Type specimen 

18 August 2015 tbs.pm/1752


Notional Date: June 1964
Announcers: John Benson, Jill Bechley
Music: Perpetuum Mobile (Roberts), used 1962-1968; ABC March (Bliss), used 1956-1968


At one and the same time, the ABC start-up routine manages to be both an industry standard, and a daring departure from the norm. A departure, in that the choice of two company theme tunes with the Authority announcement between did away with the need for a pause in the main theme to make the announcement. This meant the company symbol could form up with its own discrete piece of music and not be reliant upon a crescendo in the main piece.

ABC were a company very conscious of the need to promote their name and image. This they did with non-stop gusto, throughout the sixties.

With a two day weekend contract in the North and Midlands, they found it essential to fight back against the five day domination of Granada and ATV respectively. Their chosen method was strong and dynamic branding, and the daily opening routine set the standard for the rest of the day.

Perpetuum Mobile was composed by Michael Roberts, a member of the company staff who wrote string music as a hobby. At three minutes and three seconds it was only just long enough to cover the minimum time the tuning signal required. Accordingly, the company symbol which followed had its own music.

Perpetuum was not the first piece ABC had used. In the early years Busy Batchelor and Mr Punch had been tried, but with a major revamp of ABC style at the end of the fifties, Perpetuum was introduced and together with its later use by ABC when they became Thames, was the stalwart of the genre for almost thirty years.

Taking ABC and Thames together, this was the longest lived start-up theme in Independent Television history, and the only one to have been used in all four major regions, over time.

The symbol form up over the second piece, the ABC March, is the principal ‘tour de force’ of television ident graphics of the sixties. It makes no bones about being an icon, intending to be one, exhorting the viewer to give respect to the authority of the station and taking a declamatory tone throughout. The pulsating triangle is screen size and dominant, the serif letters neat and symmetrical beneath.

This 28 second piece was also used as a local ident from time to time, and was always the choice for lunchtime closedowns after the Sunday morning service.

The crisp and businesslike tones of John Benson are heard between the pieces, giving the standard Authority announcement. For collectors of these licensing statements this is both definitive and stylish. The wording conveys authority, the intonation and inflection is word perfect but the use of the non-standard ‘you’re tuned to’ very daring for the time, adding real character. Amongst collectors of these gems, this is considered a great example of station identification. Listen to the way he mentions ‘channels nine and ten’ giving absolute equality of status to both.

John Benson was regarded by many in the trade, as the definitive Independent Television continuity announcer of the sixties. He was with ABC for thirteen years, and went on to work for Thames thereafter.

When ABC moved to London in 1968, they took these start-up practices with them, only substituting the Thames music for the ABC March.

This approach to company identity set the standard for many other companies to follow. The ABC Midland start-up was similar, but used John Edmunds, and later Bill Steel for the recorded announcement.

ABC and ATV were each contracted to produce 22 Sunday morning services per year, with STV, Anglia, Southern and TWW producing two each. These ABC and ATV church broadcasts came from all over the country, usually from the same town as had hosted their outside broadcast vans for football matches the day before.

The churches were often outside the company areas, but this was an economical measure that made good sense. The ABC Teddington fleet could easily cover a London service, and this was never a problem for rival ATV.

It is the elegance of this start-up routine, from an age without electronic caption creation, that inspired the original Transdiffusion children, and created their interest in television presentation as a hobby. We have a lot to thank ABC for today.


This article originally appeared on Transdiffusion before 2001. It has been republished with the addition of the animated ABC start-up recreation by Dave Jeffery.

You Say

6 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 23 August 2015 at 1:16 am

Never heard the theme tune to the ill-fated “Weavers Green” before. Thanks for that.

Ray Emsley 22 September 2015 at 11:15 am

Emley Moor was my local ABC station and apart from the opening test card the original ABC logo that followed before start of programmes was different to what has been shown. It was similar to the ABC Cinema logo with bars radiating outwards out wards. I worked for the local ABC Cinema at that time and remember it well.

Russ J Graham 22 September 2015 at 12:44 pm

Yes, the cinemas-style logo was used from 1956 until September 1959. This startup is from 1964. You can see the shield and the replacement triangle here: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CKINZASWEAAWpRz.png

nhewit 17 December 2018 at 2:10 pm

As a young child this is the ITV Station that I recollect most clearly.
During the week when Mum controlled our viewing the preference was for BBC Children’s Television, this included Thursdays 60 minute offering of, ‘Tales From Europe’,which all seemed to originate from The Warsaw Pact!
The exception to this was on Wednesdays when we visited Grandma and also on Tuesday when we were allowed to watch, Rediffusion’s, ‘Five O clock Club, viewing the Friday edition was dependent on Dad arriving home early from work. The reason The TV set was turned to channel 9 on Tuesdays was because the BBC transmitted a science based programme, ‘Tom, Tom’, the content was similar to the later Southern Televisions, ‘How’, however it lacked the informality and light hearted delivery and presentational style of the Southern TV programme and was to a five year old both boring and incomprehensible!
TV at the weekend, however was either viewed with the whole family or even on occasions extended family and certainly on Saturday and Sunday evenings the most frequent jingle and announcement heard was, “this is ABC:your weekend Television in the North”, I can well remember some of the productions, ‘ Thank Your Lucky Stars’, ‘Jimmy Clitheroe’, with his mother played by the feisty Mollie Sugden and Voyage to the Bottom of the sea, in the event of me being unwell and lying downstairs on the living room sofa, I also got to see the,’Avengers’, with Doncaster’s own Dianna Rig playing, Mrs Peel. ABC seemed far more homely with its in vision announcers and amusing incidents when there were problems with transmission,( a frequent occurance in the mid 1960’s), and David Hamilton made an unscheduled appearance, to both apologise for the interuption to the programme and then if the interuption was extended started to ad lib, frequently promoting other ABC productions by reading
the TV Times out loud, Ken Dodd, another regular on ABC at weekends, referred to the erstwhile TV announcer as,’Diddy David Hamilton’, who on occasions played the stooge on the show.
The final weekend of the Franchise was quite special, particularly on the Saturday Night when Hughie Green’s opportunity Knocks incorporated information about the history of the Didsbury, (Manchester) Television Studios and also demonstrated some of the equipment used to transmit the
programmes. Ken Dodd ,not to be outdone in his following programme ended by saying, “Goodbye Diddy Didsbury”. The final Sunday was something of an event and I remember being woken up at about midnight to go down stairs and hear David Hamilton’s final, ‘sign off’, in which he informed viewers in the North and Midlands that ABC and the regular crew were to become Thames TV. In the event the parting of the ways did not extend beyond the following week, because the following weekend they were all back on our screens as the ITV Emergency Service as a result of an Industrial Dispute.The former ABC continued to serve what was by then Granada Land for some weeks, unfortunately a number of children’ serials
shown by the emergency service were truncated mid story when, ‘Normal Service was resumed in the Autum’n and I never did find out what the fate was for the children and their enemy the Malevolent pumpkin, as Granada failed to continue the series!

Graham Pearson 16 April 2021 at 10:52 pm

Perpetuum Mobile was be used during the four minute Thames Television start up sequence during the 1970s and 1980s from what I recall.

John Radley, (Retired Transmission Controller) 25 October 2022 at 6:56 pm

Clock anno. and ID into church service:

Jill Bechley was an ATV Midlands announcer so I believe the announcer over the clock was more likely ABC announcer, Sheila Kennedy (it certainly sounded like her) but it is always possible that Jill Betchley was sub-contracted to ABC as I remember well Tom Glazer was once subcontracted from ARTV to ATV London.
Also, as the church service was from London, it would not have had an ABC ident preceding it – more likely an OB generated static & silent ARTV or Rediffusion caption (or none at all).

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