FROM THE ARCHIVE OF: The TV Room
On 1st July 1967, BBC Two became the first UK television channel to formally launch a colour service on UHF.
The number of programmes available in colour was limited initially. And the new colour service was only available from six main transmitter sites in July 1967, covering London, southern England, the Midlands and the north of England.
By late-1967, BBC Two colour broadcasts were available in the south west, south east and east of England as well as south Wales.
A more substantial colour programme service was in place by December 1967, covering over three-quarters of the BBC Two schedule.
Although colour transmissions were formally launched in July 1967, some output had been broadcast in colour prior to the official start date:
- A number of BBC Two programmes;
- Special trade test films;
- The new colour test signal, Test Card F had been radiated on a regular basis.
To date, there is no definitive information regarding BBC Two’s on-air presentation at the introduction of colour broadcasts in 1967. According to some sources, a distinctive new ‘2’ logo was introduced to mark the start of a regular colour service on 1st July:
This ident was recorded on film and consequently, it seems unlikely that it would’ve been used in many junctions on a typical day. Slides and physical captions (with a camera pointed at them) seem the much more likely alternative to regularly playing in this pre-recorded ident.
But if this new ‘2’ logo first appeared on 1st July 1967, then we have a rather curious branding mismatch, with this caption, broadcast in August 1967, which features the original 1964 BBC Two logo:
The more likely proposition is that the new logo and colour ident launched on air in early December, when more programmes were available in colour and a larger portion of the country could receive the colour service.
In the early stages of the colour era, the clock design from the 1964 – 1967 era was retained but coloured yellow on blue. We hope to include an example here soon.
As mentioned, the original colour ident was pre-recorded on film. Playing out the ident in that form would’ve been a hassle that Presentation would likely have wanted to avoid. So, if the ident was transmitted in slide/caption form most of the time, what did it look like?
Unfortunately, there’s precious little surviving evidence of BBC Two presentation from the period 1967 – 1969. Although we have a few examples of idents/clocks, we have even less physical evidence of other presentation graphics such as programme trails, programme slides and programme menus.
We’re not spoiled for choice with recordings from the 1969 – 1972 era either. But this static caption from April 1970 provides an insight into how things looked, ident-wise, by the early 70s:
Note the similarity with the colour scheme used on the BBC One ‘Colour’ ident, introduced at midnight on 15th November 1969. It’s possible that this mono-colour BBC Two symbol was introduced on 15th November 1969 too, to provide a degree of consistency across the two channels.
As far as we can tell, the April 1970 BBC Two ident was static. It’s not inconceivable that it was a mechanical device, but in the junction from which this still is taken, the ‘2’ logo did not move.
If this April 1970 example reflects the design introduced in November 1969, what did the symbol look like between 1967 and November 1969? Unfortunately, we are not aware of any surviving footage.
Worth noting that this 1970 BBC Two ident lacked the horizontal line of its BBC One counterpart. Though by September 1971, we can see that a horizontal line was present on the BBC Two clock:
It’s not clear when the April 1964 clock design, featuring roman numeral hour markings, was replaced. But it is thought that the clock device shown in this September 1971 example was its immediate successor – though we suspect the horizontal line may not have been present initially.
With a horizontal line present on the clock in September 1971, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the BBC Two ident had been updated by then to include this feature.
By 5th January 1972, the BBC One ident and clock were updated. The word ‘COLOUR’ was italicised and the corporate ‘BBC 1’ logo was updated to the latest version, featuring rounded corners.
Although 5th January 1972 is the earliest surviving recording that we’re aware of that features the updated BBC One symbol, it’s not inconceivable that this modification went live when the Christmas idents were withdrawn, in late-December 1971.
For the record, the only known recording prior to 5th January 1972 is a link into an edition of Top of the Pops on 2nd December 1971, which features the previous version of the ident, with ‘COLOUR’ in regular font.
Our assumption is that the ‘COLOUR’ text was updated similarly on the BBC Two ident on the same date that the change was applied on BBC One. It’s possible that the corporate ‘BBC 2’ logo was added to the BBC Two clock at this point.
In the example below, from 6th May 1972, the BBC Two ident appears to have been broadcast in slide form. Was this the norm up to this point? Did BBC Two not have a live, moving ident? Or, had the mechanical device broken down and this slide was used instead?
There’s more in the way of video evidence of BBC Two presentation for the period 1972 – 1974. We do know that a mechanical device was in place during this era. The movement was triggered by a foot pedal.
The mechanical equipment was based in the Noddy room. The camera view of the symbol was passed through a colour synthesiser.
Announcers/directors were given a little flexibility regarding colour arrangements for the ident and clock. Two background colours were permitted: black or blue. Foreground colours could be cyan or white, or a combination of both.
Here we have some footage of the cube-based symbol in action:
As mentioned above, we believe the corporate ‘BBC 2’ logo and italicised ‘COLOUR’ text were potentially added to the clock in early January 1972, in parallel with a similar update to the BBC One ident and clock.
We suspect BBC Two adopted a new style for programme slides in late-1969. Again, possibly coinciding with the update of BBC One’s OSP and the launch of a colour service there.
The earliest video evidence of the programme slide design shown below, that we’re aware of, is April 1970. The examples shown here date from 1973.
The programme menu design shown here dates from 24th September 1974 and so is from a late stage in this OSP era. However, we are aware of this layout/design being in use much earlier in 1974. We’ve not seen any earlier programme menu examples.
There was no fixed template for programme promotion graphics. Programme titles and transmission times were overlaid on programme visuals using a variety of fonts and colours.
Trails often included short introductory animations, incorporating the channel name (though not necessarily the official channel logo). For example, special ‘New Season’ animations were common in the new year and autumn.
PICTURED: BBC Two ident (1970). COPYRIGHT: BBC.