Ulster Television is the ITV company for Northern Ireland. Ulster launched in October 1959 with a rather curious ident which was supposedly designed by a viewer who had won a competition, it featured various dots that are connected together and an odd lullaby-style piece of music.
By 1970 when colour came along the Ulster symbol was revised and was now yellow on a blue background. Like most other regions at the time the design would not be changed at all for the whole of the decade, and I don’t think that this look was accompanied by any music either.
In October 1980 to celebrate Ulster’s 21st anniversary a new animated ident was introduced which featured the symbol on a rotating platform and some music. It ended up being used for almost eight years and would become known to viewers as “the telly on a stick”, but I am not really sure if that is supposed to be a compliment.
Ulster didn’t contribute much to the network, and there isn’t a huge amount of archive clips online, but I have seen a couple of closedowns, which include a feature called “News At Bedtime”. Ulster’s news coverage in the 80s was called Good Evening Ulster which was where Eamonn Holmes got his big break, and over the years the show evolved to now be called UTV At Six. Ulster were also the final ITV region to go 24 hours in October 1988.
Ulster’s first main computer-generated ident appeared in January 1989 and was like most other ITV regions’ first attempts in that it featured a 3D version of the symbol flying around to some odd synthesized music. By now the symbol was both yellow and blue and although it was never necessarily supposed to be a “U” it now looked more like it said “SW”. Ulster also didn’t take the 1989 ITV corporate look.
In June 1993 Ulster decided to give their look a complete overhaul, changing their name to just UTV and bringing in a new yellow and purple symbol which is a colour combination that I like. I also like the way when the relaunch was introduced the old symbol appeared at the start of idents but was then peeled away to reveal the new design. Most of the idents were lifestyle ones featuring various people walking around the symbol.
The idents were changed occasionally and a new version of the UTV symbol was introduced in 2000, with the idents now featuring scenes from various places around Northern Ireland. UTV still have in-vision continuity, with their best-known announcer being Julian Simmons. It seems that over the years he has been something of an all-rounder, presenting various features such as news, sport, weather, phone-in competitions, soap updates and much more.
It is odd to think that about 15 or 20 years after it disappeared from every other ITV region UTV still have in-vision continuity, and they also still have local idents and programming, so there may be hope for regional ITV. But wait! It was recently announced that UTV are considering packing all this TV lark in and might just hand over to ITV like what happened in England and Wales many years ago now, possibly finally meaning the old heave-ho for Julian and co. It must be said that the response from viewers to this news has been mixed to put it mildly. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this long-running ITV company.