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Station Ident
aka: Station Identification
Channel 4: Home of the depth illusion logo.

"No sports, no rock, no information
KBBL talk radio."

You're reading TV Tropes at tvtropes.org, 66.135.32.134 port 80. Coming up next, an entry on stations announcing themselves.

In broadcasting, it is common for stations or networks to give some kind of announcement as to what station or network you are watching/listening on. This typically happens just before a feature begins. Many network mascots and logos are born in idents. They also may contain a theme tune, carry a common motif, or carry no common element at all. Early idents, which were basic and fairly static, can accidentally be Nightmare Fuel to younger viewers.

American broadcast stations are required, under federal law, to declare their call sign and city of license at least once an hour, as close to the top of the hour as is reasonably possible. Obviously radio stations have to announce; a TV station may give it in audio, visual or both. Note this only applies to broadcast stations; a station that is on the Internet or is a cable-only or satellite-based station (Music Choice, Sirius/XM, CNN, USA, HBO, MTV, etc,) do not have call signs and are not required to identify themselves. That said, many do so anyways, in part to mimic the older broadcast format, in part because, well,it's not exactly a bad thing to remind people of what, exactly, they're listening to or watching.

In recent years these have waned in the United States, though a few notable channels like HBO soldiered on. The major TV networks have less need for this practice over the years, thanks to persistent onscreen logos, announcing their brand at the end of every promo, and the fact that idents eat up commercial time. Typically, Top of the Hour announcements come in the form of a blurb for the Late Night Talk Show guest list or a new episode of a primetime drama. Local stations' afternoon and late news slots are a different matter, as individual station screen bugs aren't widespread in syndicated shows (big three affiliates usually stray from them, but Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV stations don't).

Idents are still quite popular in British television. The BBC has a fairly consistent design of idents across its TV channels, as does ITV and Channel 4. British idents often have a continuity announcer, a disembodied voice note  that informs you of the next program or two and whether you might want to put the kids to bed for this one. British idents aim to entertain or mystify rather than simply inform, and sometimes their onscreen display may be relevant to the content of the show to follow.

Shorter versions, which tend to appear in the space between programmes and adverts, are known as Stings, or Break Bumpers.

Some stations come up with variants for holidays and special events.

Compare with a Vanity Plate, which shows up at the tail end of a show and usually identifies the production company instead of the broadcaster. Another form of broadcaster identification would be the Radio Jingle.
Many examples can be found at the idents.tv blog, which covers this kind of stuff with a vengeance. Audio clips of U.S. and Canadian radio station identifications can be heard at Top of the Hour. The Ident Gallery has videos of some of the British ones mentioned here.

American Examples:

  • NBC had the iconic "snake" animation for its previous logo, followed by the introduction of a special ident with a multi-colored peacock to denote programs that were "brought to you in living color on NBC." It began as a static slide in 1956, was replaced by an animated version the following year, and replaced by a new version in 1962; once NBC's lineup was entirely in color, it was used to denote original productions.
    • In 1975, NBC introduced the first computer-animated ident in U.S. television with a new logo consisting of red and blue trapezoids forming an "N". Said logo was the subject of a lawsuit from Nebraska Educational Television, who spent only $150 to have a very similar logo designed for them (NBC's version reportedly cost $1 million!). In 1979, after research found that many people had associated NBC with the peacock (despite not technically being its main logo), a variation of the trapezoid N with a version of the peacock became their primary logo. A six-feathered version (by Chermayeff and Geismar) debuted in 1986.
    • Before The Tonight Show during Jay's first tenure, "NBC, America's late night leader!"
  • CBS has a stylized eye as its station identification logo. It is the longest tenured network TV logo in the United States, debuting in 1951. It was designed by William Golden.
  • 97.1FM WDRV The Drive in Chicago doesn't have a particularly-unusual ident...except that it's read by their morning DJ Steve Downes, known to everybody outside Chicago as the Master Chief.
  • ABC's current slogan, "Start Here", has been used since the 2007-08 season. Both of the campaigns using it were done by Troika Design Group, who has done work for them in the past. The current logo was designed by legendary designer Paul Rand and debuted in 1962.
  • HBO's 1980s "Feature Presentation" is almost certainly the most recognized American ident of the cable/satellite age, which is a bit odd when you consider it's a pay channel to which a lot of people don't subscribe. A 21st century refresh, by Pittard Sullivan, made an even more complex city in CGI that is zoomed through before the message appears and a quickened version of the theme plays.
  • This is CNN.
    • Revived in 2013 after a hiatus, also accompanied by versions featuring its personalities.
  • Nickelodeon, in the 1980s and well into the 1990s, created dozens of animated and live-action station IDs with its amorphous orange logo in various shapes. The most famous set of such idents featured the vocal contributions of Eugene Pitt and his doo-wop group The Jive Five, who originated the classic "Nick Nick Nick" jingle still in use today. The logo of a quarter-century was dispensed of in 2009, however.
    • There was the pinball that bounced around the world, before they dropped the blob on us in 1984.
  • Cartoon Network has had a number of afternoon blocks over the years which typically feature CGI hosts as continuity announcers. On the other hand, continuity in [adult swim] has no voices at all.
    • Episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network featured characters from the series in front of the regular logo. One starred R2-D2 "accidentally" knocking over a couple of letters to leave "Artoo Network".
    • [adult swim] uses text to direct talk to its audience in the "bumps". The formal sign on of the sub-channel is the parental discretion notice.
    • [adult swim] also had quite a few other ones, usually strange Japanese images and text for the Saturday night Anime block, but now they've outdone themselves with some truly surreal tags of hands coming out of computers, poor quality 3D and digital voices, and a fetus opening its eyes and shining laser beams. It's always accompanied by a "You are now watching [adult swim]" or other logo like any... more ordinary station ident.
  • Syfy: Before the name change, they had an ident campaign where the letters "iF" sat in the air. Something ordinary came up and upon making contact with the letters transformed into something amazing via Conspicuous CG, and the iF would expand to SciFi. Many different firms were responsible for these IDs. The current IDs were done by Proud Creative and feature various objects forming the Syfy logo.
  • The CW has used the since its debut, which was designed by the aforementioned Troika Design Group.
  • PBS has changed its network logo many times over the years. The first "real" logo for the network, used from 1971 to 1984, had a stylized "PBS", with the "P" resembling a human head. This logo was designed by Herb Lubalin, whose best known work is probably the ITC Avant Garde Gothic typeface. The current logo first came about in 1984, depicting the "P" from the previous logo flipped to the right and with two other profiles (one is formed through negative space); this rendition was designed by Chermayeff & Geismar, also known for the Chase logo and the aforementioned 1986 NBC peacock. This logo was placed into a circle in 1998, and has stayed there since.
    • PBS Kids had "The P-Pals" from 1993-1998, which were more cartoon versions of the "P" logo. Their slogan was the same as the regular station, but sung as, "This is, PBS!". The loud voices were considered Nightmare Fuel when they were still on air, but now a classic for any `90s kid. (And for the record, Gene Mackles, who created the P-Pals (so to speak) other work for PBS.) In 1999, The P-Pals were replaced by two green kids (their names escape me), who only said, "doink!". Still in use, the are popular with small children, though a bit disliked by fans of the P-Pals.
    • I remember back in the 50s, the predecessor of PBS having three animated kids, one playing a drum, marching across the screen from left to right for kids programs. I think it was National Educational Television (NET) at that time.
  • The Disney Channel had some fairly creative ones from the 80's through the early 90's. The present-day ones combine this trope with Ad Bumpers.

Canadian Examples:

  • The CBC has had several of these through the years, perhaps none more iconic than the "Exploding Pizza" of the 1970s and early '80s.
  • CTV's overall design since 1998 has frequently featured red, green, and blue ribbons around Canadian landscapes (representing the three shapes in its logo, and its three major divisions at the time; entertainment, news, and sports. Though CTV shuttered its own sports division when it bought TSN), often attached to the back of the CTV logo itself. Other bumpers at the time featured personalities of CTV's programming interacting with the logo.
    • Their 2011 redesign shifted from landscapes to more of a blue and white look, but the ribbon logo is still there.
  • A-Channel, which became CTV's sister network in an acquisition (later A and now CTV Two), had idents featuring the channel's distinct stylized "A" forming in places (such as on the side of a road, and a formation of migrating birds)
    • In its current form as CTV Two, the idents are very similar to the CTV idents.
  • Multicultural station CHNM in Vancouver (which got bought by Rogers and turned into an Omni station) used to have bumpers showing crosses between mainstream culture and ethnic culture; such as a Sikh riding a motorcycle with classic rock meets Indian-styled music, and one featuring lion dancers dressed in the colors of the [[ B.C. Lions).
  • Toronto independent station CITY-TV has probably one of the best known examples in Canada of this, featuring looks at various locations in and around the city (emphasizing its slogan, "Everywhere"), famously voiced by the late Mark Dailey.

British Examples:

  • BBC One's idents depicted a hot-air balloon in the likeness of a globe from 1997 to 2002, as did other BBC projects. They switched to a series known as Rhythm & Movement in 2002, featuring people in dancing or moving in synch with a heavy dose of red in their clothing or on the set, and all of these idents had variations on the same tune. These were often attacked by viewers as boring and Political Correctness Gone Mad due to the number of different races and cultures featured. The present theme, used since 2006, is round objects or things moving in a circle. Some of these are also used on BBC America, albeit in truncated forms. The hot-air balloon and Rhythm & Movement idents were done by Lambie-Nairn, and the "circles" idents were done by Red Bee Media.
    • Before the balloon, BBC1 used various renditions of a rotating globe. The mechanical "Mirror Globe" was used from 1969 to 1985, the "Computer Originated World" from 1985 to 1991, and Lambie-Nairn did a spruced up CGI globe containing the numeral "1" that was in use from 1991 to 1997; its exit coincided with a massive revamp of the BBC's identity. BBC1 getting a new look (and slightly different name) wasn't at all hinted at on the 1991 globe's final night (3rd October 1997).
      • Actually the 1991 globe is supposedly a multi-layered live action ident, though it probably has some CGI.
    • Even older BBC idents can be seen in Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes. They appear on those two series as such thanks to Retraux.
    • BBC America used a red, white and blue balloon before changing to the logo on a maroon background accompanied by generic music.
  • BBC Two has animated number 2s (except for the 1986-1991 period); in particular, the 1991-2001 idents, by Lambie-Nairn, are cult classics. The current series is the shape of a 2 appearing in some kind of surreal or arty sequence. Often related to the show about to premiere, expect to see the 2 shape as a car sunroof or side mirror before Top Gear. An ident of a tent door in the shape of a 2 unzipping open revealed many other tents outside to open broadcasts of the Glastonbury outdoor music festival. The tent ident also has varying levels of daylight outside, which seems to reflect the current time in Britain.
    • Lambie-Nairn revamped the 2 in 2001. In this set of idents, the 2 was a yellow sentient being in a yellow void. In one ident, it sprouts a flamethrower with which it burns up its environment, in another it sprouts arms and flips around the "BBC TWO" square (which is backwards before 2 flips it), and in another, it tries to get several 2s to knock into each other as if they were dominoes, but one falls the wrong direction. There were many more, and they were all dropped in 2007 after concerns that they were too cheerful and not really appropriate for serious programming.
    • BBC Two has also been known to commission show-specific idents to go before programmes, including Wallace & Gromit and (a particular Crowning Moment Of Awesome) Heroes, in which the 2 numeral gets eclipsed in a perfectly duplicated effect to the way the earth does in the show's opening credits.
      • BBC One also copied this for Christmas idents following their circular theme with Wallace & Gromit again in Christmas 2008note , Doctor Who in Christmas 2009note , The Gruffalo's Child in Christmas 2011 and Shrek, The Princess and the Frog and Up in Christmas 2012. Having taken note from the flaws of the aforementionned sentient 2 idents, all of these also have character-less variations introducing the news and serious programmesnote .
    • BBC Two is currently using a modified version of the 1991 idents, with the old slanted BBC logo or Gill Sans BBC Two wordmark (depending on which side of the 1997 corporate revamp they're originally from) replaced by a rotating cube with the current channel logo on one side and "50 Years" on the other.
  • BBC Three's idents are a bit more abstract than the above, and heavy on CGI representing the youth it's targeted at.
  • BBC Four's are even more abstract than Three's. The original ident was basically a computer-generated 3D waveform of the continuity announcer's voice, meaning that no two idents were ever exactly alike. Now they have scenes with a surreal duality, like water reflecting in a pond, and a drop in the water causing the sky to ripple. Also, they have a weird quarter thing going on (representing the Four) and when sometimes when an object passes over the seam between two quarters of the screen it will disappear. Other objects won't, creating a truly surreal effect.
  • BBC HD, the BBC channel which airs high-definition shows, had its own set of unique idents. In them a rather ordinary scene is shown (such a boy fishing, or an Asian couple sitting on a park bench). A diamond-shaped pane enters the screen, and through the pain a dramatised, fun, over-the-top, colourful, high-definition version of the scene is seen. For example, a queue for the ice-cream truck viewed through the HD pane is a musical song-and-dance number. These usually ended with the BBC HD logo. (BBC HD was replaced by an HD version of BBC Two in 2013.)
  • BBC News has two major idents: a 15-second animation of radio waves emanating over the globe, and a minute-long montage of CG news transmissions making their way to the BBC Studios at White City, both accompanied by techno-style music that wouldn't be out of place at an apocalyptic rave.
    • The latter is referred to as the Countdown and has changed a lot over the past ten years since the red paint job and David Lowe music was introduced. Countdowns are common on internationally-focused news channels, BBC's World News channel for the rest of the world has its own countdown focusing mainly on that channel's anchors. Sky News in Australia and France24 also have their own countdowns.
    • The BBC News countown used to end with a shot of Television Centre, reflecting the current time of day. When the channel moved studios in March 2013 the music was revamped and new shots of Broadcasting House were used.
  • As of 2013, ITV's four stations tend to be live-action based with ITV's being more down-to-earth while ITV2 and ITV4 have more of a comedic edge. The sole exception is ITV3, which is CGI-animated with 2D-cutouts in a 3D-snowglobe.
    • In the days when ITV was a single regionalized network, the Vanity Plates from the various regional stations often doubled up as station IDs on local programmes.
    • Oddly enough, Northern Ireland's regional variant of ITV, Ulster Television, is one of the only channels in the UK where the continuity announcer is visible.
  • Channel 4 likes to use heavy CGI to make flybys and zoom-throughs of real locations where objects at different distance appear to form the channel's logo in an optical illusion. One is at the top of this entry, and that's one of the EASIER ones.
    • Amusingly, there exists a real life version of the optical illusion outside of their main building in London.
    • The original Channel 4 idents from the 1980s consisted of coloured blocks flying together to make the "4". The current logos pay homage to the originals by having the logo come together from various objects and then fly apart as the camera moves past.
      • There were two (and only two) regular exceptions, for their NFL coverage, and for the Italian Football
      • They also had a Simpsons-themed ident at one point. Homer accidentally catapulted a six-pack of Duff onto a power line. Desperately wanting a taste of that beer, he climbed up a tree and tried to grab the beer off the line. The resulting Springfield-wide power outages, viewed from above, made the Channel 4 logo. View it here.
      • This is still in use and probably remain in use until the main idents are replaced.
    • During its focus on "intelligent and insightful" programming in the 2005-2012 period, More4 did some screensaver-like effects with the logo's elements. After rebranding into a lifestyle channel in 2012, its idents consist of mechanical scrapbooks littering live-action locales
    • 4Music has had several sets, including an Elevator Gag.
    • Film4's idents are tropes themselves, including Slow Motion Drop, Chase Scene and Soft Glass. Expect a lot of Bullet Time.
  • Channel Five spinoff Fiver likes bright pastels on a black background. Their continuity announcers are prone to commenting on the previous programme and engaging in occasional snark.
    • Five USA uses numerous Eagleland subtropes, where you can expect skylines and people playing street sports and American Football.
  • Digital Freeview comedy channel Dave (formerly UKTV Gold 2) has a group of people engaged in non-sequitur hijinks in and around a mansion before a show begins.

Australian Examples:

  • The ABC logo is probably the most famous of our lot, being a distinctive "squiggle", created to reference the network's radio origins. It is the only logo to have survived virtually intact since its inception, with the only major changes being the general design (it's now best explained as being a twisted loop of metal pipe, and now has several slightly differing versions, depending on which ABC station you are watching).
  • The Nine Network's logo has, over the years, remained basically intact, but whether or not it features nine dots next to the "9" is a matter of the era.
  • The Seven Network's logo was, until 2000, a 7 in a circle. These days, it's some kind of stylized ribbon.
    • Interestingly, an American viewer would from New York or Los Angeles would identify the "seven in a circle" with ABC (the American one), as it is the logo for the network's two flagship stations (WABC-7 in NYC, KABC-7 in LA.)
  • The Network Ten logo has had a few variants. Most of them involve the word "ten" in a circle, but there was a "Ten" under an X in the early 1980s and, briefly, the number 10 next to a depiction of Australia.
  • The SBS logo has also undergone several varieties. Early versions of the logo incorporated some kind of ball, but the logo used throughout the 90s involved five pointy ellipses (resembling overturned kayaks). The version from the 1990s used some positively ingenious idents, with indigenous (or microscopic) objects ranging in number from one to four appearing. The current logo is a variant on that logo.

Japanese Examples

  • Nippon Television (NTV) has used a sign-on and sign-off ID for many years which features a bird spreading its wings much like the first NBC peacock (though it was originally not in color).

New Zealand Examples

  • Aside from the usual mundane idents, the Goodnight Kiwi animated short on TVNZ stations TV1 and TV2 was an especially cute example. It played back when the stations closed down transmission for the night, from 1979 until 1994 when TVNZ switched to 24-hour broadcasting.

Dutch Examples

  • The TROS (initially the abbreviation for Televisie en Radio Omroep Stichting (Television and Radio Broadcasting Foundation)), one of the Dutch Broadcasting Organizations, has had one of the more iconic idents/logos throughout its 50-years' existence. Regardless of the idents they were using at the time, it always featured an eight-pointed star with a hole that represented a television screen in its center. One of their end-of-broadcast idents that was used in the mid-late eighties was recorded as the longest idents at the time, spanning over at least a whole minute. One of their more famous theme tunes used in idents in the early nineties had the slogan 'Doe mee met de makers, kom bij de TROS! (Join the creators, come to the TROS!)'

Fictional Examples Within Other Media:

  • BBC One's idents are frequently the target of Take That on other shows, sometimes on the BBC itself, either as a statement on the quality of the shows or on the network's branding image. As the channel introduced the Movement & Rhythm idents, BBC Three's adult toon show Monkey Dust frequently made fun of them. Another comedy spoofed the circles motif by plastering the BBC One name over footage from a colonoscopy camera.
    • In a similar vein, topical live-action comedy satire Dead Ringers used to occasionally parody the idents' announcer, featuring the original ident with a new comical commentary.
    • Monty Python's Flying Circus regularly spoofs the BBC One globe idents and continuity announcements. Most famous examples:
      Announcer: We interrupt this program to annoy you and make things generally irritating.
      Announcer: It's 8 o'clock and time for the news now on BBC Two, with on BBC One, me telling you this.
      Announcer: Well, it's five past nine, and nearly time for six past nine. On BBC Two it will shortly be 6 minutes past nine. Later on this evening it will be 10 o'clock, and at 10:30 we'll be joining BBC Two in time for 10:33. And don't forget tomorrow, when it'll be 9:20. Those of you who missed 8:45 on Friday will be able to see it again this Friday at a quarter to nine.
      • Another Python opening uses the world-famous Thames ident in its original context, as their continuity announcer runs down the station line-up before disparaging the BBC fare that is next.
    • BBC Scotland football sketch show Only An Excuse? ended one episode in the balloon era with the balloon forming the bald head of Scottish football comentator Chick Young.
  • The WKRP in Cincinnati Theme Tune is meant to resemble this.
    • The video to the credits even looks like an old community ident for a TV affiliate until the roll call begins.
    • and don't forget "WKRP,with more music, and Les Nesman"
  • When the Earth blows up at the end of Goodies episode "Earthanasia", it cuts to the BBC globe ident. Then that blows up, too.

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alternative title(s): Station Identification
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