ⓘ Sign off routines in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, television closedowns originally took place frequently during the daytime, and sometimes only fo ..


ⓘ Sign off routines in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, television closedowns originally took place frequently during the daytime, and sometimes only for a few hours at a time. This was due initially to Government-imposed restrictions on daytime broadcasting hours, and later, budgetary constrictions. The eventual relaxation of these rules meant that afternoon closedowns ceased permanently on the ITV network in October 1972. The BBC took a long time to abandon the practice, and did not commence a full daytime service until the autumn of 1986.

A full night-time closedown sequence on British television might typically contain information about the following days schedule, perhaps a weather forecast and/or a news update, possibly a Public Information Film and finally, a look at the station clock and the national anthem.


1. BBC

  • On BBC Two, a look at tomorrow evenings schedule was followed by a closing announcement over the station clock and until the early 1980s a piece of music would often then be played. BBC2 never closed with the National Anthem and the clock just faded to black following the closing announcement, although picture montages accompanied by easy listening music were occasionally utilised. On nights in which Open University programmes were the last programmes on that night, the OU ident was played at closedown, followed by the usual fade to black. This procedure was discontinued when The Learning Zone started airing OU programmes during the night. From October 1995 until the completion of digital switchover, some parts of the overnight dead air time were filled by Ceefax, the BBCs Teletext service. Since October 2012, BBC Two is the last national British terrestrial channel to still close at night and all downtime is filled with either a live feed from the BBC News Channel or a loop showcasing brief snippets of current and forthcoming BBC Two programmes.
  • Prior to the shutdown of BBC Threes television channel in 2016, the CBBC Channel would go off air at 7 pm each night, as it shared its signal and bandwidth with BBC Three, which commenced programming each evening at the same time. During the closedown sequence, the host on air would say goodnight to the audience, then a brief piece of footage would play until exactly 7:00 pm, when the handover took place. The signal would be handed back to CBBC each morning at around 5 am when BBC Three had its own closedown; to fill the remaining two and a half hours until morning programming commenced, the channel would then air a compilation on repeat, This is CBBC. CBeebies, which shares its signal with BBC Four, carries out a similar process of signing off and handing over each evening at 7 pm.
  • In the UK, BBC Radio 4 does "close down" in a sense, at just before 1 am with a rendition of the National Anthem God Save the Queen. While they do not produce any original programming during their "off-air" hours, audio programming from the BBC World Service is provided. Apart from BBC Radio London, all of the BBCs local and national stations have an off-hours overnight simulcast and, apart from BBC Radio Wales, which carries the BBC World Service, all the locals stations broadcast BBC Radio 5 Live.
  • On BBC One, the sequence was as follows - tomorrow evenings schedule, the national weather forecast, a Public Information Film Monday to Thursday nights only and finally, the clock which led straight into a rendition of the National Anthem God Save the Queen, played out over the ident. For many years, BBC One Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also signed off with a late news bulletin & local weather forecast read off-screen by the evening continuity announcer. BBC Ones last closedown took place on the morning of Sunday 9 November 1997. The BBC News Channel has filled the early hours since.

2. ITV

  • Grampian, Ulster and Border also signed off with late regional news bulletins read by the duty announcer. For a time, a farming news bulletin, Farming Brief, ran as part of TVSs closing sequence. Most regions also signed off with a weather forecast whilst Westward and TSW also provided a Shipping Forecast. Westward & LWT also occasionally aired short bumpers of Loeki - a cartoon lion whose adventures had bookended the advert breaks on Dutch public television since the early 1970s - prior to switching off the main transmission stream. Some regions also included a short announcement advertising Independent Local Radio stations in their respective areas as part of their closing sequences.
  • Granada and Central played out with special arrangements of their station themes. TSW also used their station theme Thats Soul, Write as part of their closing sequence. Thames played either easy listening, popular or instrumental library music over a programme menu and the clock. Scottish also used various pieces of library music for playout during a rundown of programmes for the next day. Border and Yorkshire chose to simply fade out following the closedown announcement accompanied by the station clock.
  • Two popular scenes were inspired by the early years of television; firstly, the phrase "Dont forget to switch off your television set", a warning typically spoken by the station announcer which took place over a blank screen, often after several seconds of the dead air, prior to the transmitter being switched off; and secondly the "little white dot", a phosphor trace which lingered on the screen as the power faded, diminishing in size until it became invisible.
  • Grampian, Scottish, UTV, Tyne Tees, ATV, HTV, Anglia, LWT, Channel, Southern and its successor TVS and Westward and its successor TSW, closed transmission with God Save the Queen - mainly over scenes of the Royal Family. HTV Wales also played Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in addition to GSTQ. ATV chose to utilize a version of the national anthem, played on a church organ over the station clock whereas other stations chose to utilise regular band arrangements. Thames, Granada, Central, Border and Yorkshire never closed with the national anthem.
  • The ITV regions gradually switched to 24-hour television between 1986 and 1988, under a directive issued by the IBA. Yorkshire Television was first to go round the clock showing programmes from the satellite station Music Box. However, Music Box shut down at the start of 1987 and YTV went back to a nightly closedown although it did air a teletext information service called Jobfinder for an hour after sign-off. In August 1987, Thames/LWT and Anglia began through-the-night broadcasting Thames had already extended broadcast hours to around 4 am previously. The other major regions including Granada, Central, Yorkshire and TVS slowly followed suit during the first half of the 1988 although many had been broadcasting until around 3 am for some time, especially at the weekend. By the start of September 1988 the last regions - Tyne Tees, Border, TSW and Grampian went 24 hours although Ulster which didnt start round-the-clock broadcasting until 3 October 88. Some overnight programming slots, typically between around 4 am and 5 am, were filled with Jobfinder, which some regions adopted and others didnt, and, since 1998, ITV Nightscreen. The temporary suspension of ITVs overnight gaming shows in March 2007 forced ITV to return to scheduling Nightscreen in the early hours of the morning until 6 am.

3. Channel 4 & S4C

  • Channel 4 closed down with the clock and a play-out of the exploding station ident before fading to black and after a minute or so the Channel 4 testcard appeared. Channel 4 was the only TV station to show the testcard at closedown as the BBC just radiated tone for ten minutes after closedown before the transmitters were switched off for the night. Channel 4 began its 24-hour service on 6 January 1997, after a year of gradually expanding its overnight hours.
  • S4C, the Welsh-language channel, continues to sign off each night, although it does air English-language infomercials for 2 hours after closedown from Friday to Sunday nights or every night when the National Assembly of Wales is in recess. From Tuesday to Thursday nights, the channel airs delayed full broadcasts of the days plenary meetings and committee hearings from the National Assembly of Wales at the end of the days regular programming.
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