Indepth on ATV Network
24 May 2004 0 comments. tbs.pm/1990
Russ J Graham looks in-depth at the ATV shadowed eye
According to Lew Grade, no less, the ATV Eye was invented as a fond parody of the then-more famous CBS America eye, ‘shadowed’ in the UK. When the company was originally being set up in 1954, Grade and his fellow executives had traveled to the United States to gain hints and tips from the only real source of experience in commercial television.
While the new Associated-Rediffusion talked with NBC but recruited enough staff from the BBC to be more like the home-grown company than the American one, the Associated Broadcasting Company (only later called ATV and unrelated to the midlands and north contractor ABC Weekend) was made up of people from the Grade brothers’ many showbusiness enterprises. Associated’s grasp of television as a technical medium needed to be strengthened and CBS, seeing a potential new English-language market abroad for its programmes was happy to help.
Grade always claimed to have sketched the logo out ‘on the back of an envelope’ whilst traveling back from one of these CBS meetings. Whether or not this is true is now lost to history, but the symbol itself begins turning up on official Associated publications from early 1955 at least.
Associated took to air on Saturday 24 September 1955 as “ABC” with the letters superimposed in their familiar places in amongst the ‘rings’ of the eyes. A lawsuit from Associated-British Picture Corporation, owners of the ABC cinema chain and, from 21 September 55, putative midlands and north weekend contractor, was eventually settled a few weeks into the life of young ‘Channel 9’.
Hastily, the newly renamed ATV had to redraw its on-screen graphics, replacing the existing letters with the new, potentially less-memorable mnemonic. The redrawn ident was mis-scaled by the draftsman, and ATV took to air with a symbol it would use at least once a day everyday for the next decade that looked nothing like the official ident of the station.
In 1964, with the renegotiation of their contract with the ITA, ATV took to appending ‘Midlands’ or ‘London’ to the base of the symbol on-screen, which stopped ‘dropping’ its shadow from behind the solid eye and instead zoomed forward from the centre of the screen. Internally, the new ident was called a “Zoom” – an name that would stick in company jargon for the rest of the company’s natural life.
The coming of colour brought two new versions of the ident, maintaining the same Zoom symbol. The famous 3-colour-into-symbol ident, with a new piece of music to replace the ‘chimes’ was drawn-up in-house. At the same time, a black-and-white version of the new “Zoom 2” was also drawn up for use on the front of the occasional monochrome programmes produced after colour was introduced to the big 3 regions.
What makes this symbol a classic?
Well, not only is this symbol – and more particularly its colour-era ident – firmly wedded in the popular imagination to popular television of the past, it is also so striking an idea that virtually everyone over the age of 25 can remember it in use.
The symbolic eye is perhaps the best way to represent all that television means to people. An eye on the world, or the cyclops in the corner, the all-seeing eye of television represents the power of the medium and its tendency to entrance the human race.