Into the new Millennium

BBC One's identity post-1997

In 1997, a new pan-BBC brand was introduced - the BBC blocks were straightened up and the various logos and brand styles used across the Corporation were replaced by a single brand based on the new logo and the Gills Sans typeface.

BBC1 was rebranded as BBC One, and a new set of idents were, quite literally, launched.

The Balloon takes flight

The BBC globe made its final appearance in a set of idents launched in 1997, bringing it into the real world by printing the globe onto a hot air balloon and filming it flying at locations all over the UK, from the London Docklands to Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland. The idents were shot in widescreen in readiness for the transition to 16:9 broadcasting which began in 1998.

The balloon idents were hugely popular with viewers. The initial batch of twelve idents were filmed on location in the summer of 1997, with later additions digitally inserting the balloon into pre-filmed location footage.

As a result, the balloon could be seen floating above locations where a balloon might not ordinarily be seen, such as from underwater to introduce Blue Planet (2001) and even in a prehistoric landscape to introduce Walking With Dinosaurs (1999).

The balloon era also saw the last set of BBC on-screen clocks - the "digital delay" caused by a variety of different digital receivers meant that the clock was no longer guaranteed to be accurate. 

The BBC One balloon floats over the Needles on the Isle of Wight. This was one of the launch idents for Martin Lambie-Nairn's new ident package for BBC One in 1997.

Rhythm and Movement

By 2002, a new channel controller, Lorraine Heggessey, was at the helm and it was all change; the balloons and the globes were out. In came a people-focussed theme known as Rhythm and Movement.

Designed to reflect life in contemporary Britain, the idents were short films featuring diverse groups of people dancing, often in unexpected locations; styles included capoeira, hip-hop and Bollywood. These were accompanied by variations on the same musical motif, arranged to fit the mood or style of the dance. The red channel branding was reflected by the dancers' costumes.

"Hip Hop", a BBC One 'Rhythm and Movement' Ident from 2002, featuring Paralympian Ade Adepitan. Filmed at Shepperton Studios, Middlesex.

The set produced some memorable films, perhaps exemplified by the unexpectedly poetic film of skateboarders at Belfast docks, directed by Andy Margetson which used a reflective piano theme and slowed the stunts down so they became almost balletic.

For the first time, care had to be made to choose idents to fit the mood of the programme the follow; the melancholy ballet ident was rarely seen, but used for broadcasts such as the funeral of HM Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

BBC One ballet ident, filmed at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. This was reserved for sombre occasions.

Going full circle

2005, another channel controller and a new schedule. Peter Fincham who had taken over from Heggessey in the top job had hinted at the Edinburgh International Television Festival that the time had come to change the image of BBC One.

By 2006 Lambie-Nairn were out as producers of the idents, and BBC spin-off Red Bee Media took on the job. The result was a completely new set of moving images with ambient sound and music. These had been designed with High Definition in mind, and from 2010, they were also the idents for the simulcast BBC One HD channel.

The ident package pays reference to the BBC globe, with a circular movement consistent across all the variations, but that's where the similarity ends. The circles are made up of hippos swimming around almost catching each other's tails, children playing ring a roses, stunt riders on motorbikes, and kites flying. 

People flying red kites on sand dunes form a spiral encircling the BBC One logo
'Kites' ident from the Circles ident set


January 2017 saw a new set of idents launched called Oneness made in-house by BBC Creative.

Developed with the street photographer Martin Parr, the idents feature groups of British people doing a range of hobbies and activities shot from a single handheld camera. There is no music, with the idents relying instead on diegetic sound from the location. Launched at New Year 2017, the series has expanded to include locations around the UK.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, these were replaced by a new set of 'socially distanced' Oneness idents.

BBC Oneness ident - Mountain Rescue

BBC idents

BBC Motion Graphic Archive