BBC Children’s TV: 1970s

Children's Programmes Today on BBC1The 1970s was a period of great change for television in general – at the start of the decade colour had only been available on BBC1 and ITV for a few months (and only from key main transmitters), and over half of programmes were still in black and white. The decade that brought bread shortages, power cuts, disco dancing, decimalisation, ABBA, and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was also responsible for the following BBC children’s television programmes; just a small number of which are illustrated below for your enjoyment. (Just incase you were wondering about The White Seal, it was a cartoon based on a Rudyard Kipling story.)

Crystal Tipps and Alistair Garden House

Many of the previous decade’s offerings (eg. Vision On, The Magic Roundabout, Clangers) were still going thoughout all or most of the 1970s in either new or original versions, as well as the later colour episodes of Andy Pandy. Crystal Tipps and Alistair (1972) was one of the new offerings from this decade. Crystal Tipps is the one with the frizzy hair and together with Alistair (the dog) they lived in a house.

Ivor the engineCountryside Engine room

Ivor The Engine was a colour remake of an earlier series produced by the legendary partnership of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, whom had produced (among others) Noggin the Nog, Pogles Wood, The Clangers and Bagpuss (see below). It was also a return to the cardboard cutout animation technique used on Noggin the Nog.

BagpussEmily Prof. Yaffle and mice

BagpussBagpuss (1974) was a cleverly-conceived animation based around a saggy old cloth cat in a junk shop, which magically came to life together with the shop’s numerous other inhabitants such as Professor Yaffel the wooden woodpecker which normally served as a bookend. The girl Emily (second picture above) who owned Bagpuss was infact Peter Firmin’s youngest daughter. Many regard Bagpuss as the greatest childrens’ television programme of all time, though some may prefer the all-time classic Pogles Wood or The Clangers from the same Smallfilms stable.

Play School started life as the first proper programme to be transmitted on BBC2’s first day in 1964, after a power cut had wiped out what was to have been the official opening ceremony the night before. Play School soon went on to be a favourite with pre-school children to such an extent that a spinoff series Play Away was created for older children, and Play School itself continued throughout the 1970s right up to its eventual demise in 1988. Each edition was usually first shown on BBC2 in a mid-morning slot followed by a repeat showing on BBC1 for those viewers who couldn’t yet receive BBC2.

Jackanory Studio Kaleidoscope titles

Another children’s favourite of this period (though continuing from the ’60s) was Jackanory, which featured various special guests reading from a storybook. Jackanory has over the years featured some very famous and distinguished guests, including no less than HRH Prince Charles reading from his own book “The Old Man of Lochnigar”. The animated titles featured picture(s) from the book with mirrors to create a rotating kaleidoscope pattern, and the original theme music’s oboe arrangement was changed around the mid 1970s.

RentaghostVanishing spell End credits

The middle of the decade saw what was possibly the BBC’s answer to ITV’s The Ghosts of Motley HallRentaghost, which featured a selection madcap adventures involving beings of a spectral kind. In the centre picture Mr. Claypole (the jester) is about to perform a vanishing spell.

BBC children’s output also comprises of factual-based programming such as Blue Peter and Record Breakers – as well as being informative they set out to entertain as well. These programmes often had lavish Christmas specials which often include additional entertainment; a case in point being the extravagant All Star Record Breakers of Christmas 1977 that was perhaps one of the more extreme examples.

The All Star Record Breakers Alpine horn Roy Castle

The show kicked off with the song “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket”, which was interspersed with facts about the universe such as the brightest star in the sky. The presenter Roy Castle (pictured with a paper star) had ample opportunity to show off his musical and dance skills, and a record was also broken during the show for the world’s largest tap dance, complete with an iconic overhead shot of the tap dancers circling the Television Centre fountain.

Tap Dance Record Pantomime Kenneth Williams

Much of the programme revolved round elaborate pantomime sequences that featured guest stars such as Kenneth Williams (pictured above centre, on the left side of the picture) who was the ‘storyteller’, and the facts and feats were incorporated into the ‘action’ as the story developed.

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Baird’s early experiments

John Logie BairdJohn Logie Baird is often credited with the invention of television, though in reality it was the culmination of various independent discoveries. However Baird was responsible for bringing various elements together and promoting the idea of television commercially to such an extent that it became a reality.

John Logie Baird's HouseBaird, although a Scot, had lived in London for much of his life. And he had also suffered from ill health for most of his life as well, so on the advice of his doctor he moved to the South Coast of England to live in the seaside resort of Hastings. Against medical advice, he carried on developing his ideas for various inventions both large and small, including the one that interested him the most – television.

Wall PlaqueLynton Crescent was to be the place where Baird managed to finally realise his dream; that of the transmission of an image without the use of wires or any form of trickery. He had been following the various attempts made by other people to transmit pictures with great interest, and very soon he was to attempt to do the same as well.

Experimental Set-upHe built his pioneering equipment using what odds and ends he could lay his hands on, such as an old tea chest, an old bicycle lamp, cardboard from a hat box, an old biscuit tin, darning needles, string and tallow wax. With this he managed to construct a mechanical scanning system for the transmission and reception of images – he received help from local people in order to fund the experiment.

Baird's Experimental SystemBy the end of 1923 John Logie Baird, through sheer determination had finally managed to build what was effectively the world’s first complete television transmitter and receiver. Its achievements may today look relatively modest but by the standards of the day it was a technical miracle – the speed of both the transmitter and receiver had to be perfectly synchronised in tandem for an image to be viewable.

Spinning Disc with Cross ImageThe very first transmitted image was that of a simple cross made of cardboard (visible on the right hand side of the picture); the camera and transmitter were a few feet away on the other side of the room. In January 1924 the Daily News reported on this feat, and public interest rapidly grew as a result of this successful experiment. Mr. Twigg the landlord was rather less impressed though – since Baird had electrocuted himself twice and caused a small explosion, he evicted Baird from his lodgings. The first chapter of television history had effectively drawn to a close.

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Anatomy of a football match

Marching BandThis feature is not about football or soccer itself (there are lots of other sites catering for football fans), but these pictures of the match between England and Scotland that took place at Wembley Stadium on 26 May 1979 help illustrate the BBC’s style of television presentation of football matches during the late 1970s/early 1980s, including the various on-screen captions that were used.

England TeamThis comprehensive graphic display was used for team details at the start of the match together with the team’s crest. The England team of this era featured famous players such as Kevin Keegan, Steve Coppell and Trevor Brooking who was later to become a familiar face on BBC1 as a football pundit.

Scotland TeamAnd ditto for the opposing team – in this case Scotland.



Antonio Garrido, PortugalThe referee (Antonio Garrido, from Portugal) was deemed important enough to have an on-screen caption all of his own. He checks his watch, waiting for play to begin.

Goal MouthThis (enlarged) view of the goal mouth shows some of the advertisement hoardings used at the time. Note the advertisements for Bush and Murphy – two electrical brand names that were prominent in the 1970s – the Bush brand is now owned by Sainsbury’s who own the chain of Argos catalogue shops in the UK and Ireland, amongst other concerns.

BBC Action ReplayThe advent of video disc recording in 1968 meant that action replays (including slow motion and still frames without any interference) were possible without any delay involved in rewinding a videotape, though this was confined only to the last 33 seconds of play which was being recorded in a continuous loop. The BBC showed briefly an onscreen caption (which included the BBC logo) at the beginning of the replay to let viewers know what they were watching; not long afterwards – well at least by January 1980 – this reminder was used far less often presumably because viewers had been long accustomed to this sort of thing.

(Peter) BarnesWhen something of note happened during the game (such as a goal being scored) a caption would often briefly appear identifying the person involved – in this case Peter Barnes who scored the equalising goal for England shortly before the half-time whistle.

England 1 Scotland 1These were the days before the occasional use of a permanent on-screen display of the current score – viewers had to keep track of the game themselves for much of the time, in which case you had to be watching from the start or have a friend tell you the score. Hence this graphic was very important when it appeared – it also incorporated a football-shaped clock with a white band indicating elapsed time since the start of play.

Half Time - England 1 Scotland 1At the end of half (or full) time this noticeboard-style caption was used which helpfully gave details of who scored what goals and when. Also note the absence of any form of electronic scoreboard or large screen display(s) in the stadium which are so common today.

Marching band leaving pitchThe marching band (a regular fixture during the interval to ‘entertain’ the crowd during and before this period) barely had the chance to leave the pitch when play started again!


Full Time - England 3 Scotland 1Match over – Ron Greenwood’s England team had beaten Jock Stein’s Scotland (something that wasn’t entirely expected) and the team captains (Dalglish and Keegan) swapped shirts.

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The power of five

The power of five

Channel 5 Tuning EngineersIn the late 1980s attention was diverted momentarily to satellite tv in the guise of BSB, though this was ‘merged’ with the News Corp.-owned Sky service in 1990. Initially it was envisaged that the remaining terrestrial allocations would be used for local services, but a change of heart caused by a lack of suitable applicants combined with a desire to generate revenue caused a fifth ‘national’ service to be born. It was essentially a two-horse race, with the winner having to arrange for thousands of video recorders, games consoles, etc. to be adjusted because a common frequency used to distribute video signals (UHF channel 36) was widely used by Channel 5. Retuning delays forced a planned December 1996 launch to be postponed.

Channel 5 Tuning SignalChannel 5 was launched on Saturday March 30 1997 into what was a much more hostile media climate than what existed at the start of the previous four services. As well as the other four terrestrial channels, Channel 5 has to compete against the numerous and growing number of satellite channels, as well as (arguably) ‘new media’ services such as the internet (which was starting to grow rapidly at the time); these rival services also happen to attract mostly the young target audience that the new channel was aiming at. To cap it all, due to the restricted coverage, less than 70% of the country could receive it, and many of those that could had to suffer an inferior picture due to many transmitters operating on a lower power.

The Spice GirlsWho better to launch a new tv channel wanting to portray a young image than the hottest popular music act of the moment which also happens to have five members as well! Enter the Spice Girls, performing a song based on Manfred Mann’s “5-4-3-2-1” (same tune, different lyrics: retitled “1-2-3-4-5”). Trivia time: Channel 5 is the only terrestrial station never to have had a test card (though before launch it did have a tuning signal caption), and has provided a 24-hour service from day one. It was also the only terrestrial station to feature a permanent on-screen identification ‘bug’ or DOG (digitally originated graphic) at the time, though they subsequently made the symbol less prominent before ditching it altogether with the change from Channel 5 to “Five”, then it appeared again with a later rebrand.

Tim Vine and Julia BradburyTim Vine and Julia Bradbury presented the very first programme at 6 pm, showing highlights of forthcoming programmes. The channel (like those before it) was aiming to be different from existing services, though some of the ideas were ‘borrowed’ from various sources. The concept of a short news bulletin (except during movies) every hour is similar to many radio stations, and having a ‘stripped and stranded’ schedule whereby the same type of programming is shown at the same time slot every weekday was a practice already adopted by various satellite channels.

A Channel 5 ProductionThe channel’s programming arrangements are identical to that of Channel 4; most programming is provided by ‘independent’ producers, though some of the production companies that were originally used such as Grundy were owned by Fremantle Media (now Talkback Thames), whose parent company (Bertlesmann/RTL) at the time owned a majority share in Channel 5.

Kirsty YoungWhere Channel 5 really innovated was its news service. As well as the concept of short hourly bulletins which was new at least to terrestrial television in the UK, there were differences in the presentation and content of the main news programme (initially shown at 8:30 pm). Channel 5’s original lineup of news presenters included Kirsty Young (pictured), Rob Butler, Scott Chisholm and Charlie Stayt.

Channel 5 UpdateOriginally produced by ITN (who also provide ITV and Channel 4 news programming), Channel 5 News aims to be highly visual yet informative but at the same time less formal in style – for example the presenter does not sit at a desk as is traditional. The end result has won various awards. Kirsty Young later moved to ITV, and Sky took over production of Five News for a while before it reverted back to ITN more recently.

Channel 5 Monday ListingHere is Channel 5’s first Monday evening lineup with wildlife, property, a film and comedy all featuring in the schedule as well as news bulletins every hour. None of the featured programmes are still on-air.

Family AffairsGeneral purpose tv channels try to feature at least one soap opera in their schedule; the home-grown effort is entitled Family Affairs which finished at the end of 2005, though the channel for a while also showed imported US soaps such as Melrose Place and Sunset Beach which were hitherto only viewable on satellite channels in the UK. Nowadays it is Neighbours that fulfils the channel’s soap opera quotient; something that used to be shown on daytime BBC1 from 1986 to 2008.

100%The early evening period (originally 5:30-6:30pm) during Monday to Friday was initially used for now defunct quiz shows such as 100% (pictured) and Whittle; the latter being suspiciously similar in format to a quiz previously tried by ITV and then dropped. 100% featured three contenstants answering 100 multiple choice questions – the person at the end with the highest percentage of correct answers wins £100 and is invited back to appear on the next show. This format was later extended for 100% Gold (for older people) and 100% Challenge (featuring winners from Mastermind), as well as a variety of special one-off programmes devoted to specialist subjects.

Wildlife SOSChannel 5 often shows programmes featuring animals of some description, whether it is about the work of a wildlife sanctuary (Wildlife SOS, pictured), or wild animals in continents such as Africa.

Channel 5 IdentFor its first four or so years, Channel 5’s audience share was still small compared with the other four terrestrial channels, but the channel’s majority shareholder (Bertlesmann/RTL) had other plans. Indeed RTL openly declared that they were no longer interested in acquiring any part of ITV and are concentrating their efforts instead on improving Channel 5’s audience figures in the UK which included a major investment in new programming. However Channel 5 still had a decidedly downmarket image that sometimes even included soft porn after the 9 pm watershed, so major moves were required to improve this situation.

Saving Private RyanWith Dawn Airey as programme controller (she recently defected to BSkyB), some radical moves were made in order to improve Channel 5’s programming along with its reputation. Its one quality import, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was heavily promoted in quality newspapers, and changes were made to the schedule such as the axing of Night Fever and the acquisition of Home and Away which was originally shown on ITV. The channel even put in a bid for The Simpsons which caught Channel 4 by surprise and helped escalate the bidding war as a result, but better programmes were just one part of its quest for self-improvement.

Channel 5 Pool IdentIn order to convince more people to start watching the channel on a regular basis, some drastic action was taken. Firstly what was known as Channel 5 is now simply known as Five, with the word being used in lower case as a logo. The rebranding was accompanied by a whole new presentation package which includes a mixture of new live action-based and plain idents with the word ‘five’ often appearing and disappearing with a 3D effect; the ‘five stripes’ device (shown above) also being abandoned in preference to individually using five shades of five colours for text and background colours.

Five - Caution RatingBut it didn’t stop there – Five scrapped the contentious permanent on-screen logo for the time being so it would be identified more closely with the other four terrestrial channels. Five’s presentation package was developed by the same agency (Spin) that worked on the previous Channel 4 idents, hence some general similarities between the two channels’ overall presentation until Channel 4 changed its on-air identity on 31 December 2004. The channel was at this point 100% owned by RTL, the Bertlesmann-owned company that operates various other European TV channels, after UBM (United Business Media) sold its stake in July 2005, but that state of affairs wasn’t to last forever.

Channel Five Storm Ident Channel Five Balloons Ident

Not too long after RTL gained control of the channel, Five gained a new identity package in 2006 comprising of outdoor-themed idents that featured four-letter words such as ‘live’ ‘rush’, ‘free’, etc., being visually formed using objects (such as lightning from a cloud or flying balloons); after Christmas 2006 the individual words were replaced with the channel name ‘five’ as can be seen from the above balloons example. Spin-off channels Five Life and Five US were also launched in the same year; Five having previously leased its two Freeview channels to Top Up TV in 2003.

Five Is TenMarch 30 2007 was Channel Five’s tenth anniversary, and the channel celebrated with an evening of special programmes featuring (amongst other things) a group of ten year-olds interviewing the potential future prime minister Gordon Brown, ‘reality TV’ offering The Ten Demandments, and a light-hearted quiz entitled Blame it on the Spice Girls. Quite. Also Channel Five acquired the rights to show the Australian soap opera Neighbours, of which it started to show from 2008 when the BBC’s contract expired.

Five - Tuesday 8pm Ship Rescue: The Devon DisasterIt wasn’t long (October 2008) before Channel Five had yet another image makeover, with a change of font for the FIVE logo which now appeared in capitals within a circle and yet more idents as a consequence. Earlier that same year, Dawn Airey had been rehired from ITV and promptly went on a cost-cutting spree at the channel. Programmes shown during this era included Paul Merton in India, Grey’s Anatomy, Police Interceptors and the return of quiz Going for Gold along with the CSI franchise acquired via a pan-European deal with parent company RTL.

Richard DesmondDespite all the hard work, it just wasn’t enough. Five’s German owner RTL was rapidly running out of patience with what it had dubbed “the English patient” in its European channel portfolio, having written off a large debt in 2009 and made a decision to only concentrate on owning broadcasters and channels that were either first or second in terms of popularity in their native countries, meaning that it was now actively willing to sell off Five to another company. BSkyB had long been suspected of being a potential buyer of Five, but it had primarily concentrated on pay-TV broadcasting via satellite with its free-to-air channels on Freeview being an ‘accidental’ sideshow perhaps to avoid its desirable channel slots falling into the hands of competitors, therefore the eventual buyer of Five turned out to be Richard Desmond and his media empire which includes the Express and Star newspapers. The company changed hands on 23 July 2010 for £103.5m.

Channel 5 IdentFrom Five to 5…Another thing on Richard Desmond’s to-do list was changing the name back to Channel 5 because he felt that the original brand resonated more strongly with the public, and he wasted no time in doing such a thing, therefore new idents, etc., were commissioned to go with the new name.

5 NewsWith the new identity came a new look for 5 News, which still maintained the “standing up” ethos that Channel 5 had made its own from the beginning.

Big BrotherPerfect match…Upon acquiring Five, Richard Desmond made several bold and somewhat rash claims relating to what he wanted to do with the broadcaster that were probably not meant to be taken seriously, such as acquiring EastEnders of all things (!!!), but he did say he wanted to make a big programming acquisition from another channel. That turned out to be Big Brother: a reality TV series which had gone into decline when shown on Channel 4 as well as being perceived to have tarnished Channel 4’s reputation as a broadcaster, therefore Desmond was able to acquire the rights to Big Brother when they came up for renewal. Big Brother, Celebrity Big Brother and their various spin-off programmes have been solid performers for Channel 5, which proved how good the fit between programme format and broadcaster turned out to be.

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Welcome to Channel 4

Even before BBC2 came on the air in 1964 there had been a debate concerning who should own a fourth television channel. ITV wanted it because (as they pointed out) the BBC with the advent of BBC2 had two channels whereas ITV had only the one, though by 1979 ITV’s viewing figures were exceeding the combined BBC1 and 2 figure so this argument started to sound weak (even if many TV sets had their fourth button marked ‘ITV2’ since it seemed logical). Back in 1964 the Conservative Party promised ITV that it would get the fourth channel if they won that year’s election – they didn’t win, so the issue was postponed as other factors took precedence. Work was progressing slowly, though by 1979 it seems that progress towards a fourth channel was at last starting to make some headway.

The 1979 General Election was predicted to be the crucial factor as to what the fourth channel would be like. If the Labour Government was returned to power again, the fourth channel would be run by an organisation known as the OBA (Open Broadcasting Authority). This was a popular choice (as opinion polls showed) since it would be completely different from the established channels’ programming, being community-based and non-profit making. However it was predicted that it would only have (roughly) a 2% audience share, and there were unanswered questions in relation to funding such an enterprise.

That did not happen (of course); the Conservative Party came to power, led by Margaret Thatcher – they were predicted to give the new channel to ITV in order to give them their ITV2. Another alternative discussed at the time was to create an entirely separate new commercial channel (the approach favoured by the advertising agencies – they hoped that the aggressive competition between two openly competing commercial channels that would be the result would drive down advertising rates); but the end result was surprisingly different from those proposals mentioned even if it featured common elements from all three approaches.

Original Channel 4 IdentAlthough initially regulated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) with financial cross-subsidy from the ITV franchises, Channel 4 was a broadcaster designed to be independent from ITV, but due to a perceived high risk of financial failure such measures were necessary along with ITV franchises providing some of the programming and being responsible for the channel’s advertising sales, effectively leaving Channel 4 to do what it wanted without having to specifically pander to any of its advertisers. Its remit was and still is essentially similar to BBC2, namely producing specialist programmes for a smaller audience as well as popular programmes, though to begin with Channel 4 was unique in that the majority of programmes were commissioned from small independent production companies.

CountdownChannel 4 launched with a sequence showing clips from various forthcoming programmes, but the very first programme to be shown on Channel 4 when it finally launched on 2 November 1982 was Countdown. Based on a long-running French TV quiz format entitled Des Chiffres et des Lettres (Numbers and Letters), Countdown started life as an regional (Yorkshire) ITV programme entitled Calendar Countdown earlier in 1982 before being commissioned for Channel 4 by controller Sir Jeremy Issacs.

Richard WhiteleyCountdown is a fairly ‘genteel’ quiz based on games that use numbers and letters, and is the only Channel 4 programme apart from Channel 4 News which is still being produced today. The very first presenter to appear on the new channel was none other than Richard Whiteley, who was a familiar face to ITV viewers in the Yorkshire region (Yorkshire TV – now owned by Granada – produces Countdown for Channel 4). Richard became a cult figure nationally as a result of presenting Countdown though he sadly died in June 2005 after an illness.

Ted MoultOne familiar face that appeared on the very first edition of Countdown was that of Ted Moult, who was known nationally to many people as a gardener and also from his appearances on other TV quiz shows. And one person making her TV debut was Carol Vorderman, who was initially just employed as the ‘resident statistician’ and was presented as a graduate from Cambridge University; she of course was later to take greater responsibility for both the letters and numbers games.

The letters T N E M A R H I BThe very first Countdown ‘letters game’ produced this selection of consonants and vowels – T, N, E, M, A, R, H, I, B – of which the two contestants were able to think of two seven-letter words ‘raiment’ (an item of clothing) and ‘minaret’ (a thin tower that’s part of a mosque) respectively. Note the different colour scheme used for the letters board compared with that used today.

Countdown End of Part 1There were other notable differences between Countdown when it first launched and the same show as it appears today; the contestants do not have name labels and there were two guests in ‘dictionary corner’ as well as Carol Vorderman on hand to make sure that everything ran smoothly.

Vauxhall Cavalier AdAnother difference between Channel 4 and the other channels was that all programmes were shown across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but commercials could either be shown nationally or in specific regional areas (based on the ITV regions). The first commercial to be shown on the new channel was for the Vauxhall Cavalier 1600 GLS.

Are you taking the tablets? Follows shortlyChannel 4, like BBC2, got off to a shaky start but for different reasons. A disagreement concerning actor’s pay for commercials shown on the fledgling network resulted in an industrial dispute that prevented actors from appearing ‘on camera’ in commercials. This resulted in either a small number of commercials being shown or no commercials at all (depending on the region), at least until the dispute was resolved. Wales has a separate service called S4C with its own Welsh language programming (as well as showing programmes from Channel 4) which had launched the previous day.

IBA: CH4 Test CardChannel 4 transmitted programmes in the evenings only to begin with, so Channel 4’s test card was a familiar sight for viewers tuning in during the morning and daytime. Unlike BBC2 a new television set was not mandatory, and the fact that the UK UHF transmitter network had from the outset been designed to offer four channels meant that no new aerial was required. Also unlike previous channel launches most of the transmitters were already set up so most of the population could receive the channel (apart from some remote areas).

Central Productions for Chsnnel FourVarious ITV franchises made programming contributions to the Channel 4 (and S4C) schedule alongside independent producers, including hard-hitting drama Walter produced by Central Television, Countdown produced by Yorkshire Television, 4 What Its Worth produced by Thames Television, amongst numerous others.

Channel 4 ClockThe new channel tried out some brave programming ideas in its early years. The Friday Alternative was a hard-hitting politically controversial current affairs show with some key differences; no presenters were visible, there was a left-of-centre political bias and it made heavy use of computer animation between video footage. Indeed The Friday Alternative proved to be so controversial it triggered a row between Channel 4 News producer ITN and Channel 4, forcing the channel into commissioning Diverse Reports as a replacement instead.

Channel Four NewsChannel 4 News, the 50 minute-long peak time news bulletin along with (perhaps amazingly) Countdown are the only two survivors of Channel 4’s original schedule that continue to be shown to this day. Early critics of the channel dubbed it “Channel Bore” or “Channel Snore”, though it’s naturally easy to knock something if it’s trying to be different.

BrooksideAs well as all the arty experimental programming there were much more down to earth offerings like the soap opera Brookside produced by independent production company Mersey Television. Brookside used its own private housing estate as a set, which was unusual for a drama series at that time as opposed to the more normal practice of using a constructed set in a large television studio which gets dismantled and stored away when not in use, but for continuing drama like Brookside, Coronation Street or EastEnders, a permanent set makes a lot more sense. When Brookside came to an end in 2006, the Brookside Close properties were renovated and sold off as private properties, enabling anyone with enough money to actually live in a piece of televisual history.

Treasure HuntAnother very popular programme shown during the first few years of the channel’s life was Treasure Hunt, a quiz show presented by Kenneth Kendall that featured two contestants in a TV studio with a library of reference books to help them find and solve clues that could be found within a particular geographical area and within a 45 minute timescale that ultimately led to a cash prize if they were successful.

Treasure Hunt Studio with displayed clueEach Treasure Hunt clue consisted of a card with a printed riddle that gave cryptic details of a location where the next clue could be found; the first clue was read out in the studio at the start of the game and the contestants then had 45 minutes to find the remaining clues that were usually positioned miles apart from each other in different locations, meaning that the contestants had to solve each clue using reference books in the studio and then give verbal instructions to a ‘skyrunner’ (Anneka Rice, later Annabel Croft) via an audio link without any form of visual assistance between the two in order to direct the skyrunner to the location where the next clue is hopefully located.

Anneka RiceTreasure Hunt’s skyrunner had the use of a helicopter to quickly travel to various locations, though inevitably she usually had to do some running and/or borrow other forms of transport in order to actually get to the clue in question from the helicopter landing site. A map on the studio wall showed the approximate location of the helicopter at any given point, and the remaining time in minutes:seconds was often displayed on the screen, with the clock stopping for a while as soon as each clue was found. All the clues had to be solved before the clock reached zero, though there was an additional clue located nearby for a bonus prize if there was still sufficient time remaining (something that almost never happened).

1984 CaptionThis style of promotion was used by Channel 4 during 1984, featuring an Orwellian “Big Brother”-style stone slab with added ‘4’ logo which appeared at the end. A wide variety of imaginative programming appeared on the channel during 1984, including Let’s Parlez Franglais (an adaptation of Miles Kington’s magazine feature), Night Beat News (a newsroom comedy also produced in a Welsh language version), and a television opera entitled Perfect Lives. Daytime programming also commenced in 1984 with Channel 4 Racing.

The Last ResortBy the mid 1980s programmes such as The Word and The Last Resort gained notoriety and media coverage, making Mark Lamarr and the sharp-suited Jonathan Ross stars (among other people). What started life as Friday Live grew into Saturday Night Live was instrumental in changing the whole face of British comedy, launching a whole selection of ‘alternative’ comedians such as Ben Elton (who presented the show), Harry Enfield and Jo Brand. Channel 4 has also commissioned films such as My Beautiful Launderette, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Slumdog Millionaire. The ‘youth’ show Network Seven was hugely influential in relation to programme production trends, even though the show itself had only a very small audience.

Special Discretion RequiredChannel 4 has never been afraid to be controversial. In 1987 the channel decided to experiment with using what was known as the ‘red triangle’; the idea being was that the triangle would be displayed in the top left hand corner of the screen throughout programmes that featured scenes containing violence or explicit sexual content, effectively serving as a content warning. Opponents to this idea said that this would be an excuse to show even more sex and violence, and viewing figures for programmes that featured the red triangle conversely went up. Within months the whole experiment was quietly dropped.

Open College on FourThe Open College was a short-lived attempt to replicate the higher education success of the Open University on Channel 4, and to this end there was an agreement between the Open College – a new educational entity independent of Channel 4 that was created by the government of the day – and Channel 4 to transmit educational programmes from 1988 onwards with Channel 4 providing assistance in terms of resources and time to the approximate value of £1m per year. Open College programmes included Make It Count presented by Fred Harris, but unlike its Open University counterpart, Open College proved to be a failure and the project was soon abandoned.

Channel 4 Christmas 1990 IdentDuring the Christmas period in 1990 Channel 4 used this ‘psychedelic four’ with flashing colours as a special ident. As well as being controversial, Channel 4 produces the usual quizzes, soap operas, current affairs, etc., that can be found on other mainstream channels therefore catering for a very wide cross section of the population as a result.

Channel 4 Circles IdentIn the 1990s Channel 4 started a continuous 24-hour service, and then in 1997 controversially ditched its original ‘coloured 4’ in favour of using a white ‘4’ symbol in conjunction with either circles or squares, as shown here. This was also one of the first examples of the use of real people as part of idents as opposed to showing just a symbol or static drawing of some description; an idea which was to be later copied by many other broadcasters.

The change did not meet universal acclaim – indeed Channel 4’s image was soon to change again much sooner than expected (see below) due to a perceived unpopularity of its new circles-based identity. On January 1 1999 Channel 4 stopped promoting ITV programmes (and vice versa) as the ties between ITV and Channel 4 were finally cut – Channel 4 was now effectively an independent broadcaster.

Channel 4 Stripes IdentOut with the old, in with the new – Channel 4 introduced its second image ‘makeover’ on 2 April 1999. The unloved circles were ditched in favour of a simple square-shaped logo in combination with scrolling bands of colour; at the same time Channel 4 controversially also tried using a DOG (digitally originated graphic) on its digital feed, meaning that ONdigital and SkyDigital viewers of the channel are treated to a permanent on-screen symbol similar to that used by Channel 5 at the time. This however was later removed because of complaints from viewers, though Channel 4 HD has an on-screen logo presumably to help promote/distinguish the high definition service from its standard definition channel.

Old-style Merlin TrailerCompare and contrast: this picture was taken from the end of a programme trailer that was shown just before the April 1999 changes were introduced to the channel. The old-style ‘4 in a circle’ is just visible in the top right hand corner of the picture.

New-style Merlin TrailerAnd this picture was taken from the end of the revised style of trailer for exactly the same programme. Note that the screen is now essentially divided into two areas, with the larger left area being free for the display of programme information whilst maintaining the logo on the right side of the screen.

Channel 4 Lines identSince the ‘square’ look was introduced, subtle changes were subsequently made; at one point the ‘4’ square occasionally flipped across the screen into position, though in other respects the presentation had changed relatively little apart from the introduction of ‘split screens’ at the end of programmes along with ‘now and next’ menus. (Sometimes background images were used behind the moving lines for idents as in this example.) In July 2000, Channel 4 introduced a brand new reality TV show based in a house containing people who are continually watched by cameras and aren’t allowed to leave until they are evicted, namely Big Brother.

Channel 4 Hay Blocks IdentThe last day of 2004 saw the launch of Channel 4’s new ident package, which essentially saw the return of the Channel 4 logo building up in three dimensions, except this time the logo is formed using building blocks comprising of abstract pieces of landscape such as hedges, concrete blocks, road signs or bales of hay for a surreal effect as the sequence progresses.

Channel 4 News StudioOther changes were introduced at the same time including a new look for Channel 4 News (essentially swapping its black and purple colour scheme for new titles and studio appearance in white and blue colours) as well as two new styles of programme promotion, though some minor tweaks were made to Channel 4’s presentation soon after launch. Also note that Channel 4 News was one of the last regularly-broadcast programmes shown on one the main five channels to switch over to widescreen broadcasting as opposed to using the older 4:3 standard, presumably due to cost reasons and/or various other news sources still providing video in the 4:3 aspect ratio at the time.

The Queen in 3DFor a week in 2010, Channel 4 jumped on an emerging but short-lived bandwagon for 3D television with a special week of programmes featuring old 3D film footage taken of The Queen and various other people, places and objects. The experiment was essentially similar to the 3D experiments previously conducted by ITV franchise TVS in 1982 which required viewers to wear cardboard glasses with specially-tinted cellophane lenses that were given away with each copy of the TV Times, except that the colour tints used in the Channel 4 experiment were different therefore you couldn’t reuse the same glasses, so you most likely had to obtain new glasses that were made available from branches of Sainsbury’s supermarkets (and a few other places) in order to watch those broadcasts.

10 O Clock LiveEver since Channel 4 decided to get rid of Big Brother from its schedule in 2009 (last broadcast in 2010 on Channel 4), there has been a dilemma of exactly what programming to replace it with, especially as Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother occupied so much of the schedule. A new weekly series looking back at the week’s events from a comic perspective – 10 O’Clock Live – was introduced in 2012, with other comedy offerings such as Stand Up for the Week and panel game 8 out of 10 Cats forming part of the schedule. The controversial Big Fat Gypsy Weddings reality series and its spinoffs generated lots of publicity but not all of it was positive, therefore those have somewhat inevitably been cancelled as well; other reality shows include One Born Every Minute, The Secret Millionaire, and the controversially-titled The Undateables, as well as educational series like Embarrassing Bodies and How Britain Worked. However Channel 4 has thankfully commissioned a selection of high quality drama series that have partially helped to restore it former reputation for quality programming, namely series like Black Mirror which somewhat distorts reality to make a satirical point, Complicit and the US import Homeland.

London 2012 Paralympic Games Breakfast Show Paralympic Games Menu Paralympic Games Studio

Paralympic Games IdentFollowing on from the hugely successful London 2012 Olympic Games would be a daunting task for anyone, but a combination of goodwill and the promotional skills of Channel 4 turned the following Paralympic Games into a huge success likewise, no doubt helping to make stadium events a sell-out (for the first time in Paralympic history) and generally raising the profile of various sports and competitors. A late evening programme shown during the Games entitled The Last Leg, presented by comedian Adam Hills alongside television newcomers Alex Brooker and Josh Widdecombe who discussed the Games and interviewed Paralympic athletes, became so successful on its own merits it was recommissioned after the Games as a comedy review of the week with celebrity guests. March 2013 saw the introduction of Gogglebox; a series showing families watching and talking about various television programmes in their own homes, which proved to be popular therefore inevitably spawned variants such as Gogglesprogs (featuring children) in 2015 and a one-off ‘Brexit Special’ in 2016.

Channel 4 News Clock (2015)In September 2015 Channel 4 introduced a new and highly abstract on-screen identity featuring the blocks that make up its logo appearing in different forms, using short computer-generated animated sequences; four of these created ident sequences (one shown before each programme) formed an entirely fictional ‘story’. Pictured here is an abstract ‘clock’ animation which immediately preceded the Channel 4 News at 7pm; the hidden clock hands ‘twitched’ but didn’t actually rotate though the blocks themselves did move clockwise once each second. Channel 4’s logo only occasionally appeared in its complete form at certain points between programmes.

Channel 4 Ident (2017)By 2017 Channel 4 introduced fresh computer-generated idents that are more ‘conventional’ in nature, replacing the previous four animated story sequences but keeping most of the rest of the channel’s presentation package as introduced in 2015. They all feature a cartoon figure made out of blocks that does various things, this time accompanied by an acoustic guitar version of the Fourscore theme as originally used back in 1982. 2017 also saw the introduction of The Great British Bake-Off to Channel 4; a baking competition series made by Love Productions but originally commissioned and shown by the BBC. However Channel 4 won the rights to The Great British Bake-Off after a furious bidding war triggered when Love Productions decided that it may be better off moving the popular format to a rival broadcaster.

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BBC2: A choice of viewing

BBC InterludeUp to 1964 there were only two television channels in the UK: BBC and ITV, though if you lived on the boundary of two ITV areas it was possible to receive more than one ITV service, but the majority of the programmes would essentially be the same. BBC2, it was hoped, would offer more than just ‘more of the same’ and would have an entirely different ‘character’ to the other two established networks. BBC2 would also be different in that it was transmitted using 625 lines on UHF channels which matched the post-war standard ratified by convention and used in continental Europe as opposed to the existing 405 line pre-war UK system, though colour was still a few years away and its introduction was delayed by the move to 625 lines.

625 Line TelevisionsFrom the start, BBC2 faced an uphill struggle. Because of the different line and frequency standards used for BBC2, a new television was required along with an additional aerial in order to receive the new service. The early sets that could receive BBC2 were known as dual standard receivers because they had to cater for BBC1 and ITV on 405 lines VHF as well; it would be a few years (dependent on the area) for BBC1 and ITV to also be made available on UHF, with the last area to switch to UHF being the Channel Islands in 1976. A few 405 line VHF sets were capable of being upgraded to 625 line UHF operation.

BBC2 Will Start ShortlyBBC2’s opening night was a total disaster; it was hit by a major power failure, though the fireworks which featured the two kangaroos (the baby one jumping out of its mother’s pouch) still managed to shine on the opening night. These kangaroo mascots (Hullaballoo and Custard) were initially used to publicise the new service, with the basic concept being that BBC2 was the new ‘child’ of BBC-tv (which was soon to be known as BBC1 – though because BBC2 was only viewable in London and the Midlands to begin with, the idea was slow to catch on).

Play SchoolThe previous day’s blackout meant that the first programme to be transmitted in its entirety was Play School the following morning, though the channel then closed down until the early evening. Play School became a very popular series for pre-school children and was produced right up until 1988 when it was replaced by Playdays, and elements of Play School were also used in Tikkabilla.

Denis Twohy with candleThis picture was taken from the ‘proper’ start of the first early evening programmes, with the candle being symbolic of the previous evening’s power failure. Also because not everybody could receive the new service, most BBC2 programmes had to be repeated later on BBC1 after their first showing. Each evening initially started with a 10 minute programme presented by Denis Twohy (pictured), entitled Line-up which gave a preview of the evening’s programmes on the channel. In other words, Line-Up was just an extended promotion for the channel, which is how viewers and critics treated it therefore Line-Up was replaced in September by Late Night Line-Up, an open-ended discussion programme shown at the end of an evening just before closedown so as not to constrain its end time, which also introduced Joan Bakewell as a presenter.

BBC2 Clock (1964)Despite all of this, and a slow start not helped by the channel’s early ‘Seven Faces’ schedule (each day was dedicated to a particular theme such as education on Tuesdays) which was unpopular and soon scrapped, BBC2 built up a loyal audience, courtesy of its quality programming which often catered for more specialist tastes.

BBC2 Colour WeatherWhat also greatly helped BBC2 was that it was the first channel in the UK to start a colour service in 1967 as the intention was that colour should be available only on 625-line services, though colour programmes were few and far between to begin with and colour televisions were expensive. Having a second channel enabled the BBC to show (for example) more sporting action than was previously possible, as well as making room in the schedules on both channels for more imaginative programming. ITV was jealous.

Bulong and Bola - A Shell FilmWhat were known as Trade Test Colour Films were first transmitted on BBC2 in 1964 during the weeks before the channel launched, then they were shown sporadically prior to a regular schedule commencing on 21 August 1967 ahead of the formal introduction of a colour service on BBC2. A wide variety of short colour films (usually less than 30 minutes in duration) were shown at various times of the day when no scheduled programmes were being broadcast, such as Atlantic Parks, Beauty In Trust, Coupe Des Alpes, L For Logic, Roads To Roam and Trans-Canada Journey, etc.; these films were obtained from various sources such as BP, British Transport, the National Film Board of Canada, Philips and Shell as well as the BBC themselves, and there was a regular trade test schedule right up until 24 August 1973, with the final film shown being Giuseppina.

CivilisationTop class documentaries such as Civilisation and The Ascent of Man helped give BBC2 (and the BBC in general) an enviable reputation that still exists to this day. Rightly or wrongly BBC2 initially had a reputation for being a ‘highbrow’ channel, and David Attenborough who was the channel’s controller from 1965-69 was broadly responsible for creating this upmarket image as an alternative to BBC1 and ITV.

Colour Me PopAnd it wasn’t just the documentaries that gave BBC2 a highbrow image; early music offerings included classical concerts and opera as well as jazz in the famous Jazz 625 series, but BBC2 also let its hair down with popular music: Colour Me Pop ran from 1968-9 as a spinoff from Late Night Line-Up and featured one artist per programme. Unfortunately very little survives of Colour Me Pop in the BBC’s archive unlike its spiritual successor The Old Grey Whistle Test, which began in 1972 and was presented by Bob Harris.

The Open UniversityThe Open University was introduced by Harold Wilson’s government in 1971, enabling adults to study for degree courses in their spare time as opposed to having to attend classroom lectures, with BBC2 being its outlet for course-related television programming. Despite being independent of the BBC, the Open University worked in close cooperation with the corporation and used Alexandra Palace as its base for many years. The OU shield logo occasionally rotated on-screen as its theme tune played (the first few bars of Divertimento by Leonard Salzedo) at the start of each block of programming, though the famous tune which some people thought was rather scary was dropped when BBC2 introduced its new presentation package in 1991.

Open University ResourcesSeveral of the Open University’s early programmes were produced in black and white despite colour television having already been introduced, and OU course material also included self-study aids such as records and cassettes as well as textbooks, with video cassettes, CD/CD-ROM discs and DVD’s becoming available as technology progressed. Indeed the Open University no longer broadcasts course material via television channels because it no longer needs to.

BBC Colour Service information follows at 10.30 Clock BBC tv Transmitter Information

From 1967 until December 1982 there were regular transmitter information bulletins broadcast on BBC2, with three bulletins a day until 1975 when it was just one bulletin broadcast mid-morning (usually at 10.30). Each bulletin was usually three minutes long and comprised of any news relevant to the television trade such as information relating to the temporary disruption of broadcasts from specific transmitters, etc., and a list of colour trade test films to be broadcast that day (up until the films were no longer shown in August 1973). The accompanying theme music was entitled ‘Swirly’.

WheelbaseWith more people buying televisions capable of receiving UHF 625 line broadcasts during the 1970s even if they couldn’t watch them in colour, BBC2 was starting to pick up sizeable audiences for its programming as well as having the freedom to broadcast more specialised programmes catering for hobbies such as motoring (Wheelbase, later replaced by Top Gear, which then evolved into the entertainment show it has become today), gardening (Gardeners World – see the BBC Gardening section for more information), science (Horizon) and politics could now be covered in greater depth than ever before with programmes such as Newsnight.

Call My BluffCall My Bluff was a popular genteel quiz game originally shown on BBC2 from 1965 to 1988, with Robert Robinson (pictured) being the show’s longest-serving presenter. Two teams comprising of three people (one regular team captain plus two celebrity guests) played against each other, with one team having to guess the correct definition of an obscure word shown on the rotating rectangular board purely based on three possible definitions read out in turn by the other team’s members; one of the definitions is true whilst the other two are just made-up nonsense. The word definitions are printed on cards, and when the captain of the team doing the guessing has chosen which person’s definition they think is correct, the card is then turned round to reveal either the word TRUE or BLUFF, with a correct guess scoring 1 point.

BBC2 Clock (1980)By 1980 BBC2 had developed comedy far beyond its original boundaries which were essentially derived from Victorian music hall productions. That Was the Week that Was (or TW3) had started the satirical trend on BBC1 (or BBC-tv as it was properly known at the time) in the 1960s, but BBC2 was free to develop ideas much further, being unhindered by the requirement to cater for a mass-market audience.

Not the Nine O'Clock In the Morning NewsNot the Nine O’Clock News brought together Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson for the first time in this comedy sketch show with satirical leanings; it was so called because it was shown at 9pm opposite the Nine O’Clock News on BBC1 as a satirical alternative.

BBC2 News with SubtitlesNews bulletins were also shown on BBC2 for many years and they occasionally featured in-vision subtitles;  this practice continued for a while even when the cost of televisions with teletext became easily affordable to those viewers who benefited from the provision of subtitles. Nowadays virtually all digital TV receivers have a subtitles facility, but certain programmes shown overnight on both BBC One and BBC Two also feature in-vision sign language for the hard-of-hearing.

BBC2 IdentDespite the arrival of Channel 4 in 1982 which gave BBC2 direct competition for the first time, BBC2 continued to thrive throughout the 1980s by sticking to what it does best. Popular shows such as French and Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous and Blackadder started on BBC2 before moving to BBC1, and stars such as Rowan Atkinson and Victoria Wood started their TV careers on BBC2 shows. Schools programmes transferred from BBC1 to BBC2 in the Autumn Term of 1983, and a special “Daytime on 2” strand was created, featuring the BBC2 ident pictured but with a graduated orange background.

'TWO' ident with 888 subtitles captionMarch 1986 saw the introduction of a new look for BBC2, with a pastel-coloured TWO logo emerging from a white background used as the ident; the logo having been designed in-house as opposed to having been commissioned from an external design agency.

TWO - Gale Is Dead (TV50 - 1986)Also in 1986 there was the 50th anniversary of television to celebrate, and TV50 (as it was billed) featured several programmes to mark the occasion including The Fools On The Hill; a dramatisation of the early years of television at Alexandra Palace, mixing real people and events with fictional characters.

Play School - WednesdayPlay School was still being produced and shown on BBC2 right up to 1988, and in its last incarnation the title sequence animation made heavy use of ribbon-style coloured lines forming the house picture before revealing which day of the week it was, as was traditional for this long-running programme for young children.

BBC2 Christmas Tree1991 saw the introduction of the famous short animations all featuring the number ‘2’ that formed the core of BBC2’s (then new) station identity, such as a ‘2’ symbol being splashed with paint (shown below) or a ‘2’ lit up with neon tubes. There were a host of special animations later introduced for various occasions; this is a still taken from a special ident used over the Christmas period in 1992.

BBC Two Paint IdentThe BBC’s October 1997 corporate makeover resulted in the new-style BBC corporate logo and typeface (Gill Sans) being adopted. Both were developed by Martin Lambie-Nairn, who also developed (among numerous other projects) the Channel 4 logo. Some more new idents were introduced at the start of January 2000, and at this time was added to them.

BBC Learning ZoneBBC2 also has a reputation for being an educational channel; overnight it runs what is known as ‘The Learning Zone’ which used to features Open University programmes and the ‘Bite Size’ GCSE examination revision aid series. Note also in the top-left hand corner the use of a superimposed caption known in BBC-speak as a “DOG” (digitally originated graphic) which is used often during the Learning Zone period and frequently (at the time of writing) on the BBC’s digital only channels during programmes as a form of branding.

BBC Two Test Card FThe test card used to be a very common sight on television screens, especially on BBC2 during the daytime (it wasn’t until 1988 that regular daytime programming was introduced on BBC2). Over the years, the test card was steadily replaced by other things such as Pages from Ceefax (used from 1980 until analogue TV transmissions were completely switched off in 2012) for the early morning gap between programmes and the Learning Zone, and later on the test card was subsequently confined to the BBC HD channel (combined with an audio test) until its closure in March 2012. Test Card F (shown here) was later superseded by the similar Test Card J and its widescreen companion Test Card W.

BBC Two Dad's Army MenuNo matter how well liked something is, there comes a time when there is a requirement for something new to replace it. Following on from the very popular animations that characterised the channel was always going to be a tough job, so new character-orientated themes based on the ‘2’ symbol were introduced along with the BBC TWO text in a purple box to match the new corporate standard; not so much a revolution but evolution. A white ‘2’ symbol on a yellow backdrop does various things including bouncing around the screen or gains robotic arms to perform various tasks such as wiping a pane of glass. The (very rare) use of a clock was abandoned altogether at this point.

BBC Two 40 Years IdentBBC2 celebrated its 40th birthday in 2004, and a special ident was created along with a celebratory programme entitled Happy Birthday BBC Two. Coincidentally, a 20 minute video recording of BBC2’s aborted first night was discovered earlier in the same year, giving an insight into exactly what happened that fateful evening when there was a power failure. 

BBC Learning ZoneDecember 16 2006 saw another landmark event as it was the very last time television programmes related to Open University courses were broadcast overnight on BBC Two. Since the founding of the Open University in 1971 until 2006, television programmes were used as a primary visual medium for a wide range of self-study courses but various forms of new technology had essentially made traditional linear broadcast television programming somewhat redundant as a means of delivering course material, especially in relation to higher education degree courses. The Open University still produces television programmes for the BBC but they are aimed at a general audience as opposed to being course-related; examples of such productions include Bang Goes The Theory and Stargazing Live. All schools programmes moved to being shown overnight as part of The Learning Zone as of 2010.

The ApprenticeModern BBC Two is generally still proving to be popular with audiences despite stiff competition from numerous other channels; new series such as The Apprentice and The Culture Show have proven to be popular with viewers, and Springwatch (a wildlife series presented by Bill Oddie) provided the surprise hit of 2005. However many of the popular US imports such as The Simpsons have now defected to other channels courtesy of commercial broadcasters who are now prepared to pay larger amounts of money for them, meaning that the teatime 6pm slot was proving to be rather troublesome (underlined by the failure of Dick and Dom’s Ask the Family ‘revival’) for the recently appointed (ex-BBC Four) controller Roly Keating.

BBC Two Cappucino IdentWhen the world begins to grow tired of bouncing 2’s and 2’s with robotic arms, etc., a new channel identity is perhaps inevitable. Step forward a new look BBC Two, which was refreshed on 18 February 2007 with what superficially looks very much like the sort of thing seen on BBC2 during the 1990s, namely the symbol ‘2’ featuring in a host of different situations such as the shape of a tent door or sprinklings on a cappuccino drink (pictured), though this cappuccino ident was soon to be dropped along with two other idents featuring a chase. However look closer and you can see other changes such as different colours being used for items such as logos and programme information captions.

BBC Two Sunday MenuA large ‘cut-out’ 2 logo used in a similar style to Channel 4’s giant ‘4’ symbol was commonly used for promotions and idents during this period, though the overall effect might have been construed as a cheap copy of Channel 4’s award-winning identity. The BBC HD channel was frequently mentioned as well in programme promotions, because it simulcasted many BBC Two programmes in high definition (along with programmes from other BBC channels) from its launch in 2009 until March 2013 when the BBC HD channel became a dedicated BBC Two HD channel.

BBC 2 Colour Ident (2012 retro version)In 2012, BBC Two featured a season of programmes devoted to the 1970s when it used mock 1970s-style presentation for both retro-themed and modern programming such as Sounds of the 70s and The Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation, with this ident being essentially identical to what BBC2 used during the early-1970s. There was also a series consisting of three hour-long programmes featuring archive footage entitled The 70s, presented by historian Dominic Sandbrook.

The Little Paris KitchenVery much typifying the modern BBC Two programme line-up are cookery programmes that set out to entertain as well as inform; for example, The Little Paris Kitchen, Great British Menu and The Great British Bake Off (amongst others) all aim to do exactly that. Plus continuing favourites like Coast, Top Gear and University Challenge coexist in the BBC Two schedule with new programmes for 2013 such as the fly-on-the-wall series The Railway and the surreal comedy It’s Kevin (starring Kevin Eldon).

BBC Two Channel of the Year 2013 IdentBBC Two HD launched on 26 March 2013 as a replacement for the BBC HD channel, simulcasting the existing standard definition BBC Two channel in HD or upscaled SD (as with the existing BBC One HD channel), and the BBC also used this occasion to also give BBC Two a minor presentational refresh; channel idents were given new soundtracks provided by current popular music artists such as alt-J, and new animations were also introduced to reinforce the channel brand. Also note the “Channel Of The Year” slogan due to BBC Two winning the award at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2012.

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ITV: Independent television

View On Band III Channel 9

From 1936 to 1955 there was only one television channel in the UK (and nothing at all during World War 2), then the ITV (Independent Television) network came along which unlike the BBC was funded entirely using revenue from advertisements shown between programmes. Another key difference with Independent Television (or ITV as it became known later) soon became apparent as the transmitter network expanded over the following years, namely that different companies were contracted to provide the television service for different regions of the British Isles, with the size and nature of those regions being determined by geographical factors (the availability of suitable transmitter sites) combined with technical considerations (frequency availability) and financial considerations determined by the population size that each transmitter served. Indeed, the three most populated regions of England (London, the Midlands and the North) were originally awarded separate broadcasting franchises for weekday and weekend broadcasting because it was felt that (for example) having one franchise serving millions of people in London seven days a week would lead to one franchise holder making much more money compared to other franchise holders and that company would end up dominating the network as a consequence.

Having different TV broadcasting franchises for the second channel naturally resulted in different programmes being produced in different regions, though it soon became apparent that there was a requirement to share certain programming with other franchises due to cost considerations. Also many more programmes were broadcast live due to the high cost of film recording – video recording only became commercially available in 1957 and was also extremely expensive – therefore many programmes were broadcast simultaneously on different franchises at the same time, though certain franchises occasionally declined to show programming for various reason(s).

ITN NewsITN (Independent Television News) provided news programmes for the ITV network and the organisation still does so today. The first bulletin was transmitted at 10pm on 22 September 1955 on ITV’s opening night, and introduced a less formal style of news broadcasting to the UK imported from America, which was in direct contrast to the cinema newsreels and still pictures that the BBC used. The appropriately-named Christopher Chataway presented the first programme, and him, along with Robin Day and Ludovic Kennedy, became household names.

Tyne Tees Television Channel 8To begin with, independent television started life in London with Associated-Rediffusion providing the London weekday service plus ATV providing the London weekend service, but over the next few years the ITV network expanded with the addition of more regional franchises covering various parts of the United Kingdom. This caption from Tyne Tees (North-East England) gives the VHF channel number. Many TV sets produced before 1955 were often only capable of receiving one channel and these sets needed a “set-top convertor” to enable additional frequencies to be viewed.

ATV PresentsThe news was not the only thing different about the new service. ITV, in contrast to the licence fee funded BBC, was more ‘downmarket’ in its approach, showing quiz games and popular light entertainment shows in order to attract viewers to the channel; many of these formats such as Associated-Rediffusion’s Double Your Money were imported from America. The caption shown here is the start of the title sequence for Sunday Night at the London Palladium, presented by Jack Parnell, and produced for the ITV network by Associated Television (ATV), which was the company that held the London ITV weekend franchise until 1968. ATV also held the Midlands ITV franchise (weekdays only until 1968) up to 1982 when ATV essentially reinvented itself as Central.

Beat the Clock with Bruce ForsythSunday Night at the London Palladium was basically a traditional variety show format adapted for television, but it also featured what was the novel addition of a quiz show segment (Beat The Clock, shown here with Bruce Forsyth as the presenter). This entertainment mixture proved to be very popular for many years with audience figures often exceeding 20 million in its heyday, firmly establishing ITV as the home of popular entertainmentand the format has been revived on more than one occasion.

Granada Goes On-Air At 4.50Granada Television was the third ITV franchise to launch in 1956, initially serving the North-West of England, Yorkshire and (unofficially) parts of North Wales, and over the years Granada outlived all the other franchises to form the modern ITV plc that it is today. The company started life as a chain of cinemas, entering the world of television rather reluctantly to begin with until its management was convinced of commercial television’s long term worth. Granada is famous for several programmes, especially Coronation Street (a long-running soap opera) and World in Action. (Photos above and below courtesy of Transdiffusion.)

Independent Television For SchoolsITV started showing schools programmes as early as 13 May 1957, when Associated-Rediffusion (managed by the forward-thinking Paul Adorian) established the first regular schools broadcasting in the UK; the BBC following suit by September, initially showing one programme each afternoon. Many teachers were initially suspicious of using television as a teaching tool in the classroom, especially as they had to fit lessons around the showing of various programmes (not an easy task) with no means of recording them until the mid-1960s. Schools broadcasts also helped to lessen the perception that ITV consisted purely of mass market entertainment.

Armchair TheatreThe ITV franchises may have produced ‘populist’ drama such as soap operas along with even more lightweight quiz and variety programming shown during the early evening, but ITV proved that there was a sizeable audience for more serious drama offerings such as the ABC-produced Armchair Theatre that featured one-off plays; indeed Armchair Theatre outlasted ABC and continued when Thames was formed for the London weekday ITV franchise in 1968.

Westward Channel 9 Channel 12The 1960s saw a further expansion of the ITV network, which finally enabled ITV programmes to be viewed in most parts of the country. Westward Television was arguably the first of the “second wave” of ITV franchises to start broadcasting in 1961, following on from the initial batch of franchises which had included Southern and Tyne Tees as well as the pioneers Associated-Rediffusion and Granada. At this point it seemed fairly obvious that ITV franchises were now capable of making money, though the first and only ITV company to go bankrupt whilst still holding a franchise (WWN) was soon to follow.

News at 101967 saw the introduction of News at Ten, the half-hour news bulletin that became the cornerstone of the ITV schedule for over thirty years before being dropped in 1999 for a few years. ITN has always produced the news bulletins for the ITV network despite competition from other news providers in more recent times such as Sky News, and has also produced news bulletins for Channel 4 (and Channel 5 during its early years as well as nowadays).

ITA Emley MoorITV’s Picasso Period…Up to the advent of colour in 1969 there was something called the ‘Picasso’ tuning signal, which was unofficially named after the famous artist by virtue of its style. (What Picasso himself would have made of it is unknown, but he surely would have given nodding approval.) The example pictured was broadcast exclusively from the Emley Moor transmitter in Yorkshire, with various other transmitters transmitting their own individual identifying captions that helped engineers and viewers to tune and adjust their receiving equipment. Old sets needed much more attention in this respect compared to their modern counterparts which are plug-and-play devices based around computers.

Peyton PlaceITV’s first major shakeup caught almost everyone by surprise. The popular and respected ABC, whom prior to 1968 owned the (now extinct) Midlands and North of England weekend franchises had just expected to have been given one of the remaining major ITV franchises – London weekdays in particular being the coveted favourite – but being specifically asked to create a new ITV franchise company was a twist that nobody foresaw. Peyton Place was the very last programme to be transmitted by Rediffusion London in 1968 before the newly-created Thames Television took over as the London weekday franchise holder. ATV took over the Midlands franchise full-time with the weekend split being abolished.

Rediffusion London ProductionThames Television was created from the television production divisions of ABC (51%) and Rediffusion (49%) with ABC’s parent company ABPC being in overall control. With the new company structure, ABPC took the opportunity to change the ITV franchise name from ABC to Thames; a reason for doing this was that it would avoid confusion with the totally unrelated US and Australian ABC networks, especially when relating to international programme sales. After the creation of Thames, both the ABC and Rediffusion brands continued to be used for other purposes (cinemas and cable television to name but two) by their respective parent companies since only their ITV franchise operations had been affected.

HarlechAs well as the changes listed above, TWW (Television Wales and West) were ‘dispossessed’ and replaced by Harlech Television, a company named after Lord Harlech but which was soon to be renamed HTV since the Harlech name (rightly or wrongly to many viewers) reflected a Welsh bias to viewers in the West of England. The HTV franchise has since passed through the hands of UNM (United News and Media) and Carlton before Carlton was ‘merged’ with Granada to create what is now known as ITV Cymru Wales. Pre-programme company idents (as such) were no longer used from the beginning of 1988.

World Of SportWorld Of Sport was ITV’s famous Saturday afternoon sports programme presented by Dickie Davies which ran until 1985, and typically featured football (On The Ball), Australian rules football, stock car racing and the very popular wrestling matches that made household names of wrestlers such as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki, etc., as well as horse racing and other sports. Recently ITV revived the World of Sport brand for wrestling events and other purposes.

Boxing Day With ITVVarious regional ITV companies became nationally well known for their contributions to the ITV network; for example Anglia became famous for its wildlife series Survival as well as its downmarket quiz Sale of the Century (“From Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week…”), Southern Television produced Out of Town presented by Jack Hargreaves, and the derestriction of ITV’s broadcasting hours in 1972 enabled Yorkshire Television to produce Emmerdale Farm which continues to this day as an evening soap just known as Emmerdale.

Independent Television For Schools Independent Television For Schools Independent Television For Schools Independent Television For Schools

The English ProgrammeFor many years, Independent Television for Schools and Colleges programming shown on ITV followed the same pattern, namely a picture was shown on screen accompanied by music, with the picture being replaced by a countdown clock with vanishing divisions showing for the final minute before the start of the programme.

Independent Television For Schools and Colleges - WestwardSchools programmes also enabled smaller ITV franchises like Border, Grampian and even Channel to fulfil their franchise requirements in terms of supplying networked ITV programmes. Various ITV schools programmes included A Place to Live, the ‘A’ Level chemistry programme Experiment, and arguably the most famous ITV schools programme of them all, How We Used To Live.

A Place To LiveHere’s a later example of the Independent Television For Schools clock as used in the 1980s with a different clock face and font style. No commercials were shown before or during the programmes intended for schools and colleges, and this practice continued until ITV schools programming was moved to Channel 4 at the start of 1988.

ITN News at 5.45The 1980s started with a degree of uncertainty for the ITV contractors, as the second franchise review took place. Three familiar ITV names – ATV, Southern and Westward – were displaced by newcomers Central Independent Television, TVS (Television South) and TSW (Television South West) on January 1 1982, with one surprise being the loss of ATV because they were still a very successful ITV franchise holder, though Central were in essence just a ‘reorganised ATV’ with greater local commitments forced upon it by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). With improved local provisioning in mind, another change were made to the South East with the Bluebell Hill transmitter in Kent broadcasting TVS (which had pledged to improve the South-East of England’s local news service from new regional studios at Maidstone) instead of Thames/LWT.

TV-amAlso ITV gained a new national breakfast television service provided by a completely separate contractor – TV-am, which began broadcasting a little more than a year after the other changes (1 February 1983), going on-air shortly after the BBC had launched its own ‘spoiler’ Breakfast Time programme on BBC1.

O.T.T. on TVSNew franchises, new ideas…With three new ITV franchises wanting to attract and keep their viewers, there was an outburst of creativity on the ITV network over the next two or so years, though the end results were perhaps understandably mixed, with Central having the most luck network-wise and TSW getting the wooden spoon prize for (not) getting their shows on-air nationally. Central replaced Pipkins with Let’s Pretend and launched O.T.T.; an adult version of Tiswas which had little difficulty in attracting viewers but controversy forced it off-air after only one series.

Spitting ImageRather more successful shows produced by Central during its first few years included Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, which proved to be very popular and so were quizzes such as Bullseye and The Price Is Right; ATV’s Crossroads soap continued but was axed in 1988, and so did the drama Boon. In 1984 the popular satirical puppet comedy Spitting Image made its debut, though its first series featured a studio audience (an idea that was subsequently dropped).

C.A.T.S. EYESBeing a significant newcomer to the ITV network, TVS came up with some new ideas of its own including detective drama C.A.T.S. Eyes, science series The Real World which featured ex-Tomorrow’s World presenter Michael Rodd and featured a 3D TV experiment with free coloured lens glasses supplied with copies of the TV Times; TVS also produced kids’ TV offerings On Safari and the Saturday morning show No 73. The only programmes that TSW managed to make an impact with on ITV were basically the quiz show Sounds Like Music, daytime canine competition That’s My Dog which also had the distinction of being the first ITV programme to have a commercial sponsor (Pedigree Chum dog food), plus the children’s cartoon series Tube Mice.

ITV Where There's LifeExisting ITV franchises also launched new programming such as Yorkshire Television’s science show Where There’s Life, Thames Television’s Button Moon for young children, and Granada produced The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the hugely successful drama series The Jewel in the Crown in 1984, so ITV was still proving that it could be a force to be reckoned with despite all its recent upheavals. And 1985 saw the launch of long-running dating game show Blind Date, produced by LWT and presented for many years by Cilla Black.

ITV First Among EqualsITV continued to prosper during the second half of the 1980s as the new franchises bedded in, and the established ITV players continued apace; Granada adapted the novel First Among Equals into a 10-part drama series shown in 1986, and Thames’ long-running Strike It Lucky (later renamed Strike It Rich) quiz hosted by Michael Barrymore started in October of the same year. In 1988 Thames produced a highly controversial edition of current affairs programme This Week entitled Death on the Rock which some claim was a significant factor in Thames subsequently losing its ITV franchise even though this was officially denied; the same year also saw the launch of long-running drama series London’s Burning. Despite these successes there were clouds on the horizon for the ITV franchises in general; new technology such as the introduction of satellite television and the rapid growth of cable television networks meant theoretical new direct competition for ITV’s prized ad revenue – could ITV’s long-held “licence to print money” be finally coming to an end?

ITV Yorkshire Television (1989)With the launch of Sky satellite TV in 1989 (and rival BSB soon to follow), some people at ITV thought that it would be opportune to create a more unified appearance for a TV channel that essentially comprised of a collection of separate regional TV broadcast franchises which happened to share much of their programming, hence the English Marshall Pockett agency were commissioned to produce a new identity package for ITV featuring a new logo plus generic-looking idents (within each ident, the ‘V’ of ITV showed part of the regional company logo), and other presentational elements intended to be used right across the ITV network, with a new theme tune composed by Lord David Dundas (also the composer of the original Channel 4 theme 4 Score). However not all of the ITV franchises adopted this new look, with the Channel, LWT and TVS franchises totally ignoring it from a local perspective, plus nearly all of the ITV franchises that did use the generic package ended up abandoning its use after only a year, with the notable exception of Grampian Television who continued to use their ITV generic ident right up until 2006 and the STV takeover.

TVS Thanks for watchingPrior to the post-2002 ITV franchise consolidation process, there were many more companies owning various individual ITV franchises that permitted them to broadcast to individual regions, and these franchises are reviewed every couple of years, with licence renewal not being an automatic process at this point, as many companies subsequently found to their cost. Thames, TVS, TSW and TV-am all lost their franchises and were replaced by Carlton, Meridian, Westcountry and GMTV at the start of 1993. The manner of which the franchise renewals were conducted in 1991 was highly controversial, and Thames Television losing its London franchise was certainly a point of huge contention. ITV programmes produced during this period included Yorkshire Television’s highly successful comedy drama adaptation of H.E.Bates’ novels entitled The Darling Buds of May.

Meridian Break BumperCommercial television sometimes uses what is known as a ‘break bumper’ which is a very short (typically less than 2 second) animation with no music shown just before and/or after the commercial break – the picture is taken from one which was used by Meridian Television. Occasionally ITV companies used a simple animation between each commercial as well (technically known as an ‘optic’ or ‘ad spacer’); the one used by Westward Television featured a rotating hexagon of all things, something perhaps adopted with Channel Television in mind because for many years Westward provided the ‘parent’ programme feed for the smallest ITV contractor serving the Channel Islands.

Westcountry LiveWith the new ITV franchise holders came new early evening regional news programmes in their respective regions: for example, Carlton introduced London Tonight, Meridian introduced Meridian Tonight (replacing TVS’s Coast to Coast) whilst Westcountry introduced Westcountry Live as a replacement for TSW Today.

ITV - TV from the heartTV from the heart…ITV’s new image as introduced on 5 October 1998, which includes a new lower case itv logo (replacing the 1989 design) and colour scheme. Designed by English and Pockett, the theme of hearts introduced throughout ITV’s on-screen presentation is meant to symbolise ‘warmth’ and ‘cuddliness’, though presumably ITV executives nearly had heart failure when they learnt of the BBC Choice ‘three hearts’ ident that also introduced during 1998. However not all companies made use all the changes, eg. Meridian and others frequently used their own style of ident/break bumper and appended their own logo to generic ITV trailers. LWT for some reason decided to create their own idents based around the hearts theme, perhaps to make their own output a bit more distinctive compared to Carlton’s weekday presentation. 1998 also saw the beginning of a successful long-running big money quiz: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?.

ITV TV Gets Better March 8The next (and not uncontroversial) change was the axing of News at Ten from March 8 1999. Since 1967, News at Ten had been a regular feature of the ITV weekday evening schedule and it had also been a condition of the ITV franchise holders that they were to show it regardless, meaning that it was impossible to start showing a movie at (say) 9 pm without being interrupted by anything but commercials. After many complaints, the ITC forced ITV to reinstate its 10pm bulletin at least for four days a week; it was known as the “ITV News at Ten“, though it wasn’t too long before this idea was abandoned for a shorter bulletin in a later slot. Nowadays both ITV and BBC One have major news bulletins at 10pm.

Carlton (1999)From Monday 8 November 1999 – a year and a month after the ITV ‘heart’ logo was introduced, all English ITV franchises (except the Carlton-owned regions) adopted the ITV “generic” look for their on-screen presentation. The Carlton example is taken from the Midlands (Central) region which used orange as a background colour.

Central NewsBehind the scenes at ITV there have been many upheavals within many of the franchises since the mid 1990s with numerous mergers and acquistions; the net result by 2000 being that Granada owned all English ITV regions apart from London weekdays, the Midlands and the HTV West/South West of England (Westcountry) which were owned by Carlton, but even that was going to change by 2004 when Granada finally ‘merged’ with Carlton to create one company holding what were still several individual ITV franchises until the Digital Economy Act abolished them in 2010. Nowadays ITV owns all of the former franchise regions (including UTV and Channel) apart from STV covering the whole of Scotland.

Central News StudioThe studio set of the early evening regional news programme Central News at Six (shown here) demonstrates how the star theme used by Carlton had been utilised (note the star pattern on the backdrop of the news studio). Nowadays all the English ITV regions use the same style of general presentation, with virtually identical studio sets employed throughout the regions. (Furthermore, some former regions have now been merged with each other, for example Yorkshire and Tyne Tees.)

ITV Schedule Christmas 1999This ‘programme menu’ shows the lineup of programmes for ITV for Christmas Day 1999, which is dominated by a selection of programmes designed to try and attract the largest popular audience possible. ITV has in recent years performed relatively poorly in terms of audience share on Christmas Day, so this illustrates a clear attempt to reverse the trend, despite advertisers being less bothered about advertising on Christmas Day in spite of a potentially large captive audience.

End of CrossroadsThis picture illustrates something that is starting to become more commonplace during 2001 on both ITV and BBC One; notably End Credit Promotions (or ECP for short). Whilst the end credits of one programme are being shown (in this case for an episode of the ill-fated revival of Crossroads) in one part of the screen, a promotion for another programme is being shown at the same time.

Pop Idol2001 saw the introduction of the first of a succession of big money-making light entertainment formats for ITV with Pop Idol; a singing contest featuring a hitherto novel combination of premium rate interactivity features (phone voting) and reality TV elements (namely, getting to know the contestants personally). This formula was subsequently adjusted by show producer Simon Cowell for the launch of The X Factor in April 2004, replacing Pop Idol in the UK, although the Pop Idol format continues to be used in certain other countries. A more traditional form of peak time weekend entertainment launched in June 2002 on ITV, namely Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

ITV Ant and Dec IdentOctober 2002 saw ITV1 launch a new look as part of a concerted effort to restore its image. ITV’s audience had been in steady decline over the last few years whilst (amongst other things) it concentrated efforts on the failed ONdigital/ITV Digital project. The new look featured various ITV personalities (such as Ant and Dec, pictured here) appearing before programmes, showing them as being “off duty” as part of short sequences, though an even more fundamental change at this point was that regional names such as Granada and Meridian were no longer used except for local news bulletins and sometimes seen just before regional programmes, plus some of these names were abandoned altogether at this juncture, eg. ITV1 London is used seven days a week with the LWT brand dropped (although the London region was at this point still controlled by two companies with Granada operating at the weekend and Carlton during weekdays).

The final transformation: On 2 February 2004 Granada finally merged with Carlton to create one ITV company (“ITV plc”) for England and Wales when shares in the unified company were first traded on the Stock Exchange, though STV (Scottish/Grampian, formerly SMG) and UTV (Northern Ireland) remain separate entities at the time of writing. (Channel Television remained independent until 2010 when it was taken over by ITV plc.) The Granada name was adopted as the network production brand for a while, whilst the Carlton name promptly disappeared into the history books like so many of its ITV franchise predecessors, though the Granada brand nowadays only exists in the North-West of England as part of the title of the regional news magazine programme Granada Reports; the fate of several of the previous ITV franchise brands.

A new unified look was introduced for ITV1 and ITV2, with ITV3 being created soon afterwards when Granada bought out BSkyB’s share of the digital channel (Granada). ITV4 was subsequently launched in 2005 with a new style of ITV logo that would be adopted elsewhere during 2006; the original plan was to scrap the Men & Motors channel but its continued popularity led to a reprieve and the ITV News Channel ended up being scrapped instead ostensibly due to the popularity of “on-demand” news (the ITV News Channel closed on 23 December 2005).

ITV suffered more than most from the decline in viewers experienced by nearly all television channels from the late-1990s onward, which was caused by numerous factors including most notably a large increase in the number of channels available via the uptake of digital television. With advertising revenues and market share still suffering from double-digit declines, ITV introduced a completely new look for its channels along with a new ‘itv’ logo in an attempt to reverse its declining fortunes, though it was (and still is) the most popular commercial television channel in the UK by a fair margin.

Michael Grade's AppointmentAt this point, what ITV really needed was a manager with a proven track record within the media industry as well as being deeply familiar with the history of ITV and its inner workings as a programme maker. Step forward Michael Grade, who was convinced of a need to return to his old employer in order to revive its flagging fortunes, even if his return to ITV in November 2006 was going to be relatively short-lived. Indeed Grade left the BBC at what seemed to be a critical point during licence fee negotiations which had taken place in conjunction with Mark Thompson, so this move was rather surprising yet welcome for ITV, all things considered. Whatever your views on Grade, his name gave some much-needed reassurance to ITV’s shareholders at an important juncture.

ITV1 End Credit PromotionThis caption illustrates the style of end credit promotion used by ITV around this time, showing what is coming up next on various other ITV channels. Note the mention of a (short-lived) ITV Play channel, which was forced to close due to industry-wide concerns over the use of premium rate phone lines for viewers to call in order to answer quiz questions. ITV Nightscreen still continues to be shown at various times during the early morning.

ITV1 HD IdentITV formally launched a high definition version of ITV1 on 2 April 2010 with six regional variations, and is available on Freeview HD unlike the high definition versions of other ITV channels due to a lack of available bandwidth, though not all new programmes were produced in HD at the time. ITV HD initially launched as a trial channel to Telewest cable TV customers in 2006 as well as being a limited experimental terrestrial broadcast in the London area from Crystal Palace, and was launched primarily for the showing of World Cup games as well as other programming such as films, Poirot, and a remastered version of the 70s sci-fi epic Space: 1999. 2009 saw the ITV HD channel appear on Freesat and Freeview HD (rebranded ITV1 HD), but the HD service was still limited to the hours of 18:00-23:00 7 days a week until the official launch; the same year also saw the demise of long-running arts series The South Bank Show in December, an occasion seen by some as the death of serious factual programming on the channel.

End of The BillA long-running institution came to an end on 31 August 2010 with the final episode of The Bill (Part 2 of a story entitled ‘Respect’). Produced by Thames Television, it started life as a one-off drama entitled ‘Woodentop‘ in 1984 which then got turned into a series, and its cast rapidly became household names as the series increased in popularity. The Bill went through several changes throughout its lifetime, including the controversial adoption of soap opera-style storylines (along with several cast changes), alienating many of the drama’s core fans before reverting back to predominantly self-contained stories using a regular cast as had been the case from the beginning. It has been claimed that the final nail in the coffin for this series came with an abrupt move to a post-9pm timeslot with barely enough notice given so as to modify existing stories for the extended hour-long slot, hence the end result proved to be relatively unsuitable despite some strong storylines.

DaybreakWhen ITV had an opportunity to acquire the independent Channel 3 breakfast TV franchise held by GMTV by buying out Disney’s share of the company it did so, and a new breakfast show was soon created for ITV1 – Daybreak, which launched on 6 September 2010 and isn’t to be confused with a programme of the same name broadcast by the TV-am franchise. (The breakfast television franchise remained classed as a separate entity within the 2010 Digital Economy Act passed within the last weeks of Gordon Brown’s Labour administration.)

ITV Daybreak StudioPoaching Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley from the BBC was supposedly going to be a ‘safe’ option in an attempt to somehow transplant the popularity of BBC One’s The One Show into breakfast time television, but by doing so ended up alienating loyal GMTV viewers who had become accustomed to its cosy charms, and just as GMTV had slowly evolved to become more like its TV-am predecessor, Daybreak soon made changes to its format in order to become a little more like its GMTV predecessor, though BBC One’s rival Breakfast News continued to outperform Daybreak in terms of popularity and Daybreak‘s sinking fortunes caused ITV to have yet another rethink and yet another borrowing from the past with the launch of Good Morning Britain in April 2014 (sharing a title with TV-am’s original breakfast time show).

ITV Balloon Ident (2013)January 2013 saw ITV’s biggest identity and corporate rebrand in 12 years, and a brand new curvy and joined-up lowercase logo was just one of several changes. Gone was the designation of ITV1 for the most popular channel; it’s now just known as ITV because that’s how most viewers refer to it (apparently). In theory doing such a thing might make distinguishing between ITV the broadcaster and ITV the channel a little tricky, but ITV has basically copied Channel 4 in this respect. All ITV channels had a simultaneous presentational makeover; the ITV channel gaining several new idents where the different colours of the logo change as the ident progresses, with the logo only becoming fully-formed at various points, taking a cue from the nature of Channel 4’s acclaimed idents on this occasion.

ITV News Studio (2013)Unsurprisingly ITV News also received a makeover at the same time, with a more sober single colour treatment of the logo and a very contemporary feel applied to the studio with a designer combination of creamy white, navy blue and a wooden floor. All the regional news studios were updated similarly, and the colour scheme also applies to the graphics and associated promotional material. As of 2013, ITV’s programme portfolio includes the acclaimed period drama Downton Abbey, recently-introduced period drama Mr Selfridge, and the new Saturday evening entertainment show Splash! that features celebrities diving into a pool, though the early evening cookery contest Food Glorious Food! turned out to be less appetising to viewers than originally expected.

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This is the BBC

This is the BBC

Alexandra Palace TransmitterThe BBC (British Broadcasting Company, as it was known at the time) started the world’s first regular high definition – ‘high’ in this case being relative to what was technologically possible at the time – public television service at 3 p.m. on 2 November 1936, transmitting 405-line black-and-white pictures from Alexandra Palace (London) to an audience of less than 400 sets. The transmitter range was only 30 miles, and programming was very minimal to begin with – an hour in the afternoon and an hour in the evening, and nothing on Sundays until February 1938 – due to a lack of budget and studio facilities (only one studio available until 1938 when the second studio housing the Baird camera was recommissioned) and also due to early concerns about eye strain, though staring for long periods at a small flickering screen must have been difficult.

Control PanelLord Selsdon’s Committee, set up by the Postmaster General in 1935 had advised that the BBC should hold a public trial of the two systems proposed – Baird’s 240-line mechanical scanning system and Marconi-EMI’s 405-line electronic scanning system, so both systems were used on alternate weeks with each system’s equipment housed in separate 40 foot long studios. The Marconi-EMI system was so obviously superior in all respects that the Baird system was dropped by February 1937; Baird’s camera was fixed and required the subject to be specially lit, compared with Marconi-EMI’s cameras which could even be used outside with an extension lead. Baird had tried to overcome camera restrictions using an “intermediate film system” where celluloid film was rapidly processed and fed into an optical scanner, but it became fairly obvious that this cumbersome and expensive technique was merely a stop-gap compared to the Marconi-EMI system’s future potential.

BBC Interlude (Fish)Before World War 2 television was slow to catch on, largely due to the limited range of the transmissions, lack of programmes, and the cost of the receivers (£60 upwards) meant that typically only wealthy people could afford them, so programming was aimed generally at this audience; especially as the BBC itself was controlled by people from these affluent social groups.

Coronation 1953Television was still very much in its infancy when the service restarted in 1946. One set per street was common, and families often visited friends or relatives who had a set in order to watch events such as the Coronation in 1953. Also only two studios were available until 1949 when the BBC opened eight new West London studios (one ex-variety theatre and the rest were converted film studios).

BBC Television Service ClockAfter World War 2 a comprehensive transmitter building programme ensured more people outside heavy populated areas such as London could watch television, though it was slow to progress due to funding restrictions. In 1949 television reached the Midlands, Manchester in 1951, Scotland in 1952, then Wales and the West Country. Lack of signal coverage didn’t stop people living in ‘fringe’ areas putting up large aerials in an attempt to receive some form of television picture even if the end result was unwatchable from time to time due to nearby interference, even though for the first few post-war years television was heavily restricted to a small number of programmes each day, typically starting with a demonstration film in the morning and concluding with a news broadcast being relayed in sound only. Large gaps between programmes were very common, with interlude films or tuning signal captions being displayed between programmes.

BBC Bats' Wings IdentOn December 2 1953, the BBC introduced a new symbol for use as visual identification (or an ident) for its Television Service, which quickly gained the nickname of “bat’s wings” due to its shape, and was the world’s first animated television ident symbol. Two ‘eyes’ rotated in the centre of a mechanical model whilst flashes of light shone on the wings at quarter-turn intervals; this was constructed as a mechanical model and the animation was filmed because the model was too fragile for regular use. The concept was developed by talented designer Abram Games, who was commissioned by the BBC on the strength of his emblem design for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

BBC Bats' Wings ClockGames also designed this clock as well as static cards featuring a simplified version of the same logo. Both the animated symbol and the clock remained in use until the end of 1959, but static captions featuring the symbol continued to be used until October 1960, whilst elements of the symbol (such as miniature lightning flashes) continued to be used for Schools programming until October 1961. During the mid-fifties, television was becoming more ambitious in terms of quantity and breadth, especially as post-war rationing was gradually coming to an end; programmes during this era included Mainly For Women, quiz show What’s My Line?, comedy series Emney Enterprises, drama serial The Grove Family, children’s favourite The Flowerpot Men and the groundbreaking six-part science fiction drama Quatermass and the Pit.

BBC News 1950s BBC Robert Dougall

News Control RoomTelevision was starting to prove that the coverage of news and current events could combine the immediacy of a radio news report with visuals which were far more up-to-date than a cinema newsreel, even if news bulletins in particular were somewhat restricted in terms of what was achievable with the resources available to them. The use of still photographs to illustrate news stories (as opposed to moving pictures) was extremely commonplace, with regional news programmes in particular continuing with the practice into the 1980s primarily due to a lack of resources.

Richard BakerThe early post-war BBC news bulletins were often almost identical in format to the newsreels shown in cinemas, but competition from Independent Television News from 1955 onwards caused the BBC to adopt a more flexible presentation format for its bulletins. Shown here is Richard Baker presenting the 6pm news bulletin.

BBC TV Outside BroadcastPost-war improvements in television technology meant that outside broadcasts of events such as horse racing were not only technically feasible but a wireless link meant that the action could be relayed back to the studios in real time from a moving vehicle for a truly live broadcast with no need to rush-process reels of film.

Video Tape RecorderThe advent of video recording using magnetic tape in 1956 not only meant that programmes could now be easily recorded and reused, but also allowed for the recording of outdoor and indoor events for replaying at a more convenient time. Shown here is one of the first videotape recorders that was housed at the BBC’s Lime Grove studios; early videotapes were unreliable so the recording had to be replayed by a technician to check the quality of the recording before it was used for broadcast. Due to the high price of both the recorder and the tapes, the tapes were frequently wiped and reused after a programme had been shown or after a later repeat showing, therefore many programmes were not kept for posterity as a consequence unless they were judged to be of particular importance.

Peter DimmockVideo playback was particularly useful for the replay of sporting events such as horse racing, though good quality and immediate slow motion action replays had to wait for the invention of magnetic videodisc recording in 1968, and the replay time of these early disc recorders was limited to less than 30 seconds. Pictured here is the presenter of Sportsview, Peter Dimmock.

BBC's TonightCurrent affairs is a very important part of the schedule, and uses the medium of television to effectively cover the background to current news stories with a greater depth than is generally possible with a conventional news bulletin; here is Cliff Michelmore presenting an episode of Tonight. Other similar programmes include Panorama, which was (and still is) the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme that usually tackles a single topical issue in depth.

Dixon of Dock GreenDixon of Dock Green, with Jack Warner as PC Dixon was a long running police series that was rather old-fashioned in its approach even when it was first shown, but was popular nevertheless and lasted right up until 1976 when the competition (such as Z Cars and Softly Softly Task Force) started to make it look way past its “sell-by date”.

Barry BucknellThe increase in viewers combined with competition from ITV by 1955 lead to new programme ideas being explored. From 1956 onwards, Barry Bucknell (pictured here) presented do-it-yourself projects on television, firstly as a contributor to About The Home which was then followed by his own series, entitled Barry Bucknell’s Do It Yourself. Just like many contemporaneous studio-based productions, this was broadcast live, resulting in the occasional (and inevitable) on-screen mishap. He then went on to present the much more ambitious house renovation programme Bucknell’s House in 1962, featuring a house in Ealing bought for £2,250. This area of programming was relatively neglected during the following decades until the advent of Changing Rooms in 1994, though there was On the House shown in the mid 1980s.

GrandstandGrandstand was the name of the BBC’s long-running sports magazine programme that was broadcast between 1958 and 2007, mainly on Saturday afternoons when much of the sporting action took place. Peter Dimmock presented the first three programmes but David Coleman then took over the role of presenter who was followed by Frank Bough, Des Lynam, Steve Rider and a slew of guest presenters during its final years up until Grandstand‘s final broadcasts during the last weekend of January 2007. It was most likely axed because the BBC now had fewer rights to broadcast sport than it did in the past due to increased competition from other broadcasters; notably pay-TV sport channels provided by broadcasters like BSkyB and BT.

BBC Map Ident 1960 BBC Z Cars at 8.25

BBC Clock 1960The above images illustrate the style of programme promotion used circa 1960, with its contemporary style and bold graphics replacing the Abram Games-designed “bat’s wings” symbol; elements of the new design had been introduced during 1959 prior to its formal introduction in 1960. Note the “BBC tv” italic letters appearing in separate square boxes similar to the modern BBC logo style, and the clock kept the unusually long second hand previously used for the “bat’s wing” clock. However this presentation style didn’t last nearly as long as the Abram Games symbol, with the introduction of the first of a succession of various globe symbols used to identify BBC Television soon to follow together with changes in style for the BBC corporate logo.

BBC Television CentreWith television now rapidly becoming the dominant broadcasting medium in the UK, the BBC needed somewhere that was much bigger than Alexandra Palace to accommodate its production requirements, therefore a new headquarters known as BBC Television Centre was commissioned and built on a suitable site in West London, with construction commencing in 1952 and Television Centre was ready for use by June 1960. From the air, the Television Centre buildings appear to take on the shape of a question mark, because that layout was thought to be best for the site in general.

First NightThe BBC naturally wanted to show off its new Television Centre building to its viewers, so a special light entertainment programme was shown on 29 June 1960 in order to do just that, logically entitled First Night. Not all of the BBC’s departments moved into the new building straightaway, with (for example) the News division not moving into Television Centre until 1969. The Open University was to make use of otherwise-unused Alexandra Palace studio facilities from 1970 onwards.

Eurovision Song Contest From the BBC Television Centre in London

The 1963 Eurovision Song Contest came from London due to the United Kingdom winning the previous year’s contest, giving the BBC an opportunity to show off its still relatively new Television Centre headquarters to a much bigger Eurovision audience worldwide.

BBC1 'Watchstrap' GlobeThe introduction of BBC2 in 1964, which enabled extra programmes which were not necessarily of mass appeal to be shown, and eventually colour was introduced to (what was now known as) BBC1 by the end of the decade. Some very memorable and ground-breaking programmes were being produced during this period which are still being shown around the world today, such as Steptoe and Son, and the long-running Doctor Who series began. Other programmes shown during the late 1960s included the popular sitcom Beggar My Neighbour, soap The Newcomers and football club drama United.

Weather MapThe weather forecast had progressed from the use of hand-drawn maps to the use of magnetic symbols by the mid-1960s as shown here, and this style of map continued to be used for several years after BBC1 had started broadcasting in colour in 1969. Before the use of magnetic symbols, everything had to be hand-drawn which was a time-consuming practice as well as being rather inflexible; the whole map obviously had to be redrawn if a correction was required.

BBC East AngliaDespite BBC1 getting the go-ahead to start a colour service in 1969, the regional centres were inevitably slower to upgrade all of their equipment to provide a colour service due to cost reasons, and it was several months before Television Centre was fully colour-equipped. The news magazine programme Nationwide incorporating reports and features from the various regions also started in this particular year, and some of the regional contributions weren’t produced in colour until the end of the 1970s. (Inside Out is perhaps the modern spiritual successor to Nationwide even if The One Show has a similar mix of features and studio discussion pieces.)

BBC 50 1922-19721972 was the 50th anniversary of the BBC, though at that time less than 20% of viewers had a colour television despite a colour service being available on all three channels since 1969; the BBC’s summer Olympic Games coverage did however help to boost colour television sales during 1972. Notable BBC1 programmes broadcast during the early 1970s included Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game (its initial title) which started in 1971, science fiction drama Moonbase 3, drama series Owen, M.D., plus the popular sitcoms Are You Being Served? and the very long-running Last Of The Summer Wine began in 1972.

BBC1 Futura Globe (1975)By the mid 1970s most families had at least one television set, and nearly all of the populated regions of the British Isles could receive television pictures in some form even if it was only a 405-line monochrome signal. Sitcoms and studio-based light entertainment were of extremely high quality during this period, with many classic programmes produced including It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, The Good Life and The Liver Birds. The Two Ronnies, The Morecambe and Wise Show and The Mike Yarwood Show featured in what many people now consider to be the BBC’s greatest ever Christmas Day schedule in 1977.

First given a public demonstration in 1972, the BBC-developed CEEFAX information service commenced public transmissions in September 1974 though it wasn’t until 1976 when suitable set-top boxes for the service were available to buy in any quantity.

Roy North with Basil BrushThe Basil Brush Show started life as a children’s programme in 1968, showing on Thursdays just before the early evening news, but by the mid-1970s it had moved to an early Saturday evening slot and was now a very popular mainstream family entertainment show, featuring top singing stars like Cilla Black, Demis Roussos and Petula Clark that often did a comedy duet with fox puppet Basil as well as singing on their own. Basil is shown here with Roy North, who became Basil’s human sidekick in 1976.

AngelsAngels was a popular drama series set in a fictional (St. Angela’s) hospital, and is just one example of the BBC’s prodigious drama output from the 1970s. Indeed Angels survived until the early 1980s and was the spiritual predecessor to Casualty (which started in 1986) and its later spin-off Holby City which are now shown on a regular basis. Other drama offerings from this period included historical drama I, Claudius, and science fiction series Blake’s 7 began in 1978.

BBC News (1978) Angela Rippon (1978) Michael Elkins Caption (1978)

Beirut Map (1978)Pictured is what a typical BBC News bulletin looked like in 1978, with Angela Rippon being the newsreader. There was still a predominance of photographs used during this period as opposed to the video clips that typify modern news bulletins, though national news bulletins were steadily becoming more sophisticated in their visual presentation.

BBC1 Saturday 14 April 1979Here’s an example of a BBC1 Saturday evening programme schedule as broadcast on 14 April 1979. At this point virtually all new programmes were now being produced in colour, though there were still a significant number of people that didn’t have colour televisions; 1976 being the year when colour TV licences outnumbered those issued for black and white. 1979 also saw the broadcast of what was the most ambitious natural history series commissioned up to that point, namely Life on Earth, presented by David Attenborough.

Blankety BlankBlankety Blank was a popular BBC quiz show which was first presented by Terry Wogan (famous for having his long stick microphone bent by Kenny Everett), but was later presented by Les Dawson. Then the series was revived with Lilly Savage at the helm, followed by ITV giving the idea a brief revival itself but none of these revivals matched the popularity of the original series.

60 BBC Years (1982)1982 was the 60th anniversary of the BBC, and the “60 BBC Years” slogan was also used at the bottom of the BBC1 globe ident for a while as part of the celebrations. September that same year also saw the introduction of a new light entertainment series: The Late, Late Breakfast Show, which featured a selection of occasionally dangerous stunts performed by members of the public in the “Give It A Whirl” slot that resulted in several injuries and a death that caused the show to be cancelled in 1986. The Late-Late Breakfast Show was presented by Noel Edmonds who at that point was famous for presenting breakfast shows both on the radio and Swap Shop on BBC1, hence the tongue-in-cheek title.

Falklands Crisis (1982)1982 was also the year of the Falklands War, with the BBC naturally devoting significant coverage to this particular news story allowing for the limitations of war reporting. Also the raising of the wreck of the Mary Rose was shown live on television in the same year.

Breakfast Time Starting Tomorrow 6.30The start of 1983 heralded the launch of breakfast television, with the BBC getting in first with their Breakfast Time before the new TV-am ITV franchise started over on Channel 3. Frank Bough and the team turned out to be just what the nation was waiting for in terms of breakfast television in the morning, and the new TV-am got off to a bad start to the day as a consequence.

BBC1 Saturday 6 June 1987By January 1985 the old 405-line VHF network had completely closed down, and a full daytime television schedule launched in 1986 that included Neighbours, the Australian soap opera which is still being shown on Channel 5. By 1989 the BBC and other broadcasters also faced competition from the newly-emerging satellite services (Sky and BSB, with Sky eventually taking over BSB to form BSkyB). Pictured is an example of what a Saturday evening’s viewing on BBC1 looked like on the 6th of June 1987.

BBC News Darkened Studio (1986) BBC News Titles Light Beam (1986) BBC News Title Drawing (1986)

BBC 9 O'Clock News (1986)This graphic style used for BBC News has the nickname of “Star Wars” due to the logo appearing to be constructed in space using a beam of light; it certainly seemed to match the mood of the period in terms of its drama and pomposity.

BBC1 'COW' Globe - Ceefax 888The 1980s was also the era of the video cassette recorder or ‘VCR’; although such devices were available in the 1970s (and earlier) it was this decade that saw them become widely available and (by 1987) inexpensive thanks to the aggressive pricing of Far Eastern-produced machines such as Amstrad. Teletext became commonplace on more expensive sets and included on some of the cheaper ones too, and Nicam stereo sound was introduced towards the end of the decade, initially from certain transmitters only.

BBC 1991 Laserdisc GlobeAll smoke and mirrors? The globe above was replaced with this smoky light reflecting version in 1991, together with the return of the 1960s typeface. The word ‘Stereo’ appeared in the top-left hand corner when a programme with a stereo soundtrack followed – BBC1 was the last established UK channel to formally introduce Nicam stereo, which it did in September 1991, but not all major transmitters had been upgraded to carry the digital signal from day one.

BBC Balloon (1997)The change from a globe to a balloon (albeit with a globe pattern) came at the same time as the BBC changed its onscreen font to Gill Sans in October 1997, which was part of Martin Lambie-Nairn’s corporate vision for the BBC. The adoption of Gill Sans was something that was both traditional and forward-thinking in terms of looking better when displayed in the new widescreen format and when decompressed from a digitally-compressed datastream compared with the old sloping rhombus typeface that dates back to the 1960s. A variety of short video clips are used featuring the BBC balloon in different locations around the British Isles (above a castle, behind a suspension bridge, etc.), meaning that the balloon usually had a different ‘view’ before each programme as opposed to the essentially static backdrop that the globe had.

Perfect Day: GardenPerfect Day: ProjectorPerfect Day: Lou ReedPerfect Day: QuartetPerfect Day: Heather SmallPerfect Day: SunsetPerfect Day: Tom JonesPerfect Day: Twilight

Whatever your musical taste it is catered for by BBC Radio and TelevisionAlso launched at the same time as the new corporate look for the BBC was perhaps the most successful UK TV-based promotion of all time; it was based around a simple concept, namely that the BBC offers a huge variety of different types of music, catering for almost every taste on its numerous radio and television services.

This is only possible thanks to the unique way the BBC is paid for by youSet to the soundtrack of Perfect Day, a song originally performed by Lou Reed who also appears amongst the numerous celebrities who both take it in turns to sing and appear on screen, with a slide projector showing various images interspersed with the celebrities. Also note the thin black bars appearing at the top and bottom of the pictures, indicating that it was one of the first BBC productions to be produced in widescreen format, though the widescreen format was only formally introduced with the introduction of digital widescreen broadcasting the following year.

BBC - You make it what it isThis version of Perfect Day was released as a charity record and sold more than a million copies in the UK, reaching Number 1 in the singles chart and most likely to have been a major factor in the popularity of this particular promotion, though it has to be said that the promotion itself was exquisitely produced and directed therefore is essentially a work of art in its own right.

BBC One Massai Warriors Ident (2002)March 2002 saw a radical new look introduced for BBC One; the main channel logo now appears in a box just like the BBC Two logo, but more controversially the globe as a centrepiece has now been banished to the history books, and instead various sequences using dance as a theme have been introduced. The whole emphasis was to introduce a modern multicultural ‘feel’ to the channel, but whether the identity of the channel had been diluted as a result is open to debate, especially as the channel’s presentation package only lasted four years before being replaced by something else.

Test your PetSeveral programming ideas were tried in 2004 with mixed results; Test your Pet, presumably intended to be educational in relation to animal training but ended up being closer in spirit to to the somewhat infamous but fun Pets Win Prizes. As well as testing pets, humans were equally tested in Come and Have a Go… If You Think You’re Smart Enough, consumer issues were aired in the short-lived Brassed Off Britain, detective drama Murphy’s Law received an airing but something rather more enduring also debuted soon afterwards – Strictly Come Dancing, a dance competition show which rapidly became very popular and continues to this day. And the following year saw the rejuvenation of an old idea which also proved to be just as popular.

Tonight 7.30 Doctor WhoBy 2005 Lorraine Heggessey had been replaced by Peter Fincham as controller of BBC One, and the general consensus was that Heggessey had left the channel in a relatively strong position in terms of its drama output with a newly rejuvenated Doctor Who alongside other popular series like New Tricks, proving that it is still possible to have a drama series that appeals to the whole family, though the channel was criticised in the BBC Annual Report for perhaps running too many repeats in peak time. Hustle and A Picture of Britain were other examples of popular programmes, plus The Kumars at No 42 being an example of a programme transferred from BBC Two to BBC One.

The One ShowAugust 2006 saw the first four week trial run of The ONE Show, but its debut had notable differences compared to what the series became when it returned as an (almost) regular fixture of early weekday evenings on BBC One starting from July 2007, notably a different co-presenter alongside Adrian Chiles (Nadia Sawalha), plus a different title sequence with different music as well as the studio being based in Birmingham (the studio overlooked a canal).

The ONE Show MapDuring the 2006 trial there was a more formal use of a map showing different UK locations where each regional feature originated from. The ONE Show was thought of by some people as being a spiritual successor to Nationwide, but this was perhaps more the case for the trial run with its map-based presentation as opposed to the revamped final version which had essentially become just a succession of studio-linked features.

Adrian Chiles and Nadia SawalhaThe ONE Show‘s trial run was judged to have been a success but several changes were made including the moderately controversial step of moving the show’s studio base to London as well as employing Christine Bleakley as a co-presenter since Sawalha was no longer available, though both Chiles and Bleakley were later lured by ITV in order to head up their new GMTV replacement, Daybreak, but that didn’t work out as expected therefore both are now employed on different projects within ITV productions. (Chiles was and still is noted for his football punditry.)

BBC North West Tonight News UpdateAlso included immediately after The ONE Show during its 2006 trial was a short regional news opt-out billed as an “news update”; illustrated here is the BBC North West Tonight News Update, presented by Gordon Burns who has now retired and been replaced by Roger Johnson (ex-BBC South Today).

BBC Circles IdentWhat comes around…The dance and movement idents were inevitably replaced by new idents in 2006, and Red Bee Media had been contracted to produce their replacement. For inspiration they looked at some of the early 1950s BBC Television Service idents which inevitably used some form of circle as part of a tuning signal for viewers to adjust their TV sets, and everything from the Abram Games “bat’s wing” symbol to the later globes also featured a circle as part of their design, so Red Bee proposed that a new identity theme should be based around the concept of circles. New idents were produced which featured real life circular elements such as hippos, surfers, dancing children and the moon, plus the channel logo was given a new and bolder treatment. A circle signifies ‘togetherness’ in the eyes of the branding consultants, but whether viewers actually made the connection remained to be seen.

Life On Mars Tuesday 9.00 BBC1 ColourThe second series of the critically-acclaimed drama Life On Mars (about a policeman who thinks that he’s living in 1973) was shown on BBC One and repeated on BBC Four during February and March of 2007. Red Bee Media was given the contract to produce promotional material for this series, and the end result was an imaginative collection of various items such as bus shelter posters and promotional clips which had been given a retro 1970s-style treatment.

BBC1 Colour Life On Mars GlobePlus each episode of Life On Mars on BBC One began with a widescreen recreation of the style of globe ident that was in use during this era, whilst viewers in Wales were treated to a different, genuine mechanical globe complete with a voiceover provided by a continuity announcer who had worked during the early-’70s period. (Though BBC Wales didn’t actually use this type of globe until 1974.)

Andrew Marr's History of Modern BritainOther BBC One programmes in 2007 included the rather ambitious series Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain which attempted to cover a huge subject in five programmes broadcast between 22 May and 19 June, and its critical success resulted in a follow-up series entitled Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain.

BBC Election 20102010 saw a General Election in which a coalition government was returned, given no overall majority in the House of Commons. The BBC was on-hand to provide its comprehensive results service as is normal for such occasions, with its BBC News channel also providing rolling coverage once the main programme had drawn to a close.

Helen Skelton and Barney HarwoodThe first major department to move from London’s Television Centre to MediaCityUK in Salford Quays was children’s television, with the Blue Peter garden following Blue Peter to its new Salford home and is now a rooftop garden. This picture is taken from the very first Blue Peter to be broadcast from Salford, with the two regular presenters arriving via dramatic means – Helen Skelton by helicopter and Barney Harwood by jet ski.

BBC North West Tonight BBC North West Tonight - Oxford Road

And finally…BBC North West Tonight was the last department to move out of Broadcasting House in Oxford Street, relocating to its new home in the BBC’s new MediaCityUK complex at nearby Salford, and is now based alongside the BBC’s children’s TV and sport departments (amongst others) that had already relocated there from London. Manchester’s Broadcasting House was opened in July 1976 and had formerly been the home for everything from Mark and Lard to Life On Mars over the years. Demolition of Broadcasting House commenced in August 2012 and had been completed by the end of March 2013.

Tower Bridge2012 was certainly a busy year for the BBC in terms of large public events; firstly there was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with its associated river pageant and concert to cover as well as the London Olympic Games later in the year. The BBC’s coverage of the pageant was, however, not one of its finest moments due to several technical problems meaning that many of the planned live links with boats taking part in the pageant had to be cancelled, inevitably resulting in land-based presenters such as Fearne Cotton being left with the task of filling in much more frequently than originally intended.

The Diamond Jubilee ConcertThankfully the BBC’s coverage of the Diamond Jubilee concert went much more smoothly, even if there were a few complaints about concert sound quality from some viewers. Various big-name acts took to the stage, including Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox, Robbie Williams, Tom Jones, Sir Cliff Richard, Grace Jones doing a highly memorable routine with a hula hoop to Slave to the Rhythm, and Madness performing on top of Buckingham Palace whilst various images were being projected on the front of the building. The end result was a concert which was watched by an average of nearly 15 million viewers.

Olympic Divers Olympic Runners

Olympic StadiumOnce in a lifetime…The London 2012 Olympic Games promised the biggest sporting spectacle the UK had ever seen, therefore it was the BBC’s obligation to provide the best and most comprehensive coverage possible for its viewers. Indeed the BBC devoted a very significant chunk of its resources to the Games as a consequence, which included an extra HD TV channel for digital terrestrial (Freeview) viewers, 30 additional HD channels for viewing via satellite, cable or online plus other radio and online resources. It wasn’t surprising therefore that an elaborate animated promotion was commissioned to promote the BBC’s wide-ranging coverage of such a major event.

2012 Olympics Opening CeremonyShown on BBC1, BBC One HD and also on the BBC HD channel in 3D, the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony was watched by a peak of 27 million viewers; that’s roughly half the population of the UK tuning in to watch at least some of the ceremony’s live coverage. Danny Boyle was responsible for producing and directing the ceremony’s elaborate routines, set design and special effects that culminated in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by eight promising young athletes using the Olympic torch that had previously been carried around the UK by various selected individuals over the previous weeks.

MirandaDespite recent distractions such as the aforementioned Olympics and Diamond Jubilee as well as the upheaval of moving staff and equipment out of Television Centre prior to its redevelopment, BBC One as a channel has continued to be a strong performer in terms of popular entertainment, factual programming, drama and comedy, with shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, Frozen Planet, Africa and Call the Midwife all attracting attention, with Miranda, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Outnumbered being three of the most popular comedies produced by the BBC in recent years. (Mrs Brown’s Boys is actually a co-production with Irish broadcaster RTÉ, who gets to broadcast each episode before the BBC does.)

CBBCAnother important event for the BBC happened on 21 December 2012, which was the very last occasion when CBBC programmes were broadcast in a block on BBC One. Showing selected children’s television programmes on BBC One in the future isn’t out of the question, and there were plans to show series such as Horrible Histories in a teatime slot where they can be appreciated by a family audience as opposed to the (predominantly) children (and their parents) audience of the CBBC and CBeebies channels. Childrens’ television has perhaps been changed the most radically by the digital TV revolution, namely that many parents quickly opted to choose dedicated childrens’ TV channels for their children to watch when given the choice to do so.

BBC Where Next - Old Studio BBC Where Next - Coronation BBC Where Next - BBC Micro

BBC Where Next GlobeWhere next…2012 also saw the BBC on the receiving end of some bad publicity in relation to the alleged antics of a now-deceased DJ and TV presenter Jimmy Savile, with some people thinking that BBC management at the time had some knowledge of Savile’s behind-the-scenes misbehaviour even though it’s almost certain that management at the time knew relatively little (if anything) as to what really happened, as well as most of his lewd behaviour occurring outside of BBC premises. Anyway, this breaking news story subsequently led to two misreporting mishaps primarily involving the BBC’s Newsnight current affairs programme that were most likely caused by major staff changes made in short succession leading to mistakes being made, but these incidents did somewhat tarnish the BBC’s reputation for scrupulously accurate current affairs reporting as a consequence, hence something was clearly needed to act as a PR offensive in order to repair the damage.

Where Next?Visually impressive in its design and scope, “Where Next?” sets out to remind the BBC’s viewers of all the good things the BBC has done over the years in terms of both programming and innovative firsts, starting with the British Broadcasting Company’s first radio broadcasts followed by the first TV broadcasts, the first live outside broadcast, the 1952 Coronation coverage, satellite broadcasting, the start of colour broadcasting on BBC2, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, CEEFAX, computer literacy with the BBC Micro, Newsround, Live Aid, Morph, Walking With Dinosaurs, The Office, Planet Earth on the iPlayer, Doctor Who and the online video streams for the 2012 Olympic Games, seamlessly linking one clip to another using all manner of visual trickery, and ending in a succession of BBC logos shown below an enduring symbol of BBC television, namely a globe.

Final Television Centre Weather ForecastMoving out…As the BBC Television Centre site was now going to be substantially redeveloped to include apartments and office space amongst other uses including new television studios, the final BBC One news broadcast from the ‘old’ Television Centre took place on 18 March 2013, followed by programmes shown on 22 March comprising of a concert featuring the group Madness followed by a farewell programme: Goodbye Television Centre, both broadcast on BBC Four. Originally tried as a one-off Christmas special in 2015, 2016 saw the introduction of Michael McIntyre’s Big Show as a series with celebrity guests and features based around members of the public which recall earlier entertainment formats such as Noel’s House Party and The Late Late Breakfast Show.

Oneness Skaters IdentBBC One’s on-screen identity based around circles had served the channel well for ten years but by the start of 2017 it was inevitably considered to be time for a new look for the channel. A new identity package was introduced that was built around the concept of ‘oneness’, namely the shared experiences of groups of people such as roller skaters (pictured), an exercise class, wheelchair athletes, tandem cyclists, night kayakers, etc., and inevitably this invited some comparisons with the dance-and-movement idents used from 2002-2006 except this time there was no dancing and no accompanying music.

Sounds Like Friday Night2017 also saw the delayed completion of Television Centre refurbishment under new owners, with BBC Studioworks (a separate private company) now in charge of Television Centre’s three studios and post-production facilities which officially re-opened on 1 September 2017, with programmes such as the new music show Sounds Like Friday Night already making use of them.

BBC One Christmas Lights Ident 2017Christmas 2017 saw the introduction of a new festive package of idents and on-screen graphics, and it soon became clear that there was a new star of the show (so to speak). A promotional animation featuring a girl and her father where the girl suffers stage fright at a school concert proved to be popular with many viewers, and also formed the basis for short ‘stings’ and idents shown during the Christmas period such as this pictured ident where father and daughter are trying to fix Christmas lights.

BBC Action LineFrom early 2018 the BBC began a gradual corporate-wide roll out of a new font entitled ‘Reith’ to replace Gill Sans (Gill Sans also requiring an expensive corporate licence for its usage), though the new font wasn’t generally used for on-screen presentation until October 2021 when a new look was introduced across most of the television channels. Some areas such as News and online had to wait a little longer before updating, so initially the BBC logo refresh wasn’t as comprehensive as it was back in 1997.

The beginning of 2020 saw a major global COVID pandemic breaking out which necessitated a fundamental rethink of ‘Oneness’ as a branding concept for BBC One, because if groups of people could no longer safely congregate together for fear of transmitting a potentially deadly virus, showing groups of people as ‘Oneness’ would obviously be no longer appropriate. Hence ‘lockdown Oneness’ was introduced, with a new selection of idents showing groups of people, pets or objects in separate rectangles but congregated together virtually, therefore showing solidarity with people confined to their homes for health reasons. Likewise various programmes were badly affected by social distancing measures introduced to avoid infection; the production of drama series such as EastEnders were put on hold and other programmes such as Have I Got News For You, The One Show and The Ranganation were rejigged to avoid using studio audiences as well as making use of ‘virtual guests’ using video links.

BBC Three Is Now On TVOne surprise was the return of BBC Three as a TV channel in February 2022. Obviously it was thought that BBC Three was still a valuable proposition as a traditional linear TV channel and it still wasn’t as relevant when restricted as an iPlayer-only service. Clearly linear TV is still appreciated by lots of young people despite the rise of the BBC’s iPlayer and commercial streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

Thank youThe worldwide decline of the ‘soap opera’ (serial drama) combined with recent budget cuts caused by government freezing of the TV licence fee (still the BBC’s primary income at this point) meant that the BBC took a decision to cancel medical drama series Holby City. On air since 12 January 1999, Holby City was basically a complementary series to Casualty. The last episode was transmitted on 29 March 2022 and Holby City as a whole was fundamentally a ‘love letter’ to the NHS.

BBC Lens Ident1 April 2022 finally saw the previously-delayed introduction of new ‘lens’ idents based around a rotating ‘sphere’ or lens effect incorporating two or more live action scenes. Several idents feature different scenes including a dance floor, park bench, skateboard park and outdoors late at night.

BBC 100 Years2022 represents a major milestone for the BBC as a whole, being the 100th anniversary of both the BBC being incorporated as a company (18 October) and the first 2LO broadcast on November 14…

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