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BBC3 : 1969-1982
Graphics and text © Chris Oakley
And so it came to pass that on May 1st 1969, C.J. Curran, Director General of the BBC, saw the plans laid down by his predecessor Hugh Carleton Greene come to fruition. This was the first day in the life of BBC3, just five years after BBC2 came into the world before it.

The mission brief was a straight-forward one: to provide an engaging mix of the entertaining and intellectual as seen on the other two BBC channels. This wasn't just an excuse for showing repeats of shows recently broadcast on BBCs 1 and 2 though: the emphasis was put firmly on original programming wherever possible with only minimal need to borrow from BBC3's sister channels.

Leading the forefront in colour broadcasting (a novelty at the time), the 'third channel' burst onto our screens without the threat of technician's strikes which had blighted the opening night of many other channels of its day. Despite low audience figures initially, many people eventually made BBC3 their channel of preference because of its happy mixture of mainstream entertainment and high-brow culture. And it all began like this...

BBC3 1969

Another funky new logo much like the one that opened BBC2 - that was the image that greeted anyone watching the opening hours of BBC3. The red arc was drawn out on the screen before the white bar in the middle slid into place from the right to complete the '3.'

BBC3 1969

...and naturally there was an accompanying clock to go with the logo too, much in the style of those used on BBC1 and BBC2.

BBC3 1970

Part of BBC3's brief was to show a mixture of anything falling into the category of 'The Arts and Entertainment.' Here you can see a caption for 'The Sound of Music' - still a recently-made film back in 1970 and on one of its early showings at the time.

BBC3 1971

Here we finally get to see an example of a typical night's viewing on BBC3. 'Canvas,' a short-lived arts programme of the time, was followed by Andy Williams doing what he does best, with a 'World About Us' documentary and drama courtesy of 'The Canterbury Tales' bringing us up to 10 p.m. with the nightly news programme '24 Hours.'

BBC3 1972

'News on 3' quickly became established as the most watched current affairs bulletin on the new channel. This was the opening sequence to the news on June 18th 1972 - the day of Britain's worst air crash in which 118 people were killed after a British European Airways plane came down shortly after take-off in a field in Staines.

BBC3 1972

BBC3 continuity slides underwent a minor change in the Autumn of 1972. Out went the vertical dividing line and in came a red version of the BBC logo - a more modern look to celebrate the third birthday of BBC3. This was to be an interim measure, however, as a full overhaul of the logo was due to take place two years hence.

BBC3 1972

Something not often seen - a sudden change to the programmes listed in the Radio Times which called for this slide to be dusted off and given an airing.

BBC3 1972

The BBC regions weren't to be left out during this period: here's a Scottish variation on the theme complete with blue colouring instead of the usual red.

BBC3 1974

In 1974, BBC3 underwent its first main change of identity (at least as far as its logo was concerned). A new '3' was ushered in and out went any reference to it being a colour transmission as many people were beginning to switch over from black and white by that stage.

While BBC1 and 2 were still using a predominantly blue background to their logos, BBC3 stuck with red to make it stand out that bit more. In addition, BBC3 also followed the trend of its companion channels by using a mechanical device (in this case a rotating mobile) to make the pieces of the '3' slowly spin round. A neat effect and one that was help hammer home the new identity of BBC3 for the middle part of the 1970's.

BBC3 1975

In a variation from the standard clock face in use on BBC1 and BBC2 at the time, the BBC3 clock had squares and diamonds at the number points as a nod in the direction of the new, similarly-styled BBC3 logo.

BBC3 1976

A typical Saturday evening's viewing on BBC3 from 1976. Let's just say the more cultured types would've more likely been watching this than 'The Generation Game...'

BBC3 1977

In 1975, BBC3 began showing programmes for the Open University. Here, two years later, is the slide that preceded them.

BBC3 1978

A programme slide from 1978, the year when Shirley Bassey was given her first series on British television.

BBC3 1979

It was at 9 a.m. on Good Friday, 1979 that BBC3 changed it's livery again. Out went the red colour-scheme which had given it such a distinctive identity for the past ten years, and in came (what appeared at first by comparison) a rather less lively grey background with not one but three of the globes as seen on BBC1.

It was designed as a pastiche of the revolving globe so familiar to viewers of the BBC's main channel and the Corporation hoped it would attract some of its audience which was, at the time, starting to wane a little.

BBC3 1979

BBC3 reverted to the standard clock as used on BBC1 and 2 this time, but by way of a difference, they used two colours for the number points instead of one - the first time this had been done.

BBC3 1981

Michael Elphick's portrayal of 'Private Schulz' was the subject of this trailer from 1981.

BBC3 1982

And now, as they used to say, a look at things to come - in this case a Monday afternoon schedule from July 1982.

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LAST UPDATE: 2nd June 2003

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