FROM THE ARCHIVE OF: The TV Room
13th April marked the 30th anniversary of one of the boldest revamps of BBC News.
A new look package put the BBC News brand to the fore and made it clear that all the main BBC One news programmes were part of the same family.
But the package also allowed each programme to retain some of its own identity – unlike the next revamp six years later.
It seems astonishing now that the main BBC One programmes lost all but the most subtle hints of a common identity in the mid-1980s.
This had long been the practice on ITV where each news bulletin had been seen as a programme in its own right – News at One had a very different feel to News at 545 which in turn was quite unlike News at Ten. The common link was ITN. But the look of the news service was not of any corporate importance to individual ITV companies or the network itself.
But why was this ever the case with the BBC? An organisation with news at its very centre.
The 1981 revamp gave each of the three daily programmes distinct personalities but they still shared a common visual identity.
This broke down in the mid-80s. First the new Six O’Clock News, then the Nine and finally the relaunched One had their own signature tunes, titles, graphics and sets.
The relics of the 1981 look struggled on until 1988. Lambie Nairn’s bold new look for the Nine was also adopted by the weekend bulletins and became the nearest thing to a generic identity.
But by the early 90s it was clear that the emphasis had to be put on the BBC News brand.
The new look did this.
An impressive virtual reality set, rearrangements by George Fenton of all the news themes and a common graphics package were introduced.
Breakfast had a warm, pinkish glow. The One and the Six had slightly different blue backgrounds. The Nine had a particularly impressive gold and dark blue set.
It is interesting to review the package now.
Personally I always felt the BBC corporate logo of the time looked better on screen when it was shown in a single colour – as it was on the channel idents.
On the BBC News and Sport titles the full colour version was used which always tended to be a bit fussy.
This was rectified when the new corporate package was introduced in 1997.
The looks of the programmes were all impressive though – including the seamless integration of the live shot of the presenter into the titles.
But a couple of niggles.
The rearranged signature tunes were so similar it might have been better to go for just one.
Similarly the set of the One had its own shade of blue with a vertical inset to the right of the screen.
The Six and the daytime summaries shared the same package though – a slightly different shade of blue and a horizontal inset on the left.
Did any viewer with no interest in such things notice? If you’re going to do something different, at least make it meaningful. The One would have been as well to look just like the Six and the daytime summaries.
Interestingly the One was the only programme to undergo any significant editorial or format changes in this relaunch.
John Tusa and Edward Stourton took over from previous presenter Philip Hayton and a significant emphasis was placed on foreign news.
In hindsight this was an unlikely development for a lunchtime programme shown between Pebble Mill in its chat show incarnation and Neighbours but it speaks of the BBC under John Birt.
All in all, the look survived 6 years although Breakfast got its own identity back earlier.
It looks (and sounds) quite different to the BBC News package we have become accustomed to since 1999.
But it was a successful and innovative package worth celebrating which should be remembered positively.
PICTURED: Studio N1, BBC Television Centre (1994). SUPPLIED BY: http://tech-ops.co.uk. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.
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