On this page we look at presentation on the BBC's digital-only channels, BBC Choice/BBC3 and BBC Knowledge/BBC4. Click here for a look in greater detail at the story of BBC digital television. We also have pages looking at BBC1 idents and BBC2 idents, schools idents, and a page of ITV idents from the days of regional television.
BBC Choice was launched on 23rd September 1998 and was the UK's first digital-only channel - and indeed began a week before digital television was even available to the public! Click here for a look at the channel's programming over its lifetime.
The original idents took the theme of 'choice of three'. Shown here are 'Heart', 'Mouse' and 'Punch'. 'Heart' was the ident that launched the channel; ITV bosses were none too pleased when they saw this ident, as their own 'hearts' branding device was just weeks away from launching!
During 2000 BBC Choice moved away from its original 'best of the BBC' schedule, and towards a youth entertainment format. Most notably, 30th May saw the launch of Choice's most successful show, Liquid News. And to reflect the change in emphasis, 24th July saw the introduction of these rather lurid new idents - but they seemed suspiciously familiar...
Another year - and another new set of idents. By now, BBC Choice was heading well down the road to transforming into the youth channel BBC3. So on 6th July 2001, the hearts were dumped, and replaced by three idents all featuring three playful orange boxes. The idents originally had a green background - this was changed to blue on 11th January 2002. The soundtrack was changed every so often, usually using a current dance hit.
BBC Choice morphed into BBC3 on 9th February 2003. The idents featured a big blue 3D 'THREE', surrounded by a family of 'blobs', created by Aardman Animations. The audio for each ident came from the BBC's massive sound archive, taken out of context to provide the blobs' voices.
The blobs, probably BBC3's most popular feature, just made it to the channel's fifth birthday - but they met their demise only three days later. BBC3's revamp of 12th February 2008 was much more than a case of simply introducing a new set of graphics, however - this was an ambitious relaunch of the channel. The new idents features little people living in a bizarre 'media world', and each featured a redesigned logo which fills with pink liquid.
We said goodbye to the little people on 1st October 2013, as BBC3 unveiled a new set of idents. They used musical-driven animations which were projected onto a physical structure.
With the imminent closure of BBC3 as a traditional channel and its move online, new idents were introduced on 4th January 2016, which featured a new logo. Rather than use a numeral or spell the word out, the channel's name was now represented by three vertical bars.
These idents were used for the final few weeks of the channel's broadcasts until the early hours of 31st March 2016.
The BBC's interactive learning channel, BBC Knowledge, launched on 1st June 1999. The original format was aimed at both children and adults - with a bright and brash approach to education. This was reflected by these three cartoonish idents - 'Magnify', 'Propeller', 'Designer'.
The original BBC Knowledge format was dumped overnight on 3rd April 2000, and it began to transform instead into a serious documentary and arts channel. Each weekday now had a specific theme, and new 'themed' idents were introduced for history (Mondays), science (Tuesdays) and arts (Fridays) - but not for business (Wednesdays) or languages, film and culture (Thursdays), when the original 'Magnify' ident continued to be used. It was also used on Saturdays and Sundays, which had no specific theme. Themed idents for Wednesdays and Thursdays were introduced around July 2000, when the now incongruous 'Magnify' was dropped.
Then, just before Christmas 2000, a new ident was introduced. Initially it was used to precede the themed idents, but this format was dropped early in 2001. This single ident, which repeats ad infinitum, continued in use until the channel was replaced by BBC4 in 2002.
The BBC's new channel promising a 'feast of culture' launched on 2nd March 2002. BBC4 may well have been able to claim a world first with its idents - rather than existing as recorded sequences, the animations were created live on air by a specially designed computer system. These images reacted to a randomly chosen instrumental theme, and even to the announcer's voice - so you never saw the same sequence twice!
After three-and-a-half years of random shapes, the BBC4 bosses decided it was time for a change, and a new ident package launched on 10th September 2005. The idents are based around optical illusions, where what appears at first to be a single everyday image is in fact made up of four separate frames.
These idents would prove unexpectedly long-lasted, with two of the original six variants ('Lake' and 'Flowers') still on air well over a decade later. They were joined by some new additions in 2016.
If you want to explore the subject of television idents and continuity in greater depth, I recommend the following websites:
The Ident Gallery
The Ident Zone
The TV Room
625: Television Room
History of BBC Television Idents at Wikipedia
Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation