About BBC News 24

Contact BBC News 24:
Address: BBC News 24, BBC Television Centre, London, W12 7RJ.
Email: news24.comments@bbc.co.uk
Telephone: 020 8743 8000 / 0870 0100 222 (BBC Information Line)
Official Homepage: BBC News 24
BBC News 24 is available on:
  • Digital Satellite ch.507
  • Freeview ch.40
  • Digital Cable chs.610, 125 and 10
The channel is also broadcast throughout the night on BBC One.

In the Beginning...
Jenny Abramsky, who at the time, was controller of continuous news at the BBC, devised BBC News 24 after being approved by the Culture and Sport Secretary, Chris Smith MP, in mid-1997. At the time of the approval, it was thought that the first digital TV systems would commence their services in early 1998. The BBC commissioned Lambie-Nairn, the design consultants that had designed their 1991 logos and idents, to design its new logo for the digital age, along with new idents for BBC One, and the design of the on-screen look of BBC News 24. The channel was launched at 5:30pm on Sunday 9th November 1997. A half-hour preface was shown, which highlighted the best of the BBC's 75-year news coverage. This was followed by the first bulletin at 6:00pm, which was presented by Gavin Esler and Sarah Montague.

The first News 24 studio set used bright colours and motifs shown on the flags. At the beginning of each bulletin, the theme tune played, accompanied by flying flags. Critics and focus groups described the style of presentation as being less authoritative and not in keeping with that of other BBC News programmes.

A review of the channel's output was conducted after its launch on digital TV, resulting in the set being modified. The familiar brightly-coloured desk was replaced by one in a birch finish, and the sets were replaced with purple, frosted glass and silver-coloured elements. News 24 moved into a newly built studio, gallery and newsroom at this time and this is where the channel has remained to this day.  The look of the presenters also changed, with male newsreaders moving from shirtsleeves to wearing jackets.

BBC World moved from their previous home into News 24s recently vacated studio, newsroom and gallery and tweaked the set a bit. They have remained there.

'Phase 2 was about gaining respectability and authority - becoming part of the BBC News family and getting audience levels credible and competitive with Sky' - Roger MoseyIn autumn 1998, the BBC published the results of its consultation on its news output, in BBC News - The Future. As a result of this, Lambie-Nairn was again commissioned, this time to create a new identity all of the BBC's TV news output. This began with the relaunch of BBC News (on BBC One and Two) being overhauled, and then on 4th October 1999, Wales Today, Reporting Scotland, Newsline (Northern Ireland) and Newsroom Southeast were relaunched. The titles and theme music for the regional programmes was a variation on that of the titles of BBC News, composed by David Lowe, who had a chart hit under the name of 'Touch and Go' in 1998. The nations (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), all had their own variations of the theme and title music. The theme of Newsroom Southeast was different again, and was the model for all of the BBC's regional news programmes in England, with its elements of blue, china red, beech, yellow and cream providing a strong link with that of BBC News. News 24 didn't escape and a brand new look was brought in on 25th October 1999 with a beige and vintage red set and new titles.

The studio underwent a change on 29th April 2002 to freshen up the channel. Until the most recent relaunch, every element barring the title sequence was tinkered with including astons and the hourly countdown which kept its music but changed to live action shots, mainly of metropolitan London.

Responding to Criticism...

Earlier, in March 2002 it was announced that the former Financial Times editor, Richard Lambert, was to head a government review into whether BBC News 24 was fulfilling its remit. By August it was complete and while praising improvements made to News 24, it said the channel must become "distinct" from its rivals with a "clearer sense of direction". Mr. Lambert was deeply disapproving of the original News 24 style of presentation. He quoted one insider who said the original set "looked like a car crash in a shower room", and that the short sleeved presenters did not have a sense of authority. One argument seemed to be contradictory. "An absolute determination to be the first to break accurate news must be at the heart of everything the channel does', said the report. But in an era where Sky News were deemed to be the best for breaking news, how can the BBC aim to mimic the success whilst still being distinctive? One solution was brought in for the third rebrand.

In June 2003 Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, announced a new look for News 24 with better use of regional correspondents and international news to be at the forefront. They were publicly responding to the Lambert report.

Getting Creative Breakthrough...

In September 2003 Mark Popescu was handed the task of reinvigorating BBC News 24 with a fresh look and a sharper channel identity. It was an unenviable task; he needed to 'inject more energy' while retaining integrity and 'sex up' without 'dumbing down' the channel. We wouldn't 'wake up one morning and find the set has turned green', said Popescu but a dramatic change was on its way.

'Phase 3 is about a creative breakthrough, and getting News 24 recognised as the best quality news channel' - Roger MoseyThe logistics of revamping a 24-hour news channel were enormous. On 11th October 2003, BBC News 24 moved away from its usual studio into the BBC World studio (N9) and certain bulletins were simulcast with BBC World. For the rest of the time, world viewers got updates from the BBC One National news set (N6) with an adapted backdrop. World moved back to their usual home the following Monday but at 9am BBC News 24 were in a virtual world.

They moved to TC10, the former 1993-99 BBC News 'virtual' studio. The background was a CSO (colour separation overlay) projected background of the usual news studio. Apart from the rather dubious keying effects early on, viewers were hard pressed to notice a difference. BBC World tested the set the previous night. The change required equipment to be moved and graphics didn't appear early on. Completion of the new set was expected to take around six weeks and by the end of the November everything was set for a 1st December launch, even the press release was sent out trumpeting the relaunch. But disaster struck as it was postponed for a week due to a power failure at Television Centre on 28th November. No piloting could be undertaken over the weekend and so a new date was set for the following Monday. The final weekend saw BBC News 24 back in the World studio while all the equipment was being shipped to its usual home.

At 9am on Monday 8th December 2003 Anna Jones and Philip Hayton sat (and stood) on the new three-in-one set. It had bolder graphics, a full screen animation with music sting for breaking news, more analysis with Nick Higham, a less metropolitan countdown sequence and new dynamic ident. This relaunch was to dispel the myth that News 24 was slower than Sky News to react to breaking stories. 'The BBC's enhanced graphics will emphasise this area of its output', said Roger Mosey, head of BBC Television News. The set was designed by Simon Jago with the title sequence an in-house production. BBC World kept their set but changed presentation, introducing a new title sequence (a third version was created for overnights) and aston designed in the same style of News 24.




Abbreviations, Acronyms and Definitions

Tower The name for the combined clock / channel logo DOG (introduced 8th December 2003).
ENPS Electronic News Production System - the news computer system developed jointly by BBC and AP.
Columbus Columbus Automation system - used to maintain the News 24 running order schedule.
Big Ted Used as a backup to generate astons manually when the TOG is not working.


Did You Know?

6227 4 4 14
since the launch of BBC News 24

For the first three days of the 2003 relaunch, the world globe on the Tower was spinning the wrong way.

Overnight, if the News 24 tower hasn't animated onscreen in time, viewers will see the World tower appear. This is due to the World tower being inserted by the studio, rather than presentation.


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