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BBC 3 : 1969-1976
Graphics and text © Andy O'Brien
Once it started to become clear that plans for ITV2 were not really going anywhere, the BBC decided that any room on the TV spectrum should therefore belong to them. Plans were hastily put together for a third BBC television channel. One where experiments could be performed in comfortable obscurity. New ideas and personnel could be tried out and embarrassing mistakes could be made outside of the public glare that BBC 1 and even BBC 2 was subjected to. And as one final cost cutting measure, all that black and white equipment that was being phased out could find a home on BBC 3, Auntie's combined dumping ground and training ground.

BBC 3 1969

Mention was made of the new channel, but no real fanfare greeted the birth of BBC 3. Some suggested dryly that whole point was to make TV without the restrictions of having an audience. The brains behind the channel shrugged off such ideas, but in reality that was the idea. BBC 3 was to be the home of controversy, pilots and ideas that might not work. Reaction could be gauged from the small audience to work out whether similar ideas could be applied on the higher profile sister channels. At 6:55pm on November 26th 1969, this caption came up, with digits painted on a wheel that would turn once a minute.

BBC 3 1969

Once that faded from the screen, this (somewhat rushed) static ident was seen. BBC 3 idents never featured music, an announcer's voice was expected to keep the audience occupied.

BBC 3 1969

 

BBC 3 1969

A programme slide. In those days a documentary about Lotte Lenya would not have been an unusual sight on BBC 2, or even BBC 1 in a non-primetime slot. Its presence on BBC 3 indicated that it must be the work of a young, inexperienced programme maker.

BBC 3 1969

A night of typical BBC 3 programming. Of note was 'Tomorrow's News', which tried to predict the course certain news stories would take, and 'Freeform' a live show whose format was chosen on the day of broadcast depending who or what was available.

BBC 3 1969

The fault slide. An unfortunately common sight on the station.

BBC 3 1972

The ident was given a remake every few years. As the other two stations declared their colour status when necessary, BBC 3 owned up to being permanently monochrome.

BBC 3 1972

 

BBC 3 1973

One BBC 3 innovation that would catch on in later years was the idea of devoting a whole night to programmes on one theme.

BBC 3 1975

This ident saw BBC 3 through to its closure.

BBC 3 1975

 

BBC 1 / BBC 3 1976

The ethos of 'experiments in comfortable obscurity' had declined under a different management. And it was felt that the channel should push itself forward a bit more or go. In a last ditch attempt to drum up some interest, BBC 3 shows were given late-night repeats on BBC 1. The standard BBC 1 ident would fade to this still caption. The broadcasts weren't enough to save the station and in 1978, BBC 3 closed down for the last time. That is, until it's rebirth on digital television.

LAST UPDATE: 30th January 2004

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