July 1969 - KCET Fully Broadcasts in Color

RCA Color Camera
KCET began broadcasting in color with RCA cameras. | Photo: Marcin Wichary/Flickr/Creative Commons License

In July, 1969, the purchase of four new RCA cameras finally gave KCET the ability to broadcast in full color.

The 1950s and 1960s were an era of transition for television viewers, starting with the introduction of color broadcasting on the CBS network in 1950. But the transition was a long one, finally ending in the late 1960s. Color broadcasting was initially an expensive luxury item for all but the largest stations in the largest markets, and adoption of color television sets by viewers, which themselves were initially costly items, took even longer.

When KCET went on the air in 1964, its General Electric transmitter had the technical capability to broadcast color signals, but KCET's camera and media playback systems -- most of them donated obsolete equipment from commercial stations -- were not-yet color compatible. With commercial TV stations already broadcasting in color, KCET was already eyeing full-color capability as an inevitable goal -- budget willing. The station initially filed for a color conversion grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

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The first-ever KCET programs broadcast in color were various NET shows which premiered in September 1966. KCET's first color production was an airing of the station's annual fundraising auction on November 28, 1967, which was only made possible by renting KTTV Channel 11's studios in Hollywood and using their Philips color cameras. Even then, viewers who had color television sets would, for the next few years, watch KCET programming as a mix of color and black and white. At the time, KCET used 60-millimeter film projectors, 35-millimeter slide projectors, and two-inch videotape machines for media playback, with one of the film projectors having color capability.

In July 1969, the same month human beings walked on the moon for the first time, KCET made its own giant leap by upgrading its RCA TK-60 black & white cameras to four RCA TK-44 color television cameras.

By then, newer programs such as NET's children's series, "Sesame Street" were already being provided to KCET in full color later that year.

To celebrate KCET's conversion to color, the station changed its monochromatic "28" logo to a gold, serif "KCET" against a blue background, which was presented as rolling clouds through a blue sky in on-air station IDs.

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