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BBC Television News

The BBC were very late introducing news to television, but as the millennium draws to a close, BBC news now takes up almost 12 hours of the BBC1 and BBC2 schedules, with News 24 and BBC World News offering around the clock coverage.

bbc_news_1949_newsreel.jpg (7375 bytes)  

Early BBC News consisted of a caption with headlines read by the continuity announcer, or the equivalent of the cinema newsreel, the BBC Television Newsreel. The newsreels didn't have presenters as such, more of a narrator who described the story over the pictures. Many of the "stories" were chosen for their entertainment value rather than their importance from a news perspective.

This particular example is from 1949.

In vision newsreaders came in during the late 1950s, as this young looking Robert Dougall reveals. bbc_news_1950s.jpg (9183 bytes)
bbc_news_1960s_9oclock_dougall.jpg (8798 bytes) This off-screen photograph shows a 1960s edition of the 9 O'Clock News presented by an older Robert Dougall. Thanks to Jeremy Rogers for these early samples.


bbc_news_1966_newsflash.jpg (7048 bytes)  
A BBC Newsflash from the mid-sixties, announcing the death of their greatest broadcaster, Richard Dimbleby.  Play Now! Download
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Play Now! Download BBC tv News from the very early seventies. The programme would open with relevant pictures and the logo opposite overlaid. Although reporters were now in vogue, and they did set pieces to camera, there was still a lot of the newsreader speaking over film. One reason for this style of news presentation was the simple fact that photographic film needed to be shipped back to London and then edited for the programme. It was much easier for the newsreader to add the commentary and incorporate late breaking news and changes. A small snippet of the theme can be heard here courtesy of David Boothroyd.
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BBC Belfast, showing the BBC News logo in use around 1978. I can't remember what the opening sequence was although I think the two parts of the globe were animated in some way. Here is a snippet from the end theme, courtesy of Play Now! Download
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Here are the opening titles from the Evening News of this period, photographed off screen.
bbc_news_1979_team_photo.jpg (12163 bytes) Here's the 1979 BBC News team getting together for a group photograph. Can you name all five?
Early 1980s generic BBC News, animated by the circle disappearing and reappearing as an invisible clock hand sweeps around the circle.
1980s BBC Nine O'Clock News. Not sure of exact dates, but this style was in use by 1983 but had changed by 1985.

The circle made of horizontal lines would be swept away to reveal...

... a "9" made of horizontal lines. You can hear a RealAudio clip of the theme music by clicking here. Play Now! Download
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Only the Nine O'Clock News had the special variant above. Normal news bulletins would end with the full circle and would simply say "BBC News" underneath.

The early evening news had a similar circle with the 5:40 time cut out, and News After Noon had half a circle, indicating its start time of 12:30.

News After Noon was the original title for the lunchtime news, at 12:30. This is taken from a still, the real opening titles followed the same colour scheme as above.
The news studio was also made up of horizontal lines, with the gap left for superimposed images.
Or alternatively you could see the BBC News logo as in this example from 1983 with Jan Leeming. bbc_news_1983_leeming.jpg (8486 bytes)
When needed, the presenter could turn to a different camera where there was no picture superimposed. This is Jan Leeming from 1985.
Later the same year (1985), same newsreader, different news studio. The launch of daytime programmes on BBC1 and the new look "COW" period BBC1 was accompanied by a complete overhaul of the BBC News "look" with each programme getting its own style. This is probably a weekend/generic news bulletin.
bbc_news_60mins.jpg (10410 bytes) The short lived replacement for Nationwide combined the early evening news and regional news programmes with a topical news magazine programme.



One O' Clock News from 1987. The animated titles were a white clock with indented symbols for each hour. The sequence ran through each hour of the day until it got to "1" before pulling away to show the title.
One O' Clock News from 1987. It used an extended version of the theme used for the hourly news summaries during the day.
Daytime News bulletins appeared every hour during the daytime, from 9am until 1pm on BBC1 and thereafter on BBC2. The deserted newsroom reflects the fact that news staff were quite shy to appear in vision during the bulletins. BBC1 Daytime started ion Monday 27 October 1986, but this clip is taken from a later style in 1988.
Six O' Clock News. Had its own theme and clever animated titles, which started out as a view of the world, which span around and broke away like pages of a book to reassemble as the image right.

Possibly introduced Monday September 3rd 1984?

You can hear a clip of the theme tune and opening story here, from 1988. Play Now! Download
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Nicholas Witchell presenting the Six O Clock News, there were two newsreaders each night. The most famous incident of this period was when the studio was invaded by lesbian protesters angry at the governments Clause 28 legislation. Muffled shouts were heard as they continued the news broadcast with Witchell sitting on one of the protesters, keeping them out of view.
Nine O'Clock News from 1988. The golden lettering that you can see was built up from blips that are fired out of London. This style was introduced around 1985 and lasted until October 1988.
You can hear a clip of the theme tune, from 1988. Play Now! Download
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Again, two presenters for the main news programme of the day and yet another news studio. This title sequence and presentation style was introduced in September 1985 and last seen on October 28th 1988.


bbc_news_1988_9oc04.jpg (8034 bytes) A new style of Nine O Clock News titles were introduced on October 31st 1988. Bolts of lightning flashed beside the radiated pattern from the transmitter.
You can hear a clip of the theme tune, from 1988 when Edwina Currie lost her job in the egg crisis. Play Now! Download
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This was the first main news programme to abandon the plain background with overlaid images, as can be seen here, Michael Buerk can be seen with the newsroom behind him. It also heralded the single presenter Nine O'Clock News. bbc_news_1988_9oc05.jpg (10989 bytes)
bbc_news_1990.jpg (6762 bytes) The bolts of lightning appear to have been used for the generic news bulletins shown at weekends and holidays.


April 12th 1993 saw the introduction of the BBC's virtual news studio. Most of what you see is computer generated, the real studio is very plain, with backgrounds prepared for artificial images to be overlaid. There are no cameramen, everything is remote controlled from the gallery. Most of the time the studio has one occupant - the newsreader, although a floor manager may also be present.
bbc_news_1196_studio.jpg (17664 bytes) The artificial studio allows a lot of flexibility in terms of backdrop and layout. It is disappointing then that all of the news programmes look the same.
A change of logo, but nothing else changed in terms of news presentation in 1997.
There are slightly different opening graphics, depending on the programme.
The new logo cannot be missed at the beginning of each programme, the old one was far less prominent.


Recommended Links
BBC News Online offers news around the clock.

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Last Update 29 Mar 2000