A look back at the changing on-screen look of
BBC Television. This gallery of idents charts the history of
Britain's oldest television company.
Special thanks to Roddy Buxton for supplying many of
the images at the beginning, without which this page would not
have been created.
Thanks also to Darren Meldrum for
supplying additional information on the early logos; to
Jeremy Rogers and Gareth Randall for the lowdown
on the BBC kangaroos; and to those kind enough to supply stills and
The screenshots shown contain
graphics that are copyright of the BBC.
In the beginning...
In 1936 the BBC became the world's first
broadcaster of a regular "high-definition" television service. In the
beginning, the gaps between the programmes would be filled with tuning
signals (also known as test cards) or on-screen announcers.
The first attempt at proper branding was first seen on the evening of
December 2nd, 1953 when the "bat's wings"
Abram Games, famous at the time for designing the logo for The
Festival of Britain of 1951, was commissioned to design the
Television Symbol, which was actually a brass model whose centre
circles could rotate. For BBC Scotland the spot in the middle was
replaced by a lion. There were also other regional variations (static
captions) as well as a matching clock.
Screenshot provided by Jeremy Rogers
This new logo replaced the BBC coat of arms on screen, and would be seen
before programmes such as Quatermass II.
The way the BBC presented itself would soon become more important as in
September 1955 it would begin competing for
viewers with ITV, Britain's first commercial television service.
1962 saw the first example of the BBC
lettering in boxes. Initially the letters were slanted with the boxes
upright. Later, this would evolve into the familiar BBC corporate logo,
with slanted boxes.
This map ident was seen before programmes such as That Was The Week
Perhaps a map of the British Isles was not thought grand enough to
represent the BBC, because in January 1963
the ident gave way to a map of the world! Originally the
background was a single colour - the two-colour background with the
diagonal line was added later. The BBC logo that was superimposed onto
the spinning globe would fade in before the next programme started,
to coincide with the announcer saying, "This is BBC Television."
Notice the boxes now slope with the letters, as they would for many
years to come!
This ident was seen before programmes such as Doctor Who.
The globe and the map idents came with clocks that had very long second
1964 – BBC 2 begins
Both the BBC and ITV were broadcasting in the VHF band using 405
lines for the pictures. When the BBC began its second channel,
in April 1964, it was broadcast using a new
standard. This time the pictures were transmitted in the UHF band
and were higher definition, containing 625 lines. This meant
that to watch BBC 2, viewers needed a new dual-standard TV set.
The mascot of the station, as far as I recall, was a zebra, hence the
stripy effects in the logo. But the station launch was advertised by
a pair of animated kangaroos. "Hullabaloo" represented BBC 1, as
it would now be known, and in her pouch was her new baby, "Custard",
representing BBC 2. Hullabaloo was so-called because BBC 1 was
about song and dance. After hours of fruitless brainstorming, so the
story goes, a BBC bigwig decided the baby kangaroo should be called
Custard since custard goes with everything!
The appearance of the second BBC globe, coincided with the launch of
BBC 2. But the globe wouldn't yet show BBC 1 (even though that
is what the announcers called it). This may have been because BBC 2
wasn't available outside of London to start with (and you needed a new
TV set) and so the BBC didn't want to annoy viewers who couldn't see
the second channel. Or perhaps the designers thought both idents should
share a consistent "BBC" logo.
There were two further black and white globes in the Sixties.
Screenshot by Sean Hughes
1967 – First broadcasts in colour
Screenshot by Sean Hughes
BBC 2's coverage of Wimbledon on July 1st,
1967 marked the official start of the first regular colour
television service in Europe. The channel began broadcasting about five
hours of colour each week in this 'launching period' until a full service
started on December 2nd.
Colour broadcasts officially began on BBC 1
and ITV on November 15th, 1969, when they
followed BBC 2 by launching a service in 625 lines on UHF. (Colour
was never available on the old 405-line VHF system, which continued
running until the 1980s.) To watch in colour viewers would require a new
television set. To encourage viewers to get one, TV stations heavily
promoted their use of colour and added a reference to it on their idents.
Take the two idents above, change the colours and the typeface and you
end up with the set below from 1972.
The BBC 1 COLOUR globe was frequently seen in Monty Python's
Flying Circus, which featured spoof continuity announcements.
By the mid-70s, the slanted BBC corporate logo was all but forgotten,
save for an appearance on the BBC 2 clock.
BBC 1 began to use three colours - a blue background, a yellow
globe with the channel name in white Future Bold letters. This new symbol
appeared after Christmas 1974.
A number of BBC clocks have been
reconstructed by Dave Jeffery and then converted
into a format that works in all modern browsers across
mobiles, tablets and desktop PCs. You can see them in the BBC Flash-free Files. There
are also some BBC clock screensavers for Windows available in
The Flash Files - part four.
BBC 2 kept the same colour scheme but got
a new symbol made up of horizontal stripes. The revolving cube was
replaced by a cylinder device, which made the white stripes rotate one
way and the light blue stripes rotate the other, before meeting back up
again to form the number 2.
View the "2" in action as the stripes revolve around
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How they did it
Before the introduction of computer-generated graphics, the BBC clocks
and idents were mechanical models filmed by a black and white camera. The
colour was then added electronically, substituting for black, white and
grey, making it extremely easy to change the colours for each new look.
The contraption shown on the right, comprising a camera, a light and a
curved wall of shelves housing each of the models, allowed the operator
in presentation to switch between different captions. It was
affectionately known as "Noddy" because the camera would move up and down
on a pivot in order to point to the right ident.
You can see apology captions scattered around the picture and the BBC
Schools and Colleges 60-second countdown clock just
above the centre of the picture. The BBC 1 globe is to its left.
Screenshot by Gareth Randall
During the Christmas period, the BBC traditionally shows special festive
This one appeared before the world television premiere of Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on Christmas Day,
1975. Notice the stripy BBC 1 lettering.
By the 1980s, the "futuristic" stripy lettering, which had
been experimented with on programme slides and other captions, had
been adopted on the idents for both channels.
The BBC 2 ident changed first, and was quite a departure from
previous incarnations in that it didn't exist on film, nor was it a
model housed in the Noddy room. Instead, the symbol, designed by
Oliver Elmes, was played out from a solid-state device,
created by BBC engineers. Not only could this produce a still image,
but it could also show two moving sequences, animated by the BBC
Computer Graphic Workshop. Each animation lasted four seconds. The
first began with a black screen onto which the stripes and the number
were magically drawn from left to right by an invisible hand. The
second showed the symbol disappearing, again from left to right, as
if the pen was filled with black ink.
The BBC 2 logo was seen in spoof continuity announcements in
Not the 9 O'Clock News and The Young Ones.
The BBC 1 globe and the clocks for both stations still existed
as mechanical models. But after the success of the solid state 2,
the clocks were also soon to become digital entities, leading to
some subtle design changes.
The ring in the middle of the clock face was replaced by a solid
dot, the hour markers were also changed and on BBC 2 the logo
beneath the clock would finally have all the different shades seen
in the main ident.
The BBC 1 globe was modified for a couple of special
events in the 80s.
In 1982, the BBC celebrated 60 years of
broadcasting, with a week of commemorative programmes. This
60 BBC Years globe was used to introduce them.
In 1984, because of a technician's
dispute on the commercial channels, the BBC had exclusive coverage
of the Olympic Games. These days, the International Olympic
Committee, like all brand owners, gets very upset if its
5-ring symbol is modified like this.
Goodbye mechanical globe...
One of the last mechanical globes spent its retirement years in
the foyer of BBC Research & Development, based at
Kingswood Warren in Surrey. Visitors could press the button and
watch the world go by for a minute. Sadly the model was later removed
as part of a refurbishment. The BBC left Kingswood Warren in 2010.
...hello Computer Originated World (and hello to you, Two)
In 1985 the globe went virtual, as a new
computer generated identity for BBC 1 was introduced. It first
appeared at 7pm on Monday, February 18th,
when Wogan began his new thrice-weekly chat show. Twenty-four
hours later, the new globe would be introducing a brand new soap
opera called EastEnders.
Find out more about the virtual globe on the BBC 1 1985 page also in this section.
It wasn't until Easter 1986 that BBC 2
got its new logo. This was designed by BBC Senior Designer,
Alan Jeapes, who also, incidentally, designed the opening
title sequence for EastEnders.
For the first time the digit "2" was
dropped in favour of spelling out the number. The ident could be
animated to show the letters emerging from the white background,
or to show the letters disappearing into the background (which was
often seen at closedown). When there were subtitles on Ceefax, the
hard-of-hearing ear symbol was added between the first two letters.
See the letters disappear into the background as the announcer
introduces the last ever Moonlighting.
Now. (Requires RealPlayer 8 or later or a VLC player plug-in)
Playback jerky or not working? Download
first in Real Media 8 format and then play with VLC media player or
Real Player 8 or later. (19 924 bytes)
The corporate logo gets a make-over
In 1988, the BBC decided that if it was to
compete effectively with its commercial rivals, it would need a strong
corporate image to make its products stand out in the market place. A new
corporate logo was commissioned to be used on its stationery, videos,
books and even paper cups. The new image, designed by Michael
Peters, looks back to the old, traditional BBC logo, but is updated
by underlining the slanted boxes. An animated ident was produced with a
jingle, which was used for BBC promotional films (e.g. to tell us how
good value our licence fee is), BBC videos and exported programmes.
The three colours are those of the phosphors on a colour television
(the primary colours of light, also used in the BBC "TWO" logo). There
were also national variants. BBC Scotland had its underlines all in
blue; BBC Northern Ireland used three green underlines;
BBC Wales used all red. (In peculiarly British fashion there is no
Screenshot provided by Sean Hughes
In the 1990s, Martin Lambie-Nairn's design company took over
responsibility for the BBC's idents. Lambie-Nairn had earlier
successfully created the idents for the launch of Channel 4 and had
also worked on branding the BBC's 9 O'Clock News.
A new look for both BBC 1 and BBC 2 was unveiled on Saturday, February 16th, 1991. A new logo for
the Open University was seen first, with the new BBC 1 ident being
launched by Philip Schofield and Sarah Greene before that morning's
This ident was loosely based on the traditional globe and was designed
by Daniel Barber. The solid-state devices that had generated
the twin-stripe 2 and the COW were decommissioned, as the new globe was
played out from modified LaserDisc players.
On BBC 2, there were a whole load of different idents, all featuring
the escapades of a large "2". It was this set of idents that, it is
said, have proven the worth of strong branding. Within six months of
the new package going on air, the perception of BBC 2 had changed
from that of a formal, stuffy channel and the audience had increased,
even though the programmes themselves had largely remained the same.
Although each channel had a different style, Lambie-Nairn brought
back a consistency to the idents - both featured the BBC corporate logo
underneath a large numeral, clearly identifying the channels as well
as the broadcaster.
The corporate logo gets another make-over
After only six years, the BBC decided another re-launch was
necessary. This time not only would Lambie-Nairn tackle the two BBC
channels, but also the BBC's corporate logo. The old one, the Beeb
said, was no longer up to the job. Apparently, it just didn't "work
on screen". To make it work, the coloured lines underneath the three
lozenges were banished, the sides were straightened from their
17.5-degree slant, and the typeface was changed to Gill Sans.
Oddly, Lambie-Nairn reportedly claimed the 1988 logo hadn't been modern
enough. Yet after its make-over, the new, simpler logo is very
reminiscent of the BBC's first from 1932. And the new typeface, based
on that used on the London Underground and other London Transport, was
invented in the 1920s.
The cost of the new look was reported by some sources to be over
£5m spread over three years, which covered everything from the
designing of the idents to having new letter-heads printed.
When the change was first rumoured back in August
1997, Gerald Kaufman, the chairman of the National Heritage
Select Committee said, "It seems to me there could
be a more useful way of spending licence-payers' money. This confirms
that while the BBC is funded by the tax-payer and theoretically
accountable, in fact it does exactly what it wants to."
British Ballooning Club?
The first on-screen sighting of the new corporate logo came with
new idents for BBC 1 and 2 launched on Saturday,
October 4th, 1997. Viewers were also to discover that the channels
had also been renamed to "BBC One" and "BBC Two".
Screenshots above provided by Martin Deutsch
The popular "2" idents were simply adapted by replacing the old
corporate logo with the new one and by conforming to the new
naming scheme. New comedic adventures of the
channel's star performer continued to be made.
But the biggest change was on the main channel. The globe had become
a balloon seen flying over, initially, ten different locations in
the UK, including Snowdon, the Forth Rail Bridge and Canary Wharf.
The films apparently cost £500 000 to make.
In 1999 I spoke to Brian Eley at Lambie-Nairn for Channel 4's
Right to Reply and asked about the thinking behind the balloon.
He explained that the idea was that BBC 1 was bringing a world
of entertainment to every nation. "And it's about
pride in a national institution. And after a few imaginative leaps,
it takes you to a hot air balloon taken to every part of the United
The balloons were cleverly parodied in the opening titles of The
Ben Elton Show.
Screenshots above provided by James Cridland
The balloon idents were filmed in widescreen and were first shown
to the public in this format on October 1st,
1998 when Sky Digital launched. BBC Two's existing idents
were also re-jigged for widescreen use.
After their introduction, the idents were tweaked a little. First,
the "888" caption was changed to read "Subtitles" (because digital
subtitles aren't accessed via page 888 of teletext). Secondly, the
BBC's website address was added above the station name. At the same time,
new idents on similar themes were commissioned for both channels,
including in 2000, for example, an Olympic Games balloon ident for
A new news channel
On Sunday, November 9th, 1997 at 5.30pm,
the BBC launched its first new channel in the UK since BBC Two.
BBC News 24 was a rolling news service rivalling Sky News,
which had begun eight years earlier. Sky described their new
competition as a misuse of the licence fee, as it was only initially
available to the two million viewers who had cable TV. Until digital
television came along the following autumn, the rest of the country
had to make do with watching BBC News 24 when it was broadcast
overnight on BBC One.
The channel's identity used (mostly fictional) flags and a drum
soundtrack, which was shared with the BBC's international news
channel, BBC World.
The New Millennium
A new look for BBC Two was launched on Monday, November 19th, 2001. The antics of a large "2"
continued, but now it was always coloured white and appeared in a yellow
setting. The station name was now shown in a purple box in the bottom right
of the screen on the idents and in trailers. No on-screen clock was
produced, because the channel would no longer use one.
The End of the World
On Good Friday, March 29th, 2002,
BBC One controller, Lorraine Heggessey also banished the clock
and, after decades of use, the globe motif was gone too. New idents
were launched based around the theme of 'Rhythm and Movemement' that
showed various people dressed in red, dancing or performing. This time
the name of the channel was in a red box in the bottom left-hand
The box in the corner idea could also be seen in the idents and trails
for BBC Three, a digital channel that replaced
BBC Choice on Saturday, February 9th,
The End of an Era
Three years later saw the end of the Lambie-Nairn era, as the dancers
were replaced with images based around the idea of a circle. Red Bee
Media created the idents, which debuted on Saturday,
October 7th, 2006, and included moon rovers, traffic going around
a roundabout, dogs jumping through hoops, women mowing the lawn and
On Sunday, February 18th, 2007, BBC Two
introduced new idents where the "2" was no longer a character, but
was instead something you look through, a "window on the world", such as a 2-shaped sunroof in a car, a tent with
a 2-shaped entrance and whatever this is...
Sunday 20th April 2014
To celebrate 50 years of BBC Two new idents were shown and
some original idents from the 1990s were repurposed. These stayed on
after the birthday celebrations and continued to be used for four more
years alongside occasional new idents following the original
Sunday 1st January 2017
BBC One commissioned British photographer Martin Parr to bring to his
work to life on screen. A new set of idents around the theme of "Oneness" show
groups of people coming together to take part in various activities including
excercise classes, bog snorkelling, swimming in the sea and birdwatching.
BBC One promotes its Christmas programmes with a two-minute
animated film telling the story of a girl entering a talent contest at
school. The film is set to the song Symphony by Clean Bandit
featuring Zara Larsson.
Thursday 27th September 2018
BBC Two was no longer represented on screen by a "2" for the
first time in over 27 years. In 16 new animated idents, the screen was
split along a curve that only hinted at the digit. The rebrand was
created by the in-house team, BBC Creative, in partnership with new brand
What happened next...
In August 2017 the BBC began to roll out its
first corporate typeface, named after the organisation's founder, John
Reith. BBC Reith was designed by type studio Dalton Maag and was
quickly adopted on screen and online by BBC Sport.
In February 2021 the font would appear in a
new BBC logo when BBC Select, a new streaming service, was launched in
The new corporate logo finally appeared on British screens on Wednesday, October 20th, 2021, when it was added to
the idents, menus and trailers of the four main channels. The update came
after audiences told the corporation that the existing logo made its
services look old-fashioned and out of date.
BBC One returned to the circles theme when it began using a
new set of idents at 7pm on Friday, April 1st,
2021. The idea is to show a scene, and in the centre a lens appears,
revealing what that scene looks like at different times of the day. In the
first ident shown just before The One Show we can see skateboarders,
but can also see a rave and a life drawing class happening in the same
The new corporate logo has been introduced gradually, with BBC News only
adopting it on screen from Monday, April 25th. At
time of writing, the old logo is still being used by BBC Sport and BBC
In December 2013, BBC News online
celebrated 60 years of the BBC's first television symbol
with an article that included a video of clips of BBC One idents to
date. It also published a second video, that also appeared on BBC
Breakfast, telling the story of Abram Games' bat's wings ident
with reporter Nick Higham showing us some of the old mechanical
models from the 70s and 80s.
In November 1999, I got to make a film for Channel 4's
Right to Reply about television channels and their
brand images. I spoke to Brian Eley, Creative Director
at Lambie-Nairn, who explained the thinking behind the
new BBC One balloon idents. Click on the link above
for a transcript of the item with screenshots as well
as video to download for those with RealVideo and MPEG