First reports 

1 January 2002

Throughout the past year, BBC News has taken advantage of one of the best elements of its corporate look for programmes – different areas can be refreshed and given new looks whilst still remaining within the recognisable BBC News style.

This began with BBC World getting a revamped set in September 2001, and the national news studio followed in December with a refreshed look. Around the same time News 24 had sections of its set repainted, and in April had more modifications made to its graphics and studios. Finally, on 9 September 2002, the regional news programmes across England adopted new title sequences and in many cases tweaked the studio sets. All of these changes maintained a common theme: the colour red.

The regional news shift to china red from the beige that initially was the BBC’s adopted news colour also coincided with the aping of BBC London’s title sequence. Seen on screen as “BBC LDN”, the tri-media operation was launched on 1st October 2001 and the “TV News” arm of the service featured a striking title sequence that had black and white images of various aspects of London life with the BBC News trademark rippling sound waves overlaid. A new theme tune, mixing David Lowe’s innovative and unique BBC News music with the familiar “London Live” theme tune, made for a fantastic sequence.

Sound waves

So it was eleven months later that the idea spread to the regions. A corporate style had previously been implemented across the regions between October 1999 and June 2000, featuring the usual beige studio and scrolling place names and sound waves in the title sequence, but identifying itself with the region via the use of a map of the transmitter region that the programme covered, violently spinning around on the screen. Whilst an interesting concept (and a way of finally nailing whether you were actually watching the right programme) it had a number of flaws. The map was a rather impersonal concept compared to the regional images that most programmes had used previously, and on regions that didn’t have any coastal areas it was rather difficult to actually recognise it as a map of the region.

Clearly impressed by the BBC London news titles, the BBC decided that the idea would be rolled out across the English regions (with, so far, the curious exception of South East Today – perhaps not wishing to relaunch after only a year of operation). The three nations retained their map titles for a number of reasons – not least that they were more recognisable as the area they covered. There would be some subtle differences between LDN’s look and the new style for the regions. The images from around the region would be in colour, rather than black and white. The music would remain as the traditional English regions/UK Today version of the music, rather than adopting the LDN version. However, it would be re-edited to be slightly longer with a more positive ending. The end title board was now also in mixed case rather than block capitals.

Mixed reactions

Reaction to the new titles amongst people who notice such things has been mixed. This has in part depended upon the choice of shots included in the different sequences. There is a theme of mixing ordinary people with shots of regional landmarks – quite a clever way of showing recognisable areas without forgetting the people the programme is meant to be serving. For example, in North West Tonight’s title sequence a man is shown working in a greenhouse with the Jodrell Bank telescope in the background, and students are shown in front of the Liver Buildings.

It depends upon the selection of shots used as to whether a good sequence is made. In my opinion one of the best is South Today, which has a pleasing variety of shots from around the region of different pastimes and areas. Midlands Today appears to have drawn a short straw, with highlights including old women having a picnic surrounded by cows and a woman buying a cup of tea. Look North in the North East and Cumbria has a peculiarly downbeat sequence, with lots of dark watery shots and very little action. The new style offers a lot of room for variation – not least across the seasons (BBC LDN has a winter and summer version) and in the shots used (sub-opts in Hull, Oxford and the Channel Islands are better anchored to their area with subtly different titles which immediately identify the micro-region). But overall they are an improvement on the maps sequences, which whilst geographically accurate did not really suit the lighter style of regional news.

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Liverpool, Thursday 28 September 2023