FROM THE ARCHIVE OF: The TV Room
Over the past few years dozens of clips of continuity from the days before home recording was commonplace have gone online.
They provide fascinating evidence of the gradual evolution of presentation on BBC One.
It is easy to think only of the landmarks such as changes to the idents or the end of in-vision continuity.
But it seems something much more subtle happened. Scripting and delivery gradually became more informative and conversational.
One of the greatest finds for the historian is a recording of most of the evening’s junctions from the first Monday of BBC One in colour in November 1969.
At a superficial level it isn’t that different to any other evening’s BBC One presentation before the early 90s – generally there’s one trail per junction then an “alternative viewing” pointer for BBC Two gives way to the globe to introduce the programme.
John Glover remained a familiar voice until his retirement in 1985.
However listen to the actual words spoken. It is terse, to the point and very formal: “On BBC Two now…on BBC One…”
It also looks just a little clumsy at times – for example the drama Take Three Girls is introduced over a promotion slide then the globe appears for a simple channel identification.
Now imagine the scripting a few years later:
“Over on BBC Two now, the latest from the world of medicine in Television Doctor. Here on One, there’s a major new drama in 15 minutes. Liza Goddard leads the cast in the story of three young women living in London, Take Three Girls. First at ten to nine the main news with Kenneth Kendall.”
I’m not claiming that script would have got past the Presentation Editor unpolished but you can see what I tried to do – write an informative script which linked the programmes together in a friendly, conversational way.
There are other interesting examples on YouTube. On an evening in 1971, BBC One goes from Tomorrow’s World to The Virginian via a trail for Dixon of Dock Green.
But nothing in the announcer’s script is designed to hold the viewer. There’s a plug for a Tomorrow’s World book on one side of the junction and a straight channel ID at the other.
A network closedown from December 1974 is similarly to the point. There’s no friendly chat from the announcer – just a timecheck then it’s goodnight.
I suspect there was never a point where scripting changed suddenly. Rather it was an evolutionary process, no doubt pushed along by new personnel gradually coming to the fore.
In the early 70s, many of the people who became legends of BBC Presentation – David Allan, Andy Cartledge, Richard Straker – were usually on BBC Two.
There they were described as “narrators” rather than announcers and a greater degree of informality was allowed – both during the evening schedule and the trade test colour films.
Did some of that informality gradually spread to the main channel by stealth? Or was it a conscious creative decision?
It certainly is worth noting that what many of us would regard as the golden age of BBC Presentation was not created overnight.
And it’s also worth celebrating how that legacy is kept alive by announcers like Duncan Newmarch and Dean Lydiate.
PICTURED: BBC One ident. COPYRIGHT: BBC.