or any other device, including a laptop, mobile phone, or games console, you need to be covered by a licence. Information on how and where to pay for your TV Licence can be found at www.tvlicensing.co.uk/info.”

To mark the anniversary of this significant TV milestone, sporting celebrities and production staff who witnessed Mexico 1970 have shared their memories of World Cups gone by:

John Motson, football commentator since the 1970s, said: “Colour television had only been introduced two or three years before I joined, and many of the techniques that now entail merely the push of a button had not yet been developed. I still have memories of trying to pacify angry viewers in the 1970s who still watched black and white, and saying ‘for the benefit of those watching in black and white, Spurs is in the yellow shirts.’”

Alan Hansen, television football pundit, and a member of Scotland’s 1982 World Cup squad, said: “I remember watching Italy versus Brazil in the World Cup Final in 1970. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to be there myself, playing in games like that. I will never forget watching that game”.

Jonathan Martin, former head of BBC Sport, and producer at Mexico 1970, said: “The move from black and white to colour transformed people’s enjoyment of watching sport on TV. The 1970 Mexico World Cup was the first time the viewing public could see the wide variety of the national teams’ coloured strips. The most memorable moment was witnessing Gordon Banks’ save against the yellow-shirted Pele when England played Brazil, which has gone down as one of the greatest saves in football history.”    

Alan Hart, former head of BBC Sport and Controller of BBC One, said: “In 1970 new technologies helped us show the games as they had never been seen before. It was also the first time we had used slow motion replays. The machines could overheat and there were stories of BBC engineers throwing foam over them to cool them down. There are so many new devices on which people can watch the World Cup today, but technological advances felt just as innovative and exciting in 1970.”

Iain Logie Baird, Curator of Television at the National Media Museum and grandson of John Logie Baird, the inventor of TV, said: “With the arrival of colour, the nature of sports as entertainment was forever changed.  More information was in the image, freeing the announcer to be less radio-like and comment on other aspects, such as individual performance of particular players.”


Notes to Editor:

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please call the TV Licensing press office on 020 7544 3144 or email mediaenquiries@tvlicensing.info. Images, case studies of black and white TV viewers, further celebrity quotes and a factsheet are all available on request.

Who needs a TV Licence?

If you use or install television equipment to receive or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV, you need to be covered by a valid TV licence.  Viewing television without a licence risks prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. A colour TV Licence currently cost £145.50. A black and white TV Licence currently costs £49.00.

Paying for a TV Licence:

TV Licensing aims to make it as easy as possible for people to buy a TV Licence, which is why there are many different ways to pay.

  • Online – people are now able to pay online at www.tvlicensing.co.uk/pay by Direct Debit or with a debit or credit card
  • Direct Debit - monthly, quarterly or annual Direct Debit payment schemes are available and can be set up online at www.tvlicensing.co.uk/directdebit
  • Over-the-counter – people can now pay at any of almost 22,000 PayPoint outlets across the country
  • Debit or credit card over the phone - this facility accepts payment from a range of debit cards including Maestro, Delta and Connect
  • By post – send a cheque made payable to TV Licensing to: TV Licensing, Darlington, DL98 1TL
  • To find out more about paying in weekly instalments over the counter, online, by SMS or by phone on the cash payment plan, call 0300 790 6078 or view payment methods.

For more information about any of our payment options and concessions, to set up Direct Debit payments or to pay by debit or credit card please visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk or call 0300 790 6112.


i During the first two weeks of the tournament. BBC Sport, June 2006.
ii GfK RT UK, PTV Panel Market GB, Sales Volume 30,974,000. units, July 2006-March 2010  
iii GfK RT UK, PTV Panel Market GB, Sales Volume Growth 117%, January -July 2005 vs January -July 2006

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