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CENTRAL TELEVISION : 1968-1993
Graphics and text © Andy O'Brien

Central Television 1968

ABC had been persuaded by the ITA not to submit a bid for the Midlands weekend, as it was known that the ITA had better things in mind for them. And so the Midlands took a hit of Central! Central were determined to be different from the 5 day showbiz onslaught of ATV, without resorting to the sobre balance of it's predecessor (being distinct from Anglia wasn't felt to be such a challenge). And so they went for an air of swinging 60s grooviness. At first, the ident didn't overstate it, just using an off-kilter typeface and a bluesy little piano lick for a jingle.

Central Television 1968

A menu from Central's early days.

Central Television 1968

This image had us all stumped for years. It looked like a very early ident, but it couldn't be that because Central's first day still exists as a telerecording, so we know the "odd typeface and piano lick" ident was used from day one. It might have been a rejected idea, but the photo is clearly taken offscreen, so it must have been broadcast. It's only recently that some bright spark has explained it. Central produced some Sunday morning services and the standard ident was felt to be just a little too laid-back to use as a frontcap on such a solemn presentation as morning worship. So that's where this came from. In the colour era, a still card of the standard colour ident was used.

Central Television 1969

When the Central art department saw the op-art psychedelics of the Wales weekend provider, it was decided that the low-key black and white ident approach would have to be jettisoned when colour came. Sudden seasickness and headaches hit the Midlands as they were exposed to swirling, op-art animation. Even more shocking than the graphics, the jingle featured vocals. Altogether now "Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, Centraaaaaaalllllll, woooooh".

Central Television 1969

It's a station clock, but where are the hands? The digital clock may have suited Central's modern agenda, but the 24-hour clock didn't suit the viewers and all times were displayed in the 12-hour format as of 1970.

Central Television 1969

The production slide with a variation on the logo and a slightly different swirl (referred to in-house as "the eye").

Central Television 1969

Central didn't seem to be too eager to share credit and so at the end of any film or programme from an outside company, you were left in no doubt as to who it was had presented this to you.

Central Television 1974

The ident dated very quickly, so it was inevitable that it would get replaced before the 70s were out. While keeping the same overall layout of the old one, the swirling spiral "eye" now became "the bullseye" and a new typeface was used. Also a squealing electric guitar provided the jingle, though a funked up choir still sang the company name. And still nobody questioned why a company called Central displayed it's name off-centre. The ident came into it's own in 1976 when the company introduced a new darts-based game show called "Bullseye" and the ident was incorporated into the opening and closing titles. The ident also went on to bizarre immortality in the mid-90s, when a company marketed the "kitsch nostalgic" ident on a T-shirt. And in 1998, the ident's jingle was sampled on a record by alternative group The Vesper Lynds.

Central Television 1974

A little confusion came with the new look though. For the first month, the endcap used was actually one from a rejected ident package.

Central Television 1974

But finally, a new endcap was made to match the rest of the idents.

Central Television 1974

And with the new look, a step backwards to an analogue clock.

Central Television 1974

Saturday night on Central in the mid-70s and the light and breezy atmosphere is amply demonstrated. Notable is 'Central Now', a pacy current-affairs magazine programme, with a regional awareness that ATV lacked and a stylishness that Anglia couldn't get the hang of. The show at 11:45 isn't a misprint, by the way. 'World Inaction' was a surreal comedy show. Central's answer to Monty Python. Though 'incoherent' might be a more accurate word than 'surreal'. Another Central show was 'Out and About', telling viewers in the region all the exciting events they could attend in the week (instead of watching boring old weekday TV presumably). Also of interest is 'Miss Lily and The Millionaire', Pennines' highly stylized crime drama. ATV had turned it down for reasons lost to the mists of time. But it was just the kind of young and exotic stuff that Central loved, so it got a weekend showing. Even though Anglia were also showing it on Thursday nights. In a different episode order too.

Central Television 1982

To keep the 1974 ident fresh, the jingle was rearranged every three years. But by 1982 a complete overhaul seemed like the right thing to do after franchise renewal. The new remained in use until 1989. Using the same trick to keep it from dating, the jingle was rerecorded in 1985 and 1988.

Central Television 1989

Central and LWT were the only weekend companies to adopt the abortive ITV generic look in 1989. Other weekend companies felt they had to work hard to maintain their own identity for their two days a week. As for the weekday companies, some had a name that that they felt was too historically and commercially important to downplay (such as ATV), at least one had an inferiority complex about their early lack of image (Pennines) and there were new boys from the 1982 franchise round (North-Eastern). The idea that they should sacrifice their identity, even a little bit, was onto a loser from the start. After the initial gripes, Capital and TWW, who had initially said yes, got cold feet and backed out. In the end only TVS, Central, Anglia, LWT, Granada, Grampian and Border took the idea onboard. By 1992, only 2 companies still used it.

Central Television 1992

Central thought highly enough of the 1989 ident to keep it for 3 years (Border was the only other company who held onto the generic as long), though the ITV music was replaced almost immediately. The franchise renewal of 1992 gave them the excuse to bring back the Bullseye to full prominence. This was, however, to be a short lived ident.

Central Television 1993

1993 saw two companies brought into the ABC fold. Changes in the law allowed the parent company to take over Pennines and Central. Pennines started to work closely with ABC Weekend, while Central now shared some prodction facilities with Capital. Many assumed that this would be the end of the Central brand. But all that happened was Central recieved a new ident package, featuring the ABC triple-triangle (dropped by ABC Weekend, but still used by Capital and later, ABC Screen Advertising).

LAST UPDATE: 1st April 2003

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