If there's anything this country does not need, it is a new federal agency to tell the public which motion pictures are classics and "part of our nation's historical and cultural heritage."

Yet that is exactly what will happen if the Senate goes along with the House and creates a 13-member National Film Preservation Advisory Board, which would be under the Secretary of Interior.The drive to put a federal quality-seal on old movies grows out of the conviction among some film directors, writers, and actors that it is sacrilegious to "colorize" a movie originally was made in black and white.

These folks tried to get Congress to ban the coloring of films, but failed. So, as an interim step, the preservationists are willing to accept the advisory board, which could choose up to 25 films a year for protection as classics. Once so honored, Scripps Howard News Service reports, a movie would be included in a National Film Registry and given a seal that could be used to promote it.

And if the film were altered or colored, it would have to be labeled as "materially altered" or "colorized" and carry a disclaimer that "certain creative contributors did not participate." This information would appear at the beginning of the film and on videotape packages.

The thought among the Hollywood types is that fewer persons would view or buy tapes of altered films. What nonsense! Cable network mogul Ted Turner and others are rich because they tried out both black and white and colorized films, saw there is a larger audience for the tinted versions, and gave the public what it wants. If citizens like viewing colorized old movies, fine. Devotees of black and white can see the "pure" examples at art theaters and film festivals.

Creating a bureaucracy to decree what is and isn't a classic film would be paternalistic, elitist, and meddlesome. If the busybodies prevail, what next? Maybe a board to designate classic books and to issue an official seal of approval?