The Newsroom

BBC News 24 and World - 90s flags presentation

(June 2012)

This site closed in March 2021 and is now a read-only archive

And almost 20 years on, Peter Dobbie is still top of the pops! I wonder how old (young) he was there in that clip?
Inspector Sands
This is rather nice:
Not too keen on the break filler though - sounds a bit like Zelda or something.

I like that break filler, and it's a lot nicer than some of those that came after. the one in that video is a back up one with burned in graphics used if the main break filler couldn't be.

Flags are such a good and simple idea for an international news channel.
Mike W
This is leading me to a recreation/mock I fear, having just made some realistic looking flags in AfterEffects, Let me see what I come up with!
Dan S
This one interests me... at the very end of this clip, after the old Millbank studio with Dateline London, we hear Darren Jordan with a David Lowe Headline bed.

I was unaware that BBC World simulcast domestic bulletins, or would this have been an overnight?

Ah, I see as well as World Business Report, Dateline London is another BBC World programme that has managed to keep the same theme for the last 13+ years!
Dan S

And almost 20 years on, Peter Dobbie is still top of the pops! I wonder how old (young) he was there in that clip?

I hazard a guess at about 23/24.
itsrobert Founding member
I love the flags myself, it was a different era!

I loved the transmission pulses and pips that followed, but the flags were fantastic, relaxed but professional at the same time! Dave Hewson of ITV fame wrote the music!

I thought it was Alan Coates and Kim Goody?
Wow, that youtube clip is is essentially the contents of the Laserdisc in presentation (without the VT clocks). The first one is obviously the main Ident with the 1'00 music hold. There was also a short version of that and a slow version too (I think there were versions without music holds too). The plain flags that followed were very rarely used on air. They could be used as backgrounds for graphics, often line-up menus, made in the presentation suite, though most network directors didn't bother and just used a static background. The blue flag background was the one for obit/very serious news days!

The breakfiller was a brilliant but slightly tempramental bit of kit, hence the inclusion on the disc of a generic one. The ABF (Automated Breakfiller) was a Mac, connected to a laserdisc player. When the director 'stood up' a break (Cue dots on, open talkback to regions) the Mac would cue the laserdisc to a background of suitable duration and acquire text from Ceefax for News, Sport, Business, Channel Schedule and the seldom-seen Weather segments. When it had done that it would display a white bar at the top of the preview screen in the pres suite so the director knew it was ready. If it didn't do that, you had to instead get a Menu to air. The whole thing, if it was in a good mood, could be ready to go within 20seconds, though we used to tell news to always give us a minute's warning Smile . On transmission the Mac would run the laserdisc and key the text live to air in synch with the backgrounds. The segments are 30" in duration so that if a break was partially sold in a region, they would cut back to a beat-pause in the filler (assuming the ads sold were 30" long of course!)

There were breaks of various durations from 1'00 to 3'00 (4'00?), and there were also different combinations of News, Weather, Business etc some with/without certain segments so that if some of the data was out of date you could usually avoid a segment until someone at Ceefax could correct it. The Weather segment was often substituted for the News segment ISTR but wasn't in the main combinations of segments used by default, hence it's rather rare appearances on air.

If all else failed, you could choose to mask the incorrect bit of the break with a menu or if you were feeling very clever one of those moving flag segments from the other laserdisc.

Staggering the trouble we used to go to, to fill an unsold commercial break.

The ABF survived the 1999 rebrand in that Mac/Laserdisc form and provided break cover with the now infamous bit of David Lowe music that was released on CD. I was told that the 'Festival' BBC Prime rebrand and the 1999 BBC World rebrand used some of the very last blank laserdisc stock in the world (that could have been BBC Urban myth though). Eventually, something major broke in the ABF system (can't remember what but it may well have been the fact that Ceefax stopped providing Business, Weather & Sport content to BBC World teletext...) and we had to use a generic breakfiller for a while until the Dynamic Junction system was ready to air.

And if we thought the ABF could be prone to the odd wobbly, the DJ was a whole new story... Smile
itsrobert Founding member
That was a really interesting post, deejay. Having watched World during those days it now all makes sense. I do recall that period around 2002 when the ABF was generic - I always wondered why it was decided to drop the news/business/sport headlines etc. As I recall, the generic one was purely coming up information. Now I know the answer!

Also, that weather segment was indeed really really rare. I can still remember getting up early one Saturday morning (probably around 2001) and was delighted to catch it live! It had a wonderful music score too, which was seldom heard. I don't think I ever saw it again, hence why it stuck in my mind.

I was never really a fan of the Dynamic Junction. I think that's where it started going downhill for BBC World breakfillers. The music was rather irritating and there was too much information onscreen. I much preferred the 2000-2002 one. And the less said about recent BBC World breakfillers, the better!
No problem - I worked in BBC World Pres during that era so spent many a shift listening to that breakfiller!!

Here's the classic David Lowe ABF Mac/Laserdisc in action:

Compare it to the one used in the flags era and I think you can tell it's the same bit of equipment, the text is in the same place on the screen, similarly formatted just in black instead of white on the later one:
Paul Clark
The 1995 flags on BBC World look like they are computer generated, but the 1997 flags frem World and News 24 look like they were probably an actual flag, filmed underwater.

Ah, underwater? I never considered they might have been filmed that way - I'd just assumed they positioned the flags accordingly in front of a wind machine. But now I'm starting to doubt that...

Deejay, cheers for that post from earlier this morning, interesting stuff there!
Ditto, Paul. I had no inkling, however slight, that those flags were even real, whether underwater or elsewhere! I just assumed they were entirely computer generated.

Are you guys winding me up???? I know I am thick, but, come on! Really?
Does anybody know who composed the 1997-99 world package and if they are on the net anywhere? Would love to hear good quality versions as I think its one of the best news packages bar 1993-99 BBC News which was epic.
Cheers Guys.

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