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October 1997 - March 2002

Idents [1] - General

At 2.57am on Saturday morning, October 04 1997, the familiar rotating globe - an image that had represented BBC One for 34 years - was faded off air for the final time, consigned to broadcasting history. Hours later, at 7.03am, BBC One went on air with a new look. The BBC One globe lived on, however, but in the guise of a design on a red hot air balloon, filmed drifting majestically above various locations across the UK.

In another break from tradition, there were now nearly fifty separate symbols for BBC One, rather than just one. Each ident also had its own sound track - another new feature.

The new package was conceived and produced by design agency Lambie-Nairn. So what was the thinking behind the new idents? Lambie-Nairn explains:

"To date all expressions of the globe had been confined, restricted, or abstracted 'indoors'. The globe was used as a visual metaphor underpinning the core thought: BBC One - bringing the whole world to every corner of the Nation.

"The creative response to the brief was to release the globe into the great outdoors and to visually represent BBC One reaching out to every corner of the land. The BBC One globe balloon was flown across the UK and filmed in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the North, South, East and West of England. Urban, country, historical and modern, natural and manmade landscapes were all captured. Although BBC One had always previously had a mute presentation, this time a musical sound track was commissioned to support the scale and scope of the visuals."

The idents were split into four groups, indicating the nation in which the balloon was filmed in action: England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. We have arranged the idents in accordance with this structure, each nation having its own dedicated page. Later idents and special idents deviated from this format; details of those idents are carried further down this page.

The introduction of the balloon also heralded uniformity in channel branding across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - they now referred to themselves as 'BBC One Scotland', BBC One Wales' and 'BBC One Northern Ireland' respectively - both verbally and visually. Northern Ireland always had done so anyway - bar a short period in the late-1980s - but Scotland and Wales regularly referred to 'BBC Scotland on 1'/'BBC Scotland on 2' and 'BBC Wales on 1'/'BBC Wales on 2'.

The practice of highlighting programmes with teletext subtitles with an '888' indicator in the top right corner of the symbol remained. However, with digital services becoming more widely available during this period, the subtitle caption was changed to 'Subtitles' in mid-1999. Digital services had a subtitles option rather than a dedicated teletext page. Conventional 'teletext' services were also dropped from the BBC's digital television services in the early-2000s, in favour of more up-to-date services, which provided higher resolution graphics and video.

In autumn 1998, five new idents were added: 'English 16 - Needles', Isle Of Wight; 'English 17 - Norfolk'; 'English 18 - St Michael's Mount'; 'English 19 - Blackpool Tower'; 'Irish 9 - Dunluce Castle'.

Five more idents followed in 1999 - two of them 'specials': 'English 20 - Angel Of The North'; 'Scottish 12 - Armadillo Buildings'; 'Welsh 14 - Severn Bridge'; 'Eclipse' - used in the run up to BBC One's coverage of the total eclipse of the sun; 'Walking With Dinosaurs' - brought in to promote a series that used the latest computer techology to portray the existence of dinosaurs.

From December 1999 any new ident that was introduced had the BBC Online URL added. The Christmas symbol that year was the first to feature the website URL. In mid-June 2000, the URL was added to all BBC One idents.

The new millennium brought with it a new addition to BBC One's main ident set - 'Millennium Dome'.

Above: BBC One ident - Millennium Dome. Used quite a bit in the first few days of 2000. It appeared now and again throughout the year. Rarely used beyond that.

In March 2000, a new approach was taken with the balloon idents. The sequences were much more uptempo than what we had been used to until now. The more notable change was the introduction of people. The new idents were: 'Bungee'; 'Carnival'; 'Market'; 'Skateboarders'. These were the final sequences to be added to the main set of idents.

Above: BBC One ident - Bungee.

Above: BBC One ident - Carnival.

Above: BBC One ident - Market.

Above: BBC One ident - Skateboarders.

In May 2000, a number of the scenic idents introduced in October 1997 were withdrawn. In the main, these were the idents classified as 'fast', which featured more dramatic audio and rapid picture cuts in their initial stages.

However, the balloon had some life left in it yet. Prior to its demise in March 2002, there were more 'specials': Euro 2000; Olympics 2000; Blue Planet; Walking With Beasts.

Above: BBC One clock [1].

Above: BBC One clock [2].

As of 2.56am on Friday March 29 2002, the BBC One balloon was no more. By this time, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland and Network had completed their respective handovers to BBC News 24.

BBC One Scotland's last balloon went out around 1.10am; nothing special to record there - just a standard crossover to BBC News 24. The same can be said of Network's effort at 2.15am - a typical 'through the night with BBC News 24'.

Above: the last sighting of the balloon on Network BBC One - English 12. "Through the night now on BBC One with BBC News 24." The announcer was Peter Offer. Video clips two and three below show the last appearance of a Network BBC One programme menu and the final BBC One South East clock respectively.

BBC Wales didn't shame themselves. The BBC One Wales clock appeared for the final time at a little after 2.55am. "Now we wouldn't normally do this but this is the last time you will see the BBC One Wales clock. We get a wee bit of a makeover as from tomorrow morning and you can see the change from 9." [Cuts to Wales 7 ident - 27 seconds worth].

"It also means that this is the last time you'll see the balloon; so, enjoy its last moments. News 24 will take us through the night until 6. So, from me David Canham sleep well, enjoy the balloon, and goodnight."

However, our 'douze points' go to BBC Northern Ireland's resident anorak, Michael Selby. It's just after 2.52am in the early hours of Friday morning, March 29 2002:

"Well now, you might want to take a good look at this particular red clock because it's the last time you're going to see it. As you may have heard, our trusty balloon has finally run out of hot air and later today BBC One gets a whole bright new look.

"So, if you want to impress your friends and be one of the first people to see it - if your friends are impressed by that kind of thing of course - then make sure you're here at 9am.

"And if you're looking for something to keep yourself occupied for the next six-and-a-bit hours, then may I suggest BBC News 24 which is coming up in just a moment and then join us for 'Breakfast' at 6 o'clock.

"So, from this clock and the BBC One balloon, it's goodbye. And from me, Michael Selby, on behalf of everyone at BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast, it's goodnight."

But then, Michael really excelled himself, with a 35 second tribute to the balloon. The Carnival soundtrack accompanied a montage of various standard and special balloon idents.

For the record, in order of appearance: Carnival; English 8/9; English 18; Scottish 2; Welsh 14; Scottish 6; Bungee; Blue Planet; English 19; Walking With Beasts; Irish 6; English 6.

Above: the final appearance of the BBC One NI clock.

Away from television, the BBC One balloon took to the air for the last time on Friday August 09 2002, at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. After over 100 hours of flight and many more of airtime, the BBC One balloon was wrapped up and stored away by the UK Preservation Society. A report on the last flight of the balloon was shown on that day's 'BBC News At Six'.