Square Dancing 

24 May 2004 tbs.pm/2019

The dancers on BBC-1 are great. But the balloon and globes were better. Kirk Northrop reports.

Since the BBC launched their most recent set of idents on Good Friday this year, very little has been said regarding the new idents in the media. But the change is not something to be forgotten, or taken lightly as it changed the face of the station forever.

Let us go back to the point of an ident. The word means identification, and when we use this in terms of television presentation we are regarding a visual and usually audible identification of the station.

This is the first place where the BBC has gone wrong. Previous to 1997 there was just a single ident and a clock, and even after that the balloon was the focus of the idents, with the location and what was on the balloon purely secondary.

With the dancers there is no common theme to the idents – people have pointed out the colour red, the logo and the fact that all the people are dancing, but none of these strike me as an icon to speak of, possibly least of all the red box.

The music is also an important part of the identification, and although the same piece of music is there every time, the difference between the music in the Ballet and Acrobats idents is so great that it is very difficult to hear the common ‘jingle’ in the Acrobats Ident.

This means that you would need to learn all the pieces of music and the images on screen to identify the channel each time.

Modern channels with the exception of the BBC channels bar BBC-1, ITV and Channel 4 have however lost the point of identification as a means of identifying the channel.

To the stations these days, programmes are the key, and the channel gets little if any identification, as in the case of ITV’s end credit promotions. This mentality is backed up by the use of on-screen bugs or DOGs in presentation, the idea behind them being to remind the viewer which channel they are watching the programme on, so that next time they want to watch it they know where to go. The evidence that this works, however, is not circumstantial.

The channels also feel it necessary to link the ident into the programme; this is part of the misunderstanding as the programmes are not important as far as the identification of the channel is concerned.

Although television programme “Thunderbirds” was linked to channel ATV, there were less channels at that time and programmes would often be linked to the channel – but a striking on-screen identity was still maintained.

However this creates less brand loyalty to the channel. I can watch some programmes on many different channels, but what really needs to happen to reduce the advertising downturn is to create loyalty to a channel.

The BBC as a whole has a worldwide link with quality British television, and although good programmes play a part in this, good branding is also important. The BBC have always promoted themselves first, not their programmes, at least until the newest set of idents came along.

There are many more problems with the current BBC One idents, which were born out within a day of their release. The day after the idents were introduced, the Queen Mother died.

Although the presentation department at the BBC coped extremely well with the incident and change in programme, it highlighted a problem with the choices of idents – there is only one that is really suitable for a serious or newsworthy occasion and that is Ballet which is too mournful to be used before everyday news broadcasts.

In many of the BBC regions either Capoeira or Acrobats are used before news bulletins, both of which have fairly happy tunes and brightly dressed people dancing.

However neither are suitable before a news broadcast – they are just too bright. Before the change of idents a clock was used, or for shorter bulletins the emotionless balloon. Both of these were perfectly suitable before news, particularly the silent but moody clock.

The second major problem with the idents is that there is little variation. Either Salsa, Tap Dogs or Festival are used the majority of the time now, Capoeira and Acrobats are usually reserved for local programming or the news, Haka and Hip Hop are used occasionally and Ballet is reserved for more sombre occasions.

These are the original eight and although the BBC promised there would be more added ‘later in the spring’, 6 months later a single new ident ‘Music Video’ was launched on the 4th October – seemingly to coincide with the launch of ‘Fame Academy’.

To be honest, what the BBC have done has changed the presentational face of the channel forever, in the same way as if a supermarket changed its image overnight. It is still stocking the same products, but delivering them differently.

The BBC has attempted to change the channel’s image to become more mainstream, but I think that the majority of people were perfectly happy with the slightly authoritarian way that the BBC presented itself before. I know I was.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Friday 17 May 2024