Overseas TV History

A compilation of continuity and promotional elements used between 1987/1988 and 1997/1998 by South African subscription broadcaster M-Net:

M-Net (short for Electronic Media Network) was born for a political and business need rather than any justification to license another TV channel: it was partly the brainchild of a Naspers executive, Koos Bekker, and partly the pressure of the apartheid government, which wanted the preeminent newspaper chain (a staunch supporter of the NP regime) to operate a TV channel to offset the losses incurred in revenue from advertising and distribution after the SABC launched its television service. Bekker offered the idea to Times Media (currently Avusa), Argus (currently The Independent) and Perskor (now-defunct), its rival chains, and the idea was to make the service be jointly owned by the four newspaper chains and the then-independent Kwa-Zulu Natal newspaper The Witness (an increasingly anti-apartheid paper which defied the censorship rules of the time). However, the other chains weren’t fully interested in the plan, leading to Naspers launching it as a single act.

The channel launched in October 1986, as a subscription TV channel operating using the over-the-air TV spectrum. Most of the 12 hours of broadcast at the time were encrypted, and alternated (as with TV1 at the time) between English and Afrikaans programming. Additionally, the Broadcasting Authority allocated them a FTA one-hour slot every day to promote itself; this became known as Open Time, and was supposed to be temporary (dropping it after reaching 150k subscribers), but it lasted into 2007. The slot not only aired M-Net promotional material, but also popular American TV shows and previews of exclusive premium content.

M-Net became the responsible for a number of firsts in the local TV industry: it began slowly and cautiously, but steadily including Cape Coloureds and Nguni (Xhosa/Zulu) presenters as part of their on-air team, including Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon, and was the first to strand its programming into fixed blocks like Movie Magic (new movies), M-Net SuperSport (sport), Soundcheck (music), Explore! (documentaries), and K-TV (kids programming). It also broke new ground in current affairs programming with Carte Blanche, which would become Sub-Saharan Africa’s preeminent investigative newsmagazine and a symbol of the (at the time) slow democratic opening in the country.

Additionally, M-Net targeted the small South Asian and Portuguese communities in the country, launching separately-sold offerings under the EastNet and TV Portuguesa, offering programmes from India, Pakistan, Portugal and Brazil. These were originally aired on the main M-Net channel and were soon moved to a second spare channel, the Community Service Network, until 1995; these services were dropped with the advent of satellite channels targeting both communities.

With the end of apartheid and the start of democratic transition in the country, President De Klerk allowed M-Net to invest in a news department and local programmings; due to budget considerations, the news plans were dropped (although a deal was reached with BBC World to rebroadcast some programming), but the investment on local programming was to be reflected on South Africa’s first soap, Egoli, which was the first local drama series to have a multi-racial cast (including guest actors from the US and UK) and to be alternately spoken in English and Afrikaans (an English-only International version was also produced).

It also invested massively in sporting rights, including soccer, cricket, cycling and motorsport rights, as well as its core rugby rights (M-Net, alongside Foxtel and Sky, played a massive role on the professionalization of rugby league and rugby union). To allow the network air many of these rights, it moved SuperSport into its own 24-hour channel in 1995, paving the way to the launch of its digital satellite service DStv, launched in partnership with Canal+, which allowed both services to go digital. It also reorganised its media brands into a new division, MultiChoice, which was spun off by Naspers in 2018.

With that division, the company greatly expanded by buying the Filmnet channels in Scandinavia and the Benelux, through a partnership with Swiss luxury brand holding Richemont, which expanded it to Greece and Poland; it also bought an equity stake in Italian subscription broadcaster Telepiù, at a degree it briefly expanded the DStv brand for a new digital satellite offering for Italy. By 1997, the expansion into Europe was deemed a financial failure, and sold most of these ventures to Canal+, whilst retaining its more profitable Greek business, which greatly expanded after launching its DTH platform Nova in 1999 (the operator and the channels were later sold to business telco company Forthnet and the merged company is currently operated by Balkans cable operator United Group).

During these years, M-Net and SuperSport massively expanded its channel offerings: two movies and one series channel were launched between 1995 and 1998, and Afrikaans content was separated into its own service, kykNET. From 2000, more original channels targeting multi-racial audiences and specific countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania…) were launched, and the movies and series channels were multiplexed. Over time, M-Net became DStv’s premium channel, with its programming offering being now exclusively English-spoken and focusing on big-ticket entertainment and reality formats, and multi-racial dramas, as well as being the home of HBO content, and big-ticket American scripted and unscripted programming, plus first-run movies.

On SuperSport’s side, it began increasingly turning its offering more complete, by taking on a multi-channel offering, featuring specific programming targeting South African, Nigerian and Lusophone audiences, plus pan-African feeds. It has greatly expanded the number of rights by also targeting more niche sports and even high school athletics coverage. However, some antisiphoning rights valid in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and some other nations, force SuperSport to sublicense rights to PSBs like the SABC. In 2020, its channel offering was organized by specific-sport-focused TV channels, including exclusive channels for South African soccer, Premier League, LaLiga, Rugby and WWE.

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WSM-TV from 1973

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WIVB News 4 Buffalo titles from 1984 (click on photo)

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From Switzerland, an interesting documentary (in Swiss German), Ein Tag auf zwei Kanälen, which was a special current affairs special from SF DRS. Presenters were Robi Köller, Eva Mezger, Viktor Baumgartner and Béatrice Mohr.

The special aired on March 6, 1995 (audience appreciation day, an official programme from the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation as part of its public service remit) on its then-second pan-Swiss channel Schweiz 4, and featured a full real-time behind the scenes look at a normal day in the operations of the German TV branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, including a look at operation facilities rarely seen by the public. It also offered a second-screen experience of selected SF DRS programming, including the Tagesschau, Tuesday night game and variety show Risiko and many of the prime time programming (that portion of the programme was translated into French for consumption in the SAP audio channel). The show aired without any commercial interruption up until the end, when a normal commercial break and promo was aired, although main presenter Robi Köller came back after it to end formally the special and switch to the PresseTV newsmagazine Format NZZ.

Some weeks later, the pan-German satellite channel 3sat aired a summarized version of the special, condensed into 2+ hours and translated into Standard German.

The experience was repeated in October 2017, but now featuring an increased focus on the radio side of the German division (by then, SF DRS had been integrated on the SRF). Nik Hartmann, Tina Nägeli, Jann Billeter, Katharina Locher and Mario Grossniklaus led the proceedings, which also included real citizens trying on presenting, reporting and producing on selected TV and radio programmes (as part of the audience appreciation day). The programme was only interrupted for an entertainment newsflash, which was, however, smoothly integrated within the special’s schedule.


Another interesting behind-the-scenes doco: Yorkshire Television’s One Day In The Life of Television. The 2-hour+ doco was part of an initiative promoted by YTV in collaboration with the Markle Foundation and the British Film Institute, under the organisation of Richard Paterson and Janet Willis. The film, directed by Peter Kominsky, executive producer by Grant McKee and edited by Terry Warwick, followed the activities of television production on the BBC and the ITV companies on November 1, 1988 in real-time, thanks to 50 film crews, whilst also critically analysing the impact of cable and satellite television in the country, with emphasis on the problem of adult content during non-watershed programming hours.

The documentary also takes a look at the TV-am industrial conflict triggered by Bruce Gyngell’s administration, as well as a look into a wrong guest on BBC Breakfast Time, the filming of EastEnders, Top of the Pops and Wogan, and Anglia’s then-new cheap quiz show Lucky Ladders. It also featured filmed observations of the day’s TV from families, direct from their own homes (a sort of precursor of Gogglebox). The documentary aired one year to the date the documentary was filmed (November 1, 1989) as an ITV network special in prime time.

A companion book (widely available on book stores used) was published to tie on to the documentary, edited by Sean Day-Lewis, and featuring thoughts selected by 20,000+ participants (including 3K+ industry professionals) on their TV habits that day.

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Here’s an interesting feature on how Channel Television managed to keep broadcasting as the only ITV company on the air:

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A sign-off sequence from Brazilian network Rede Globo in 1979 (to the sound of samba). Longtime Globo announcer Dirceu Rabelo voices this clip.

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A promo of RTP1’s 3-hour long early morning news program Bom Dia Portugal from the year of its debut: 2002. Alberta Marques Fernandes (seen in the promo) was its first anchor.

Bom Dia Portugal (launched on Monday 28 January) brought news, weather, traffic (delivered from the studio, from the air (with a chopper), and from the road (with a motorbike!), sports and business to a timeslot dominated by cartoons and infomercials. Here’s a segment from 29 April 2002.

Over the last 2 decades, rival networks SIC and TVI tried to emulate the public broadcaster’s early morning show with similarly-themed programs, but they couldn’t match it.

In other parts of the day (midday and evening), the competition was tougher. SIC’s newscasts performed quite well and TVI’s viewing figures rose during Manuela Moura Guedes’ tenure as chief anchor of the populist Jornal Nacional (2000-05). RTP, under Director-General Emidio Rangel (that lasted 1 year on the job: 2001-02), began to imitate its competitors by expanding its main newscast (Telejornal) to 90 minutes and introduced a slightly fast-paced, but elegant presentation.

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YouTuber Adam Martyn takes a look at how color TV came to Germany. (And there’s an Australian connection: The German color system, PAL, was eventually adopted by Australia.)

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CNN Morning News, 1992:

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The Anatomy of a Newscast, a day in the life of KGO-TV in San Francisco, 1968:

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The pilot episode for Blue’s Clues has been found and uploaded in full.

YouTube: BowDown097

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Would anyone know if VH2 (defunct rock network/sister channel of defunct VH1 UK) is like a lost TV channel?

In Switzerland, Tagesschau, SRF’s flagship newscast, celebrated its 70th anniversary two weeks ago, and SRF took a look back at its history:

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Hey Medianext, I just found the VH2 cube idents on Paul Wilkinson’s Behance page. Anyone else wanna watch it?

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A compilation of IDs, promos, continuity (with an in-vision announcer!), weather, Keno results and news from Belgian Dutch-language TV station VRT1 in the late 1990s. The branding was designed by Lambie-Nairn.

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Did you know that MTV music channels in the UK (Music, Base, Rocks, Hits, Dance and Classic) have broadcasted from 4:3 to 16:9 in March 2012?

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This is quite interesting: in 1997, BRTN began a large scale repositioning of its services, hiring Lambie-Nairn to work on it, affecting all of its services. According to Lambie-Nairn’s website at the time, the rebrand was done “In response to a Belgian government decree and VRT’s Board of Directors goal to increase the visibility, salience and relevance of its public service network”; the rebrands, as clearly seen, were done in preparation with the renaming of BRTN to VRT. First in line were TV1 and Journaal, whose rebrands came on air on September 1 that year.

The sun symbol for TV1 was selected by Lambie-Nairn due to its significance as “a universal symbol of warmth capable of a variety of entertaining executions”, something reflected in the idents used during this era. The rebrand also led to a more competitive program lineup to fight the dominance of VTM, whose “mom-and-pop”, American-styled programming remit was increasingly targeting a younger audience, seeing the BRTN channels as “stuffy” and “dated”; as a result, the agency, when doing the rebrand, had to “differentiate it from broadly similar competitive landscape and to communicate core values of leadership, entertainment, Flemish roots and modernity”.

On the case of Het Journaal, the rebrand was also made to take away the negative perception of the brand, seen as “rather dull and boring compared to their more ‘flashy’ commercial rivals. Lambie-Nairn’s task was to give the News Service a warmer, more approachable feel – without sacrificing the important values of the VRT News Service: professionalism and trust. The resulting redesign of the titles emphasises the reliability of VRT in bringing you ‘news around the clock’. The title sequences, graphics and set design use light, space and colour to overturn previous audience perceptions”.

The new, simple and bright titles and minimalist look was further complimented by a set design from BBC production designer Quentin Chases, built on BRTN’s Studio 19, a former radio studio which was converted for TV production. The changes were accompained by a new schedule of newscasts, with a new 1pm newscast, plus 6pm, 7pm and 11pm (Laat) on TV1, and at 8pm on TV2.

However, the launch was marred by a bomb threat alarm, forcing staff to evacuate the building during the live 7pm broadcast; it was eventually resumed after the alarm was declared false, but the broadcast had to air from a continuity studio as police continued searching for any suspicious trace; as nothing was found, the bomb threat was fully called off.

This is something interesting: here’s a behind the scenes tour recorded and published by Wim van den Broeck, a self-declared Journaal-fan who was invited to take a look at the studio and facilities; there we can see some additional and never-often-seen glimpses of additional elements of the Lambie-Nairn graphics and the very dark floors of the Reyers Broadcast Centre which housed the newsroom at the time. During his visit to the BRTN studio, Martine Tanghe served as the guide:

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The relaunch of TV2 into two separate timeshared services, Ketnet (for children) and Canvas (a cultural service which became less elitist in style and which also integrated sports programming), would come later that December after completing a massive schedule regigging. The channel had suffered a very low viewership (outside sporting events) and hence low awareness, so Lambie-Nairn scrapped the TV2 brand in favour of the two separate brands. The new timeshared service began airing in afternoons only, before it expanded into the late morning later that year, first on weekends, then all-week-round.

Ketnet’s branding “was positioned around the idea of ‘making your mark’. Animated sequences were based on graffiti, doodles and finger painting”. The name was based on the Brussels dialect parlance referring to a child. The Ketnet rebrand was accompanied by a stronger lineup of imports from the US and Europe (including Hey Arnold!, Zorro (the 1960s version), and even Married with Children and King of the Hill); these were dropped in 2006 to concentrate in local shows and more “contemporary” programming.

As for Canvas, the name was the starting point of the brand concept: “an empty canvas waiting to be filled with colour and movement. A two metre high mirror in the shape of the Canvas symbol was filmed in a variety of locations throughout Flanders including a beach, a fun-fair, an industrial greenhouse and the main concourse at Brussels airport”. Both Ketnet and Canvas’ presentation were used up to 2006, including big tweaks to fit widescreen presentation around 2002.


Something interesting: Van den Broeck helped also to build this small “encyclopedia” on the Journaal graphics, sets and anchors, documenting important news events covered during each phase.

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Some promos from Boston’s Group W station WBZ-TV in 1982, using the slogan “Today’s 4”. The music of this campaign was composed by Edd Kalehoff.

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A new episode of The Television Affair is out, looking at defunct UK tv channels but also features a part at the end about Australia’s Quizmania

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Today is an important day for Mexico, as it is the anniversary of two deadly earthquakes which happened in 1985 and 2017 and rocked most of the central part of the country, including Mexico City. As a result, today the country is having country-wide national emergency dry runs in order to make citizens prepared for any earthquake or natural disaster that might risk their communities.

Here’s how the national media covered the 1985 earthquake. That earthquake had serious ramifications for the national broadcasters, specially television channels: Televisa’s downtown Chapultepec HQ was heavily destroying, leaving the broadcaster’s four national channels dark for most of the morning and afternoon, before eventually resuming programming after installing makeshift galleries and a newsroom at their San Ángel Inn (Coyoacán) studios; in contrast, then-state-owned Canal 13/Imevisión, located at the much more earthquake-prone zone of the Ajusco mountains, suffered only from a power cut and was able to quickly resume broadcasting thanks to an emergency power outlet, and began informing for hours on the situation.

On the radio side, Radio Fórmula was the most affected, as the broadcaster had its building destroyed, and leaving most of its stations silent for days; only the FM stations (located out of the Torre Latinoamericana, in the downtown zone) remained on air simulcasting rival Radio Centro in a temporary basis; other radio conglomerates (including Radio Centro) resumed broadcasting after the power cut, dropping their normal programming in favour of continuous coverage.

Radio Red (then owned by Monterrey media mogul Clemente Serna Martínez) was a notable case, as it was the only station which remained on-air during the quake and was the first to report on the seriousness of the situation, even if News Director José Gutiérrez Vivó was away in Japan, preparing for a special series of programmes analyzing the situation of the country. The station had continuous coverage of the situation for nearly a week, leading to increased ratings and credibility, plus a boom on talkback radio formats which still continues to date in Mexico City.

In 2017, the quake was felt much harsher in Mexico City, but, given the increased level of security and civil defence plans, the death toll was much less serious; however, saying the level of damage was minor is an understatement. On the TV side, Televisa and TV Azteca courted strong controversy over the level of coverage, by moments rousing the tabloid and hyperbolic; this was quickly showcased (the day after the quake) by the supposed case of a disappeared girl; over time, TV Azteca was forced to tone down the level of the coverage, but Televisa continued exploiting the case for longer, with reporter Danielle Dithurbide on the scene of a school destroyed by the quake, where the victim was (supposedly) lingering.

However, two days later, TV Azteca was the first to break the news that the victim was inexistent and was not a casualty of the destruction; it was soon followed by investigations from independent news outlets Proceso and Aristegui Noticias over inconsistencies on the supposed identity of the non-existent victim. By the afternoon, the National Army confirmed the inexistence of the disappeared girl; the aftermath of this led to Televisa’s ratings dramatically sinking, on the benefit of TV Azteca, whose ratings skyrocketed (at times, its news channel ADN40 was even beating all the classic national FTA networks); newcomer Imagen and the public media also received a strong boost in viewer figures from the debacle of the situation.

Unlike the 1985 quake, TV was the dominant medium this time: all TV networks remained on the air during the situation, and eventually canceled their normal programming for at least five days to cover the ongoing situation, whilst only the talkback radio stations set aside its daily programming for rolling coverage (with music and entertainment stations sticking to normal scheduling). However, most stations interrupted its regular schedule (at least in Mexico City) to trigger their emergency alert system, which much more basic than the ones existing (for example) in Japan and Taiwan, consisting only of a sound alert.

Last year, and for the third time round, another earthquake struck the central part of the country, just only minutes after the national dry run. That quake was much less violent than the other, as its epicentre was located in the state of Colima (with the harshest aftermath limited to the immediate zone of the aftershock). The quake caused the national networks’ afternoon news bulletins to begin earlier than planned.

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