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BBC Television Service and BBC-tv

From 1936 to 1964, the BBC Television Service, or BBC-tv as it was known in the later years, pioneered the use of television graphics in the UK. Well they had to, until 1955 they were the only television service.

Prior to 1946, Ident Symbols didn't exist. The Test Card Gallery describes the various tuning signals in use from 1936 onwards, but it appears that in-vision continuity was standard in these days, and ident symbols and clocks were rarely used. In the years prior to the war closedown, time checks were made by showing a picture of Big Ben. Unfortunately they cheated, it wasn't the real Big Ben, it was a 5ft scale model with a camera in front. It still exists somewhere...

The BBC "Television Symbol" was introduced in 1953, and was a sign of things to come. The centre contains a very small globe that span around. Eventually the wings would be ditched and the globe made much more prominent!

The official BBC description of this image was:

"The abstract pattern consists of two intersecting eyes which scan the globe from north to south and east to west, symbolising vision and the power of vision. Flashes of lightening on either side represent electrical forces and the whole form takes the shape of wings which suggest the creative possibilities of television broadcasting."

It was designed by Abram Games FSIA and was accompanied by harp music. Flashes of light were shown to coincide with the plucked harp strings.

This Video clip contains the harp music that accompanied the symbol left, fading to the clock below. You can hear the Greenwich Time Signal as seconds tick away and the programme (Farming) begins. There is no announcer during this sequence. Play Now! Download
1:05 656K
Here we have the clock that accompanied the above symbol, with a ridiculously sized second hand. This was a mechanical clock, and the second hand seemed to "stutter". This video clip shows the clock in action, prior to an edition of "Tonight". The announcer apologises that "The Sky at Night" has been postponed. Play Now! Download
0:39 393K
bbctv_bats_scotland.jpg (11778 bytes) Some rarities now, regional Bats Wings. This is the BBC Scotland one, featuring the shield and cross in the centre.
The Midlands used a large "M" as seen here. I'm not sure whether these were still or animated models. bbctv_bats_midlands.jpg (8643 bytes)
bbctv_bats_north.jpg (10929 bytes) There were not a huge number of regional programmes, but news headlines, read over a still such as this were regular features.
This one from the Westcountry reminds me of the "We're with the Woolwich" adverts of the seventies. Perhaps this was where they got  their inspiaration? bbctv_bats_west.jpg (12119 bytes)
This very rare BBC-tv clock was used for a very short time in 1960. "Digital" clocks are conspicuous by their absence on British television.
This simple BBC-tv in a circle was used in 1961, to introduce newsflashes and other unusual events.
bbctv_dec62_regions.jpg (11828 bytes) In 1962, this ident symbol was introduced, inside the circle there was a map of Britain with the BBC regions shaded in. There were seven regions at the time, London & SE, South & South-West, Wales, Midlands & East Anglia, North, Scotland, Northern Ireland. Accompanying this "Regional Map" ident symbol was a clock similar to the one below, but with a completely black background.

In 1963, a new symbol was introduced, the first to feature a rotating globe. The globe was large, taking up most of the screen, and the background was split, half white, half black with a sloping split. The BBC-tv identification was overlaid in white, and this was the first to use sloping rhomboids. If you ahve an example of this or any other BBC-tv symbol that is missing please get in touch.

This clock, is dated 22 Nov 63 and is believed to have accompanied the globe below for a short while.
Introduced late 1963, still in use 8 Nov 1964. This was the second globe, the first only lasted a few months in the middle of 1963. Although this one was introduced on BBC-tv, it survived the change to BBC-1. In fact the new BBC-1 took a while to rebrand their idents, as this example shows. So few people could receive the new BBC-2 (due to poor coverage and the new UHF 625 line standard) that there was little chance of confusion.

This where we end out story of BBC-tv, for on 20th April 1964, BBC-1 and BBC-2 were born.


Recommended Links
If you are interested in early tuning signals and test cards, there are some videos available.

The Ident Zone
Last Update 29 Mar 2000