24 May 2004 tbs.pm/1981

ALBUM Ulster
Ulster Television – UTV
Northern Ireland: 1959-present

Living with troubles

The Pilkington Committee on broadcasting noted that “the area [Northern Ireland] …has its own set of sharp and often bitter political tensions”. This sums up a situation in Northern Ireland that would influence Ulster Television for the first half of its existence – “The Troubles”. The province was poor, grim and dark, with violence never far away. As the sixties became the seventies, Northern Ireland was to face conflict and political upheaval alien to the rest of the UK.

This was Ulster Television’s territory. The company with a silent, unanimated ident, where presenters would have to read out news of bombs a few streets away, before introducing Coronation Street. It was ITV, but reflecting Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances.

However, Northern Ireland learned to live with its ‘troubles’, and even to see the lighter side of things.

If the troubles had deepened divisions in the province, they had also in many ways brought the population together. Ulster with its name, its homely continuity announcers, and local programmes which dealt with the good as well as the bad news had a special place in viewers’ affections.

Nowadays, the company is the bold UTV, with its colourful idents celebrating the Northern Ireland’s beauty and sense of humour. It has kept its local identity and continuity when all round are losing theirs.

Ulster is a strong part of ITV – but always on their own terms.

On Screen

Ulster Television Ulster Television

A simple first ident – dots representing towns join together with truly awful music.

Watch Ulster’s 1980 ident

The infamous ‘logo on a stick’ – planned as a short-term celebration of the company’s birthday but clung onto for a lot longer.

The third of three 3D model idents used by ITV.

Ulster Television Ulster Television Ulster Television

Watch Ulster’s 1991 3D ident

A discordant theme plays whilst the ident itself flies into position and the company name – in full in the 1980s – flutters in on a flag.

Ah, Channel Four has arrived! The sudden introduction of the 3D-flying-through-space logo of Channel 4 caused a change in ITV branding through the 1980s as each regional company began introducing similar-themed idents. The same would happen again after 1993, when Carlton introduced a fad for 2D symbols again, and one by one all companies began to change back.

As with so many of these idents, you have to ask – was there ever a stylish way of forming up the company name?


The end of trying to puzzle out the cryptic nature of the Ulster’s idents. Now they’re clear (with a fashionable 2 dimensional symbol, again) – shots of various (presumably local) buildings with blurry people walking past until the ident gradually forms over them. The only real puzzle now is what the ‘U’ stands for – evidently unhappy with the ‘Ulster’ name due to ambitions south of the border, a change to initials means no-one need know what it stands for. No mention of the dreadful ITV1 name or even the tacky ITV1 symbol here – helping the claim to independence?

Listen to Ulster Television authority announcement

Nothing startling about this announcement – straight and to the point, naming the transmitter but not the region, though as a national broadcaster it would seem to be unnecessary to do so.

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