The Ninety Fourth Annual Academy Salute To Thirty Four Million Years Of The BBC Part 4: The Regions
Time for the Great Big Rifle Through The Various Bits And Pieces That You Used To See On The BBC Whenever They Weren’t Actually Showing Any Programmes to hit the highway, and head off on a journey through the many ludicrious variations on BBC continuity to be found in the ‘regions’.
“Hang on a minute”, you’re probably asking by now, “isn’t that supposed to say ITV?”. Well, erm, no. It’s not. ITV was of course famously made up of a multiple-personality-disorder-like assemblage of regional broadcasters that seemed – other than when Bruce Forsyth sang an overlong song about how they were all pals really - to have absolutely nothing in common with each other (some apparently not even realising they were supposed to be making programmes), and indeed their various idents and insignias have been widely celebrated elsewhere, amongst them the Yorkshire Chevron, the Thames Buildings-Rising-Out-Of-The-Water, and, of course, the Granada Goose. But time was when – more for reasons of technological practicality than anything else – the BBC also relied heavily on regional subdivisions, some of whom saw fit to personalise the existing TV continuity in an increasingly eccentric fashion…
Take, for example, BBC East Anglia shunning the nationally-proscribed caption slide layout in favour of this peculiar blend of Pyramid-Meets-The-Eye-style quasi-mysticism and ‘Here Be Pylons’ Electricity Board graphic design, coming up with something that would not have looked out of place on a research centre wall in a Patrick Troughton-era Doctor Who story. Not long afterwards, they ‘straightened out’ and replaced it with a smooth-edged streamlined lower case ‘ea’. Squaresville, dude.
BBC South’s early attempts at signposting their own distinctive regional identity, on the other hand, were far more conventional and acceptable to mainstream society, but were unfortunately hampered by subsidence.
A couple of years later, despite apparently still not having quite got the spirit levels where they wanted them, BBC South opted for this official-looking ‘Collapsed Department S’ logo, which attempted to offset its general air of shadowy governmental shenanigans by being reassuringly rendered in the BBC’s early seventies colour of choice, Sam Tyler Blue.
Hang on a minute… Parky? What’s he doing here?! Don’t start adjusting your set just yet – unfortunately, despite extensive research, it’s proved impossible to locate that weird BBC South West graphical representation of the year in numerical form, which looked as though someone had designed it as a loading screen for the ZX Spectrum but it had run into an R Tape Loading Error partway through, and then took a photo of it in its malformed colour scheme and tore it up and then randomly mixed it up with bits of the background of the Fingerbobs title sequence and some UB40 sleeve art circa 1986, so Mr. Parkinson has generously agreed to appear as an illustration in its place. Anyway, that’s the last we’ll be seeing of him.
Unlike their above-mentioned contemporaries, BBC Midlands were always keen to demonstrate their close attachment to their parent channels, and as a result came up with this slide which inadvertently ended up plugging the not-yet-invented ITV2.
This theme of inter-transmitter peace and harmony continued with the move to colour, and indeed this somewhat abstract slide proudly proclaiming that BBC Midlands was available via BBC2, which was currently showing everyone’s favourite, The ‘MWMWMWM’ Show.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, BBC Midlands also – to the eternal childhood bewilderment-mixed-with-fascination of anyone visiting Midlands-based relatives – employed the services of a cartoon cat and dog decked out in full-on BBC Globe colour scheme to introduce their weather bulletins. They’ll be up to some hi-jinks, I’ll be bound!
Meanwhile, Yorkshire-based BBC North were having none of yer namby pamby globe that all them southern sissies are wearing down south now, and opted instead for a decidedly more masculine Revolving Lower Half Of The Keep Britain Tidy Man.
What is it with North West-based broadcasters and arrows? Actually, on closer examination, you can’t help but suspect that BBC North West were either too poverty-stricken or too lazy to come up with a design of their own, and instead gave some local ne’er-do-wells a shilling to snap the top off the Granada ‘G’.
BBC Northern Ireland employed a stern robot bouncer to keep out anyone who wasn’t from round these parts. And with good reason when you saw what was inside their barn…
Yes, it’s time for BBC Programmes For Schools And Colleges AND MURDERS SCARECROWS!. But don't tell TV's It's Kevin. They'll all want one.
And finally, it’s left to BBC Scotland to do the only sensible thing and flatten the BBC Globe into an, erm, cube. Sadly not as a prelude to a Michael Bentine repeat season. These days, of course, it’s all miniscule region-denoting text on the standard BBC circle thing with no room for such bonkerness, but there’s plenty more bonkersness to come next time, including the cast of Grange Hill trapped inside a balloon…