From Thames “In Colour” – in 1989?

In an age when branding is taken so seriously, it’s interesting to look back on a time when it wasn’t. One of the great mysteries lost in time is why many ITV companies continued to actively promote colour until well into the 1980s.

The BBC removed the word “colour” from its idents in late-1974 and from the copyright tag on credits at the end of 1977. The 1982 franchise round gave some existing ITV companies which had not already tweaked their image a chance to do so. Yet some other ITV stations maintained the practice long after colour was completely taken for granted.

Granada’s front cap referred to Colour Productions until 1986. Thames, incredibly, only dropped the promotion of colour completely in 1989.

A YouTube video from 28th August 1989 shows the caption reading “From Thames In Colour” was still in use at the end of films and imported programmes. This was days before the introduction of the first ITV generic ident.

VIDEO: Thames continuity. TX DATE: 28th August 1989. SUPPLIED BY: YouTube Channel – ADC TV Collection – TVSProductions82. COPYRIGHT: Thames.

By then the company’s famous Skyline ident had been dropped for a few weeks in favour of a more contemporary, temporary design marking the company’s 21st anniversary.

The BBC’s decision to abandon the active promotion of colour in the mid to late-70s made sense. By then all programmes were made in colour and it could be assumed that nobody was unaware of the benefits of colour TV – even if some who would like to have a colour set could not receive a colour signal or might have questioned whether the cost was worth it.

If that was true in 1977, then by 1989 not having a colour set in the main room of a house was usually either a sign of poverty or mild eccentricity.

So why was a caption promoting colour still being used by a prestige company in 1989?

The most likely explanation was that it was simply an oversight. The company had better things to worry about and didn’t get round to updating the caption.

Think about it. This is the flagship ITV company. Down the road at Charlotte Street, Channel 4 had revolutionised idents 7 years earlier. Up the motorway in Birmingham, Central had introduced an innovative package three years earlier.

Such an on-screen anachronism at a prestigious and respected company is truly intriguing.



PICTURED: Thames In Colour graphic. SUPPLIED BY: Online. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc.

Posted by Andrew Nairn

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