The ABC of ABC 

11 January 2001

The more dynamic and cosmopolitan ethos of ABC northern presentation had the effect of aiming the station at a younger audience than Granada seemed to care for. In the Midlands, however, virtually the opposite came to pass, with ABC portrayed as the family station, against ATV’s constant series of Knights at the theatre.

Continuity announcers were ABC’s secret weapon. Purposely repackaged as ‘station hosts’, even their expected future roster was explained each weekend. During summer months, blazers with the ABC crest on the breast pocket were much in evidence. This was essentially an afternoon feature, which merged into discreet symbols on the tie by teatime.

Listen to ABC North authority announcement by John Benson

Until 1964, an ABC triangle would be found discreetly on the wall behind the announcer’s left shoulder. A gentle pool of light would bathe the symbol, which, side-lit and 3D, would take on aspects of iconography. After 1964, with the demands of swinging England, the continuity background became a hip, bright pattern of light twisting the triangle motif to something more art deco than just a symbol.

Listen to David Hamilton introducing the news

The midland operation, with its desire for more formality, would seat the continuity announcers away from the camera. Desk visible, hands folded, demure for the ladies, urbane for the men, they were grateful to be in your living room. In the north, tight close-ups of the announcers were the order of the day, uncompromisingly challenging you to be grateful for them being in your living room.

Sheila Kennedy

A discreet nameplate on the desktop in the midlands, contrasted with electronic overlay of the name in the north. The midland hosts told you what you could watch tonight on ABC. The same line-up in the north was presented as what you should watch.

David Hamilton and John Duncanson

The two-day, five-day hurdle remained. How to imprint your company into the minds of the viewers in the face of the weekly onslaught by Granada and ATV. The answer, unsubtlely, was repetition. In different ways, at different times, no opportunity was missed to include the name of the channel you were watching. Few continuity announcements slipped by without the word ‘ABC’ in the script somewhere.

John Duncanson

Prior to 1964, even the break bumper (“optical” in those days) would occur between each advertisement. Beyond 1964, this frenzy of branding was cut back to the first advertisement only. From a modern vantage point, this may seem over repetitive. In fact, this was not so, and directly had the effect ABC wanted.

Listen to introduction to ITN News

The typical continuity announcement, at perhaps 45 seconds, would include not only timing information, but titbits of information about productions still planned, stars to be engaged and gossip from the sets. No announcement would be complete without the closing words “…can be seen later tonight/next weekend/later this season on the ITV region with this symbol”. An in-house ident would be followed by a clock and on to the next programme. A relentless torrent of branding that always paid off.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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You Say

1 response to this article

Nick Taylor 26 June 2014 at 1:25 pm

When ABC first went on air the symbol they used was similar to their cinema chain, ie triangle with the ABC letters and a bar accross with the word, television. ( great footage of the opening night of northern service on Pathe website) The original logo was animated during the start-up routine.
A searchlight appeared and the ABC letters jumped up in sequence, with the ‘ABC March’music. Between programmes the the logo would spin before the station clock. It would be great to see this recreated. The original symbols for all the other ITV company’s can be found on the web, but not the first animated ABC.

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