BBC CHOICE, the first new general channel from the BBC in over thirty years, and only available digitally, launched at midday on September 23rd 1998 - but very few people saw it. The equipment needed to receive the channel wasn't yet in the shops, although you could watch the launch live on the internet.
BBC CHOICE will broadcast around 3,500 hours of programmes a year on a budget of £20 million, over half of which will be spent on original programming. The channel has the BBC's first daily televised sports show "110%", extended coverage of music and sporting events, 'hotlinks' to BBC ONE and BBC TWO programmes, special theme nights and a chance to catch up on the most talked about BBC shows.
Viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own dedicated versions of BBC CHOICE. The channel broadcasts in the 16:9 widescreen format, and has widescreen idents as well.
|Various "barkers" had been running for weeks on the channel, initially labelled "BBC Digital Preview". At first they promoted BBC Digital in general, and later just BBC CHOICE, together with the launch date. On the day itself, the barker ended with this image at T minus 10 minutes...|
|...at which point, a ten minute countdown began. Starting very small, the numbers gradually grew larger over the course of ten minutes...|
|...until they got so big, the "seconds" filled the widescreen frame, before launching into the first on-screen ident - Heart.|
Variety is the spice of life, and all the idents revolve around the idea of choice: your have three varieties of the same thing. With "Heart" we have lightheart, heart of stone, and heartburn.
Continuing the "choice of three", we have three mice - a computer mouse, a real mouse, and a clockwork mouse.
Although the idents are widescreen, the action has been placed very much in the middle - no doubt so that nothing important is missed when the aspect ratio is converted to 14:9 or 12:9 for display on a standard 4:3 set.
You're starting to get the idea now. Three fans: a paper fan, a football fan, and an electric fan.
As well as the action being centred, the "DOG" (the small BBC CHOICE logo which appears near the top left - not shown in this picture) is in the "safe" area for 4:3 "centre cut-out". So if you select this viewing option, you still know which channel you're watching. The BBC NEWS 24 "DOG" is similarly placed, although not shown when the channel broadcasts overnight on BBC ONE.
Looking almost like a Christmas ident, and probably the most entertaining of the four is Punch. We have punch (as in bowl), Punch (as in Judy), and punch (as in boxing).
There is nice interaction between the three elements - Punch tries to drink from the bowl, but keeps getting attacked by the boxing glove.
Last Update 29 Mar 2000