1997-2002: There have been four different eras of presentation on Channel 5. Before the launch in 1997, a lot of media publicity and test transmissions prominently featured five colour bars along with the symbol which was a “5” in a circle. When the launch finally came I was surprised that the colour bars didn’t feature too much in the main idents, which featured the symbol appearing on various backgrounds. I think that these worked well though and definitely gave the channel a look that was distinctive. Also, Channel 5 never used a clock and have never closed down, being on air 24 hours since day one.
I did like the early days of Channel 5 and watched a lot of programmes, they weren’t exactly big budget or highly rated but at least they had a go, and they were pioneering in their news coverage. Around 1999 Channel 5 introduced a new wave of idents but they retained the symbol. Most of these were celebrity idents, a little like what Channel 4 did in their circles era, featuring various personalities on the channel. Of course, ITV1 would do something like this a few years later too.
There was one more change to the idents in March 2002 which dropped the celebrities but still kept the symbol and colour bars appearing on various coloured backgrounds, and also included a five-note piece of music. Around this time slides were dropped too. Looking back it is a surprise to realise how long this look lasted.
2002-2008: In the second era the decision was taken to give the presentation a complete overhaul and rename the channel “five”. There was a new wave of idents which featured the name of the channel appearing on the right of the screen. This was yet another group of lifestyle idents, similar to the current ITV look, but these were really dull, with barely anything happening in them.
Also, “five” would appear in a different colour for every trail, again similar to current ITV. Some more adventurous idents were added over time with the symbol appearing in unlikely places, and curiously some near the end which didn’t feature the name of the channel at all, but other four-letter words, and it was odd seeing programmes introduced with vague messages such as “fast” or “love”. The first wave of five’s spin-off channels launched around this time too.
2008-2011: The third era featured the symbol now being in capitals and changing to “FIVE”. The idents around this time were very creative and unusual, featuring things such as invisible superheroes, and enormous drums. The look wasn’t developed too much though, being used for barely two-and-a-half years.
2011-present: The fourth era saw the channel reverting back to being called “Channel 5” again after nine years, not that anybody ever stopped calling it that. The current group of idents take place in a space with a big red screen, where various things happen and then the “5” symbol forms in a circle, looking a little like the original 90s symbol. Circles on red backgrounds does make it seem rather similar to BBC1’s current look.
There also some variations made for specific programmes, including 30 years of Neighbours. There’s even a sombre ident for going into the news, they’ve thought of everything! I don’t have a problem with these idents, and I don’t feel that there is any need to change them any time soon, even though they have now been on screen for almost five years. It’s just a shame that most of the programmes are so rotten now.