With all the swirling rings in the universe, it’s still BBC News

The latest redesign of the corporation’s famous globe is more than just a rebranding exercise. But Raymond Snoddy asks what, if anything, the new look will achieve

When change occurs at the BBC, you can be sure an Away Day will not be far behind. Yesterday morning, BBC news types gathered at the fashionable Soho Hotel off Dean Street to review a momentous week when the multimedia newsroom was launched and the new on-air look unveiled.

It will be a while before outsiders get a real sense of how much difference the coming together of News 24 – now the BBC News channel – and the BBC One bulletins into a single news team will make, other than a loss of jobs.

But the new £550,000 on-air look for BBC News is there for all to see – and dissect. Not all the comments so far on the swirling Saturnian rings have exactly been complimentary.

One viewer, Derek Dorrity, denounced the changes as appalling and lacking "any sense of substance or solidity", while adding that such things "really matter, and seriously affect perceptions of an organisation".

Andrew Bustin said simply after his first viewing: "I actually felt quite sick tonight, so will revert to ITV." Don Wallace was so horrified by what he saw as a misuse of licence-fee money that he has promised to work out what proportion of his own licence fee the rebranding represents and deduct it from his payment.

The three views represent the broad range of comments typically forthcoming when a look that everyone has got used to in their living rooms over a number of years suddenly changes. Some are irritated by the disappearance of the visual punctuation that has formed a backdrop to everyday life. Others take issue with the substance of what has been done, while practical types resent the spending of so much money on what they see as superficial frivolity. Just give us the news, the programmes, they say.

When broadcasting executives reach for their chequebooks to pay for new "idents" – as the

Saturnian rings are known in the industry – they invariably talk about the need to "freshen" things up and improve branding in a competitive world.

One of the biggest rows over this issue came in 2002 when the globe motif between programmes was dropped in favour of multicultural idents in the interests of "inclusiveness".

The protests over the new-look news have been muted by comparison. Partly this is because the new livery grows out of the old – the latest version of the globe image that has featured in some form in BBC branding for more than 40 years. There has also been continuity through the use of the colours red and black.

Apart from the extra movement, the big change has been the introduction of light and air, and acres of white. Why black and heavy, dark red should have been the height of branding elegance five years ago, while something so much lighter is now de rigueur, is far from clear.

Those who accuse BBC News of "dumbing down" inevitably see symbolism in such an obvious move away from "substance and solidity". But why the BBC has such loyalty to the colours red and black remains a mystery, apart perhaps from the fact that rivals Sky News and ITN major on the colour blue. Some critics, however, have gone so far as to accuse the corporation of preserving "a belligerent and fascistic colour scheme".

This time round there is perhaps more justification for the change than the mere lapse of five years since the last one. There is the reorganisation of how the news is produced, with BBC online joining the multimedia newsroom in June.

In the age of Google and YouTube, it was decided that it was a good time to bring all the disparate parts of BBC News from radio, TV and online to World and mobile under a single, identifying brand. As Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, puts it: "All the parts were sometimes less than the sum of what we do." There was a need to "punch through" in everything the BBC did.

Though broadcasters take them very seriously, it's far from clear how important such stylistic devices really are. In 2005 Sky News spent millions on a new look, and quite soon after started to lose out in the battle with News 24. It is not clear whether it was "the Starship Enterprise" look or changes to the programme format that viewers found most offputting.

The relaunched News at Ten discovered earlier this year that looks were not everything. It had the latest graphics and a nod towards continuity and nostalgia with the reappearance of Sir Trevor McDonald. The result has been regular embarrassing audience figures compared with what is now BBC News at Ten. Last week the ITN bulletin managed to equal a previous low point of only 1.7 million.

For years, News at Ten was known as News at When, meaning that all the slick graphics in the world could not dent the nation's habit of turning to the BBC at 10pm for the main evening news. But broadcasting executives will continue to believe and continue to spend money on the trimmings.

At the end of this month, Channel Five's digital channel, Five Life, is due to be rebranded as Fiver to make it seem "younger, faster, louder". The whole of Five itself, which has already rebranded its news, along with the poaching of Natasha Kaplinsky from the BBC, is also in line for a makeover.

As for the future of BBC News, you can be sure there will be another new look and that it will come from Lambie-Nairn, designers of the current effort.

It will probably come in 2012 to mark the Olympics and the completion of the move to digital in the UK, and there will probably be a lot more red and black. You will need continuity of colour in such an uncertain world and certainly a bit more solidity and substance.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?