The Viewing Room

Test card

Heartland Television

Central England 1982 - 2002


The franchise round which was to take effect from January 1st 1982 brought some major surprises: it was to be the last twinkle, twinkle of the little star for solid, staid, kids-friendly Southern; and the Golden Hind was scuppered with all hands in Plymouth Sound. But by far and away the biggest shock was the axing of ATV. ATV, one of the original contractors and certainly the best known worldwide of all ITV franchise holders: but that was the problem. Concentrating on its international profile had, in the view of the Brompton Road College Of Cardinals, led the company to neglect its pastoral duties to the people of the Midlands ; and so it was that as 1982 opened, ITV was de-Graded and the legendary eye closed for ever.

Shortly before 9.30 on New Year's Day 1982, the TV screens of the people of the Midlands (or, at least, those in any fit state to take notice) went black. Was this an omen? No! It was the beginning of the New Era, as a red heart appeared on the far left of the picture... Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 1
Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 2 ...followed by another one...
...and so on right across the screen. Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 3
Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 4 But where do we go from here?

Ah! Gimme an "H"!
Gimme an 'E'! Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 5
Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 6 And so on across the screen again until the new company's name is spelled out for all to see.
But wait a mo! There are only nine letters in "Heartland" and there are ten hearts.
Aargh! What's this? Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 7
Heartland 1982 ident - Frame 8 Oh, I see...Just in case we thought we were watching the radio...

The whole sequence was accompanied by a jingle which was even more retro than the ident: a rising scale of woodwind and brass, complete with a final "ting!" when the flash went off which was for all the world like the "ting!" which used to end the original Tyne Tees ident twenty-odd years before.

Here's the production slide... Heartland 1982 production slide

The new company was slow to find favour with a public which had been used to the same style for a quarter of a century. The ident was not widely admired, either, being perceived as singularly lacking in imagination ("ting!" notwithstanding), and not what was needed in the thrusting, go-ahead 1980s.

Heartland 1983 ident - Frame 1 So, just over a year after going on air for the first time, the station's ident saw a revamp. Again, it started with a single red heart, but this time in the centre of the screen...
The second heart duly appeared, but at a right-angle to the first... Heartland 1983 ident - Frame 2
Heartland 1983 ident - Frame 3 ...and then another...
...until the pattern was completed... Heartland 1983 ident - Frame 4
Heartland 1983 ident - Frame 5 ...except for the company's name, which faded in at the bottom.

One of the main selling points for Heartland in its franchise application was its promise to enhance the ITV service in the Midlands by creating two 'sub-regions' based around small satellite studios in Oxford and Nottingham, in addition to the main complex on the outskirts of Birmingham. However, there was a dispute with the technicians' unions which meant that it was November 1983 before this plan could be put into operation.

When it was, it meant that the sub-regions' output (consisting almost entirely of local news bulletins) needed a clear branding. So a new set of idents was devised to introduce the sub-regional variations of the company's flagship evening news "Heartland Today".

The four hearts formed up as before, but then rotated about the vertical axis, re-appearing with the heart representing the sub-region (the west, in this case) now in white. The station name also appeared out of the rotation.

(The East and South variants, of course, had the right-hand and bottom hearts appear in white respectively, with the relevant change in name).

All these idents, main and sub-region alike, were accompanied by a new jingle - four chords like a clock chime, followed by a brief thrash of timpani when the name appeared.
Heartland West 1983 ident
Heartland 1983 clock Speaking of clock chimes, Heartland's clock was considered to be quite groovy in a restrained sort of way (the days of ATV Digital were long gone)... its tasteful production slide. Heartland 1983 production slide

1987 arrived, and the old idents were looking passé. Absolutely nobody who was anybody was doing black anymore, darlings! Moreover, although the sub-regions had established themselves quite well, the opinion within the company was that separate idents for them detracted from the company's overall corporate identity.

So it was that, in April 1987, a new set of idents appeared.

Heartland 1987 ident - Frame 1 In the centre of a blue screen, a white heart appears...
...turns to gold (heart of gold - geddit?)... Heartland 1987 ident - Frame 2
Heartland 1987 ident - Frame 3 ...and flashes!
Then up fades the name... Heartland 1987 ident - Frame 4
Heartland 1987 ident - Frame 5 ...and another flash...
...before the "Television" fades in.

The music changed, too, with a short timpani roll leading up to a two-note sting on the 'heart-flash', a higher two-note sting on the 'name-flash', and a bass chord on the completion of the image. It sounded eerily similar to the one used by LWT about the same time. Nothing was said...
Heartland 1987 ident - Frame 6
Heartland 1988 ident - RTL In late 1988, in the thick of the conglomeration-mania of High Thatcherism, Heartland's owners sold the company to Radio-Télé Luxembourg, who were looking for openings in the UK to compensate for the slow decline of their English-language radio service. So it was that the 87 idents were slightly redesigned to emphasise this fact. Of course, it was pure luck that "rtl" happened to be the middle letters of their new acquisition's name...

The IBA didn't much like it, but its days were numbered and there were bigger concerns on its mind - like, who got custody of those kids' drawings they used to illustrate the transmitter news on "Engineering Announcements"...

Of course, the following year saw the first serious stab at a generic identity for all of ITV.

In Heartland's case, the 'heart of gold' was the perfect symbol to fill that tempting triangle, and it was considered to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing of all the '89 generics. Heartland's new owners adopted the ident with enthusiasm. Heartland 1989 ITV generic ident
Heartland 1989 ITV generic spoof - 'Golden Boobs' A healthy cynicism still reigned in some quarters, however, and they may not have been so enthusiastic had they foreseen the strictly-unofficial 're-edit' that some wonderfully warped graphics bloke created as a frontcap to the station's 1989 Christmas tape...

Manfully, they stuck with it (the official version, that is) until 1992 (only Grampian held out longer), when it became plain that something new and dynamic was needed. And so, the best minds in sub-contracted graphic design came up with this:

On a background of the same shade of blue as five years earlier, some strange white blotches appear... Heartland 1992 ident - Frame 1
Heartland 1992 ident - Frame 2 ...then some in pink...
...light green (can you see what it is yet?)... Heartland 1992 ident - Frame 3
Heartland 1992 ident - Frame 4 ...purple...(that's a clue, folks!)...! (Oh, what a giveaway!)... Heartland 1992 ident - Frame 5
Heartland 1992 ident - Frame 6 Then, finally, the station name. For the first time in its history, they had changed the font.

The music was a rather nondescript sequence of synthesised notes (one for each 'strip'), ending on a fake-string chord when the name faded in.
People weren't very impressed (for one thing, the whole thing was off-centre), and in Spring 1994, the ident was re-jigged. The symbol formed up quicker, and took up less space in the centre of the screen. A stronger font was used for the name, and the music was replaced by what can only be described as 'spangly' electronic tones.

This was far better received than its first incarnation, and lasted right up until...
Heartland 1994 ident
Heartland 1999 ITV generic ident ...The Second Coming of the ITV generics in 1999. Hmm, I wonder where ITV got the idea for using hearts as the motif?

Heartland (by now owned by Pearson) embraced this as eagerly as the earlier attempt, although they used a slightly different colour for the company's name. The heart still looked good, though.
And so to the present day, and the 'ITV1' generic. Largely characterless, of course, as they all are. Could we be seeing the last beats of the heart of gold? Heartland 2001 ITV generic ident

All images and text Nigel Stapley 2002