Central 

24 May 2004 tbs.pm/2030

ALBUM Central

Central Independent Television
Midlands: 1981-1999 (Name change)

Natural successor

Central – the IBA-constructed replacement for ATV – launched after an advertising campaign that placed stories in local papers about unidentified flying objects being seen over Broad Street in Birmingham.

The reason was their new ident. ATV had been a literal ident – the letters ATV superimposed over a shadowed eye (CBS shadowed in Britain, was the reasoning). Central went to the opposite direction, a UFO that split open as it came out of eclipse to reveal a world of Close Encounters-style industrial lights and magic.

Later, Central’s ident became a sun, with a spectrum of lights down one side. This flexible symbol was seen embedded in snow, computer generated, hand drawn, and in hundreds of other forms.

But Central hit the big time when this logo was converted to ‘the Cake’ – a flat, thick circle divided first into six ‘slices’, then cut again to present six coloured pieces. This ident had literally thousands of applications, and Central became synonymous with presentation innovation and excellence.

In it’s last years, Central was bought by London weekday non-entity Carlton, who destroyed it’s innovation quickly, and began erasing it’s name and history before the turn of the century, in the name of progress. Apparently, originality is just ‘confusing’ in modern Britain.

On Screen

Still from Central ident

Still from Central ident

Still from Central ident

Just as ATV’s colour ident couldn’t have been more different to what went before on ITV, so Central’s first ident was the same.

Throwing away the rulebook for these things, the ident starts in the dark, breaks open into a blaze of light, before finally settling into its finished form.

Each stage can easily feature the question ‘what is it?’, with the final ident revealing nothing – it is whatever you chose to see it as. I always saw an egg, personally, although it was based on the idea of a UFO, hovering over the midlands.

Central authority announcement by Mike Prince

The change from ATV to Central was huge in terms of shareholdings, IBA contracts and composition of the board or directors.

But in terms of presentation it was less so. Whilst the name changed and with it the ident, the main practices of ATV in its latter years continued.

Where the ATV symbol would once have appeared, the Central symbol now did – at the same point for the same amount of time. Where an announcement was made for ATV in a promo, the same announcement at the same time would be made for Central.

And the authority announcement here is the late ATV announcement with ‘Central’ instead of ATV. Whatever else was different between the two companies, there was little or no ‘Year Zero’, ‘let’s reinvent the wheel’-type of change for changes sake.

Central/IBA caption

'Good Morning' caption

The structure of the daily start-up sequence evolved over the years but most of the elements of the ‘ritual’ would have been as familiar to an observer from 1956 as they were to contemporary viewers.

The period of black (until TV-am showed up later in 1983) was always a feature. The ident at the beginning was new – ATV had used one, but in sound only generally. The fade to a card with both company symbol and IBA logo was normal from the late 1970s, although Central keeps up ATV’s habit of having it on screen for the minimum time it can get away with.

The ‘Good Morning’ caption is unusual in the network – most simply held the IBA-branded card for the majority of the music – but again is ATV standard practice carried over.

Because the ident is at the beginning, there’s no need for the cut to form-up or fully formed ident that most other companies did towards the end of the music, although for openings on weekends and holidays – with no schools programmes to play out – Central would generally cut to an animated ident and from there into a menu.

A Central Production caption

For captions, this oddly two dimensional version of the symbol was used.

Central 'Saturday' caption

Central 'Saturday' caption

'Good Night' caption

The first version wasn’t very flexible, so Central began to use the colours picked out of the symbol.

Still from Central ident

Still from Central ident

Still from Central ident

Still from Central ident

The new version of the ident moved away from the idea of a UFO into something more like a planet. The colours running down the side of the symbol matched those already being used by Central where the symbol itself couldn’t easily go.

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Central says Good Morning

Another change, as the globe becomes a more a stylised version of what went before.

Central

Central presentation slide

Central late night menu

As 24-hour television began to slowly appear, so Central pushed on into the night, using the slogans “more” and “even more” (yes, seriously).

The extra time was not so well filled with adverts, leaving more continuity time (though at first the continuity announcer knocked off at 2am).

Central developed end caps that changed fluidly into menus and menus that changed into promos for the station in order to fill the space.

The instrumental music used was also superb.

Watch Central junction into ITN midnight news headlines

As broadcasting hours extended, the companies were always desperate to show that the material they put into these extra hours was worthy.

Thus ITN began offering news bulletins through the night. Here we join Central at the end of an ad break, and have the standard ‘later, name check, time check, now’ pattern of live announcement that has been in use almost since the start of ITV.

The difference here is that the ident underneath keeps moving, forming and reforming into different displays, whilst the incidental music keeps playing in the background.

This should be an assault on the senses, but in fact it’s actually quite soothing and informational. Why this should be different to the modern habit of running a promo, having text on the screen, incidental music and a recorded announcement all at once – a recipe for brain ache – isn’t clear.

Perhaps, for all that the announcer had a limited amount of time to pack a lot of information in, this late 1980s structure is actually slower and calmer than now. Missing from the whole junction is the rising tide of alarm – almost tangible these days – that someone, somewhere, for some reason may be about to change channel.

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Watch some more junctions following ITV corporate branding

An early stab at joint branding – both Central and ITV get a name check in 1988…

The problem of how to be two things at once – both a national network and a federal structure of regional companies – has bedevilled ITV since the late 1980s when someone suggested that the 15 separate brands were in some way confusing.

Given that the vast majority of people only saw one brand – their local one – and no one has ever produced proof that reference to ‘ITV’ in print ever caused anyone to scratch their head and say “duh, we don’t have that, we’ve only got Central here” or the like, it’s amazing how vexed ITV became over this issue.

Indeed, the ultimate result has now come to pass – there is only one brand in much of the country, ITV1, and the fact that it isn’t very good means little or nothing. At least no-one’s confused.

Back in 1988, Central make their stab at dual branding – going from a full-screen ITV symbol into their own in one movement. The ident itself is very boring compared to the rest of Central’s innovative output of the time, but the result is clearer than anything else ITV collectively managed to come up with in the following few years.

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

Central/ITV ident

…and a similar (though less successful) attempt to do the same thing post-1989.

From Central

From Central

When ITV collectively decided to ‘declutter’ its presentation by removing frontcaps, Central took the opportunity of moving its animation to the endcap.

Central 'One to Watch' caption

Let's get together, with Central

If there was one thing the heads of presentation at Central liked, it was slogans. The company used several during the 1980s, including “The One to Watch” and “Let’s Get Together” (what did that mean?).

More More More

Even More

Through the night with Central

Speaking of which, here’s an appearance by one of the through-the-night slogans, “More”, in 1989. Others were “More more more” and “Even More” (yes, really).

A night-time junction and promotion spot

A lovely example of an ‘interactive’ announcement and on-screen identity campaign.

At the end of the film “Gremlins”, the announcer makes reference to the last frame of the movie (the little critters tearing the film from the reel) as if he had actually been watching it – something you don’t get the impression of now.

The announcement itself is clever, linking the previous item to the next and the one after – powerful yet subtle marketing that says “if you enjoyed that, you’ll also enjoy…” – and introducing the pre-recorded promo for a similar style of film to be seen later in the week.

In the background, the three rectangles all have previous through-the-night idents running in them, keeping a connection going between the late night service and its small band of viewers – other stations did this with informal in-vision continuity, but few managed to do it successfully out of vision.

Central

Another, slanted Central ident.

You Say

1 response to this article

N HEWIT 26 March 2016 at 1:32 pm

I remember most,(if not all), of the Central Start Ups and Close downs, including the first one on Friday January 1 1982, also a programme at Start up entitled, ‘Five Counties High’, which referred to the East Midlands part of the dual transmission area, i,e, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire and was in fact that programme preview featured on the clip. I also remember looking forward to viewing the Central News West from Birmingham, only to discover that because of a technicians dispute the temporary studio at Giltbrook was not operational and the news continued to serve the combined region, a la ATV Today, Plus Ce Change! By the time Lenton Lane opened and Central had started urging viewers in the East Midlands to ensure their aerial was receiving the signal from Waltham or one of its relays, I was no longer receiving the signal in North Cheshire from the Wrekin transmitter, but viewing the channel via the Ridge Hill transmitter at the University of Wales Gwent campus on high land above the Usk Valley on the TV in the Common Room.
It became the hip thing to do ,to all troop up to the Common Room to view Prisoner Cell Block H on Central in the early hours of the morning, which we rated as ‘Cool’ like a number of other Central programmes; Block Busters, (Mandatory post tutorial viewing), Cross Roads and TISWAS. I also enjoyed Friday nights late Central Weekend which really broke the mould in terms of regional programming, combining serious news, politics and lighter hearted items which lasted some 90 minutes and was a much better option than repeats of films after a 30 minute regional programme which seemed to be the norm in most ITV Regions. Most of the pair politicians who appeared, invariably reflecting the balance of political representation in the Central Region and also, (inevitably) the West and East Midlands part of the Region. I particularly liked the one on which Edwina Currie appeared with a Labour MP, who I think was Peter Snape, (Mansfield), it was quite good humoured and much of it tongue in cheek, unfortunately it became a little too Zany and the end was more like what would be expected on TISWAS later that morning!

Your comment

Enter it below