Gallery: BBC World Service Television 

14 June 2001 tbs.pm/2216

BBC World Service Television logo

Now known as BBC World, then BBC World News, BBC World Service Television was the BBC’s first foray into satellite television.

The service was unable to get funding from the government, who fund the radio version with grant-in-aid, so the BBC chose to make the service cable advertising-based.

The transmitted service had breakbumbers and gaps for adverts, but didn’t actually carry the adverts themselves. These were inserted locally by the cable operators, leaving satellite viewers to watch a ‘Programmes resume shortly’ screen. In later years, the BBC would learn the folly of this and insert text giving news headlines and other updates to fill the gaps.

Clearly based on the BBC-1’s then-recently dropped Computer Originated World (COW), the BBC World Service Television (WSTV) ident was slightly more dramatic than the domestic version. Three interlinking globes, plus random horizontal and vertical dividing lines give the ident a lot more depth than the original COW.

Time for a promo. This promo bumper features a spinning COW, plus cut outs of both the globe and generic stills to suggest BBC programming. The programming itself (half hour blocks on the half hour, the rest being news) was the non-entertainment output of the BBC domestic services, as now turns up on UKTV Style and UKTV History. The BBC reserved the entertainment and soaps for sale to European stations to be shown subtitled or dubbed, before launching an encrypted service called BBC Prime which carries the programmes in English for UK ex-pats.

An odd mixture of styles for the BBC World Service News, featuring title music based around the radio service’s famous Lillibullero ident.

Compared with today’s highly-unified look for BBC domestic news, News24 and BBC World, the differing styles for each programme and each service now look strange. The specially built news studio manages to look like BBC local news, though the world-class graphics and ‘BBC Asia’ on-screen logo certainly help break the illusion.

An advert break between programmes. The interlocked globes in the background turn slowly in silence or with latter-day testcard-style background music. Time to make a cup of tea.

A breakbumper. Nothing special, very little movement in the 3 seconds it lasts, but a rare sighting of the BBC’s cue-dot. Although the BBC have used this system since it was first developed in order to help the regions keep time and to co-ordinate input between different departments, the use has been a lot less than ITV necessarily had to make of it for coordinating a large and independent federal structure.

BBC World Television Service Weather shows a couple of the BBC’s problems at the time. Firstly, the name of the station is simply too long and unwieldy. Secondly, the italic typeface doesn’t work neatly.

A promo, telling you what’s up later. Times here are in GMT and in Hong Kong time, as this is the very BBC Asia that Star-TV dropped at the behest of the Chinese government, causing a row between the BBC and News International.

The above pictures are © 1991 BBC Worldwide Limited

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