Last updated: 23rd December 2019.
The TV Museum group has today released footage of a 1978 BBC Two junction which includes 7 seconds of the Christmas ident from that year. No copies of the ident exist in the BBC archive. This find is one of only two recordings of the festive symbol known to have survived. It was discovered on a u-matic tape.
The recording is from Saturday 23rd December 1978. It’s the 4.10pm junction. BBC One and BBC Two had been blacked out on 21st December 1978 and 22nd December 1978 by an industrial dispute. The strike was resolved by 10pm on 22nd December 1978. BBC Two was scheduled to open up at 11.50am on 23rd December 1978, with Leonard Bernstein at Harvard. But, as a result of the strike, programmes did not get underway until 1.30pm, with the scheduled film, Around the World in 80 Days. Apart from the Leonard Bernstein programme, all other programmes went ahead as scheduled that day.
According to The TV Room contributor Andrew Nairn, “at some point during the morning, BBC Two replaced the test card with a notice saying the strike was over and programmes would resume as scheduled at 1.30pm”. At a guess, this caption may have appeared around 11.50am, when the first programme of the day was due to begin. BBC One had a caption from 9.30am – when Swap Shop was supposed to get underway – indicating that programmes would begin at 3pm.
The 1978 BBC Two Christmas ident first aired just before 1.30pm that day. It featured two groups of three medieval trumpeters – each placed on separate rotating turntables. One turntable followed a clockwise motion, the other anti-clockwise. The speed of the turntables needed to be in sync, else the trumpets from each group would have collided. Coloured flags hung from each trumpet – these were emblazoned with a large, shiny, gold ‘2’ logo.
Curiously, the ‘2’ featured in the symbol is from an earlier prototype of the logo, where the shape of the numeral included right angles; these later became curves. There are slight variations in the shape and proportion of the ‘2’ from flag to flag; the ‘2’ on the yellow flag is noticeably out-of-step with the others.
The programme menu that preceded the symbol featured the more familiar ‘2’ shape. Oddly, by today’s branding standards, this double-striped ‘2’ didn’t feature in the channel’s standard ident until June the following year; but it was already popping up on programme slides and menus, even though BBC Two’s official logo was still the multi-striped ‘2’ introduced in late-1974.
The BBC Two announcer here is the late Peter Brook:
Another clip materialised online on 24th December 2018, featuring the 1978 Christmas BBC Two symbol (below). A BBC News report on the resumption of programmes following the December 1978 BBC strike went behind-the-scenes in the BBC Presentation dept. A camera watches on as NC2 brings BBC Two back to life at 1.30pm on 23rd December 1978.
Presentation enthusiasts will note the use of the audio fanfare, for so long associated solely with the electronic striped ‘2’ symbol (introduced in June 1979). So we now know that the fanfare was in fact originally used to accompany the 1978 Christmas symbol.
The news report also includes footage of the Christmas BBC One symbol being assembled.
PICTURED: BBC Two ident - Christmas 1978. SUPPLIED BY: The TV Museum. COPYRIGHT: BBC.