The current BBC News package is a direct evolution of the new look introduced in May 1999. Titles and sets have changed a few times, the music has been tweaked and the main news has shifted to 10pm. But the visual identity has not changed fundamentally at any one time.
The concept of BBC News as a brand is a relatively modern idea. Ever since the war, news has been key to the BBC’s reputation. And since the late-1980s, nobody would seriously dispute that news and current affairs was the most important of the corporation’s activities. But branding is another matter.
The phrase BBC News has been in use since at least the 1950s – the iconic titles of the BBC News and Newsreel help define the pioneering days of BBC Television.
Until the mid-1980s all BBC TV news bulletins shared a broad common look although the Nine o’Clock News, as the flagship, had distinctive elements. This was especially pronounced after 1981 when the three daily programmes got a degree of identity. But from the mid-80s, there was no consistency in the branding.
The first chinks came in 1983 when Breakfast Time started with its bulletins fitting the look of the programme. Then the Evening News was incorporated into 60 Minutes before briefly being restored in the summer of 1984.
The new Six o’Clock News was a radical departure with computer graphics and its own distinct music and set. The Nine o’Clock News went down the same route a year later, then the One followed.
As an aside, it’s curious that in April 1985 the weekend bulletins got a mini revamp with new blue titles and a matching set. Yet News After Noon and the Nine stayed unchanged until the autumn. Perhaps there was a plan for a revamp which was abandoned after it was decided to make more radical changes to the Nine?
Anyway, the generic BBC News look was fading fast by 1986. A big overhaul of the Nine o’Clock News in 1988 created, in effect, a new generic look which was also used at the weekend. But it took until 1993 and the “virtual” sets and graphics to create a consistent package and clearly turn BBC News into a brand.
News is not a commodity. Just as different newspapers have their values and characteristics, so do different broadcasters. Channel 4 News has its own clear personality, as does 5 News. The ITV News is meant to be an important part of the feel of the channel.
How unusual it is to think now that the organisation which prides itself on its news coverage took so long to realise the value of its own brand.
PICTURED: BBC News titles. COPYRIGHT: BBC.