Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

6/1/2015 - 5/31/2016

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

A Cultural History of American Color Television

FAIN: FA-58094-15

Susan Dorrit Murray
New York University (New York, NY 10012-1019)

The more than three decades between the early tests of mechanical color television in the late 1920s and full adoption of color by U.S. networks in the 1960s saw extended and compelling popular, scientific, and industrial conversations about the utility and meaning of color television. This occurred alongside and in between debates about technical standards, dueling technical systems, concerns over interference and bandwidth, color in product design, programming, perception and psychophysics, optics, fidelity, color harmony, colorimetry, and aesthetics. This book project tells this story, culminating in the postwar decades, and positions color television as central to the broader history of twentieth century visual culture.

Media Coverage

Review: Bright Signals: A History of Color Television (Review)
Author(s): Catherine Clepper
Date: 12/1/2018
Abstract: Review of Bright Signals

When Televisions Were Radioactive (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Susan Murray
Publication: The Atlantic
Date: 9/23/2018
Abstract: Article based on the book

Author(s): Susan Murray
Publication: Zocalo Public Square
Date: 1/29/2019
Abstract: Article based on book

Associated Products

Bright Signals: A History of Color Television (Book)
Title: Bright Signals: A History of Color Television
Author: Susan Murray
Abstract: First demonstrated in 1928, color television remained little more than a novelty for decades as the industry struggled with the considerable technical, regulatory, commercial, and cultural complications posed by the medium. Only fully adopted by all three networks in the 1960s, color television was imagined as a new way of seeing that was distinct from both monochrome television and other forms of color media. It also inspired compelling popular, scientific, and industry conversations about the use and meaning of color and its effects on emotions, vision, and desire. In Bright Signals Susan Murray traces these wide-ranging debates within and beyond the television industry, positioning the story of color television, which was replete with false starts, failure, and ingenuity, as central to the broader history of twentieth-century visual culture. In so doing, she shows how color television disrupted and reframed the very idea of television while it simultaneously revealed the tensions about technology's relationship to consumerism, human sight, and the natural world.
Year: 2018
Primary URL:
Secondary URL:
Publisher: Duke University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-8223-713
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes


Katherine Singer Kovacs Book Award
Date: 1/15/2019
Organization: Society for Cinema and Media Studies
Abstract: At the 2019 SCMS Annual Conference, two Katherine Singer Kovács awards for outstanding scholarship in cinema and media studies will be announced. One award of $1,500 will be given to the author of an outstanding book. To be considered for the Kovács Book Award, books should be original works that significantly advance scholarship and thinking in the field either by opening up new lines of inquiry or by consolidating existing ones at a high level of accomplishment.

Michael Nelson Prize
Date: 4/21/2019
Organization: The International Association for Media and History
Abstract: The biennial Michael Nelson prize by IAMHIST is awarded to the best media history book published in 2017 or 2018.