MHP The Ident Zone

The Open University

Programmes for the Open University began on the BBC in 1971. Programmes were produced jointly by the BBC and the OU at Alexander Palace until a purpose built facility was built in Milton Keynes. OU programmes were usually put on at unsociable hours, typically very early in the morning or last thing at night, with Saturday and Sunday programmes taking up much of the morning.

The idents used for the Open University on the BBC have changed over the years but most of the early ones were accompanied by a very scary (to children and adults!) trumpet tune which starts off solo but ends quite loud.


I'm not sure if this was the first OU ident, but it was certainly used in the mid and late 1970s, probably on both BBC1 and BBC2.

Can anyone confirm that this was the first and if not, what preceded it?

The animation started with a blank screen, with a small solid "O" revolving in to view. The "O" continues to revolve out of view and then the big "U" shape revolves into view, with the small "O" cut-out. It ends as the image you can see to the right.

You can listen to the RealAudio or watch the RealVideo of this ident.

It was quite common in the seventies for the above animation sequence to continue three or even four times if there was a large gap between programmes. There was minimal continuity with just the briefest of introductions and sometimes none at all. When there was Open University on both BBC1 and BBC2 at the same time (common on Saturdays), the BBC had one announcer controlling both channels.

To the right, we see the BBC2 OU ident used in the early 1980s, up until 1985 (or 1987 - check). The animation and tune remained the same.

This is a generic OU still used between programmes when the announcer would be telling you what would be on later, or giving information about related programmes.

I'm not sure of the date of this, can anyone suggest which period this is from?

High tech graphics were never the forte of the Open University. Low budgets made for functional but not artistically appealing programmes. As video production methods have got cheaper, the OU programmes have become more watchable, but the "no expense spent" approach still creeps in to today's programmes.
Another still from old Open University. The picture shows an early Philips video recorder, either a 1500 or 1700.
The Open University on BBC1 in 1987. This is from the "COW" period, when BBC1 had the golden globe.
BBC TWO OU Ident 1987 to 1991 By the time this OU ident was introduced, in 1987, BBC2 were carrying the bulk of Open University programmes. The animation was kept but only seen occasionally. It was replaced when the new BBC2 idents were introduced in 1991.
The launch of the Learning Zone meant that most Open University programmes were subsumed in to the overnight education service without an individual identity. However Saturday and Sunday morning OU programmes continued, and used the image right as the introductory ident. Although it looks like a standard promotional still used by BBC2 until the logo change of 1997, it was in fact animated, the O and U appearing to "grow" out of the background. The scary music had been dropped by now. BBC2 Open University Ident from 1996
BBC1 continued with weekend OU and used an identical ident, save for the "1" in the border.
The launch of the new BBC logo led to the above style of presentation being dropped. OU programmes today continue at weekends, but a preceded by one of the standard BBC2 idents with voiceover. However there is a pre-programme ident, old ITV style, featuring a "Saturn Rings" style animation which ends with the image you see left.

You can click on the image to see the animation in RealVideo 5 format.

BBC2 Open University Ident from 1998


That brings us up to date with Open University idents, but have we missed any?
What did the BBC use for OU continuity in the very early years (1971-75) when many of the programmes were made in black and white?

Recommended Links
The Open University have their own web site, which includes some of their history.

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Last Update 29 Mar 2000