BBC TV South
Before the advent of the BBC South region in 1961 viewers in the South of England had to make do with the London regional news opt-out provided from Alexandra Palace.
The building chosen for the new service was then known as the South Western Hotel, which was formerly a luxury hotel that was often used by passengers embarking or returning from ships docked in Southampton. Indeed the ill-fated Titanic passengers had spent their last night on land staying at this very hotel.
Acquired by the BBC, the building was rechristened South Western House and unused parts of the building were later sublet to other companies as well as holding the local BBC television (and later radio) services. Finally by the start of 1961 the BBC was ready to launch their local television news service for the region.
Here's the first BBC South ident as shown before the regional news in 1962. Of course BBC2 doesn't yet exist therefore there was only one BBC TV channel available to show regional news and other programming at the time, though the same situation exists today ever since regional BBC2 programming was scrapped.
The very first news programme from BBC South was called South At 6 and was presented by Martin Muncaster who had been poached from their commercial rival Southern Television. Indeed there was fierce competition between the two rivals to establish local news services which of course still lasts to this day.
It's interesting that the end credits of South At 6 gave the production credit as "A Southampton News Unit Production", which does rather suggest that South Western House was only considered to be a news hub for the South of England, at least to begin with, but of course in recent times BBC regional production outside of designated production centres does tend to be restricted to news plus contributions to the regional magazine programme Inside Out. The South At 6 credits were accompanied by jaunty and upbeat-sounding music which would sound rather alien to anyone who grew up listening to the bombastic news themes of the 1980s and later.
South At 6 was soon renamed South Today when the start of the early evening local news bulletin was moved. Bruce Parker is South Today's longest serving presenter; his first assignment after joining BBC South was to report on the final departure of the Queen Mary liner in October 1967, and he remained a South Today presenter until his retirement in 2003.
By 1969 Nationwide had started but initially it was only shown three days a week. This magazine programme featured contributions from all the BBC regional news studios as well as having an opt-out for a dedicated local news bulletin.
Pictured here is the entrance to the BBC South TV studio. A narrow passageway leads to the studio entrance and a security guard is on hand to ensure that unauthorised visitors are prevented from entering the studio.
The BBC South control room was naturally the nerve centre of the broadcast operations. Due to the cost of establishing a colour service in the various regions, it obviously took a while for all the local regions to upgrade their facilities with colour cameras and transmission equipment. The weather summary featured a caption overlaid on a child's drawing.
This is the BBC South ident that was used circa the mid-1970s as seen on a studio monitor; the same stylised 'S' logo also appeared on the back wall of the South Today studio set.
And here's the identifying caption that was used to introduce the Southampton studio's contributions to Nationwide for much of the 1970s, as seen on a studio monitor.
Here is the South Today studio manager shown at work next to a studio camera. (Note the large size of the camera by comparison, even though the manager happens to be crouching.)
BBC South (and the other regions) produced regional programmes other than South Today; one example being Ponderosa Country from 1977 which featured local country musicians. These programmes were rarely networked since they were usually only of local interest, but one BBC South series that was shown nationally was Hey Look That's Me, which featured Chris Harris visiting various places and meeting children taking part in various activities.
Before lightweight video equipment became available (or affordable), local news bulletins often only featured a few still pictures or film clips to illustrate various news items, and of course photographs or film camera footage had to be quickly processed first before they could be utilised.
Here is BBC South presenter Paul Harris doing some in-vision continuity just before a closedown one evening; the year is probably 1977. Throughout the 1970s, each local region provided the links between each evening's programmes until this practice was stopped circa 1980 in order to save money.
And here is the South Today title sequence as seen circa 1980, which was accompanied by an electronic music-style theme. Snazzy if perhaps now rather dated-looking visual effects were to the fore here, showing the progress being made with TV visual effects technology.
The 1980s heralded new technology that gave news programmes greater access to pictures of current events, making bulletins much more visual as a result. Shown here is presenter Jenni Murray at the start of a South Today Falklands War special in 1982; she subsequently moved to BBC Radio 4 and was replaced by Debbie Thrower (who is now at Meridian).
Also in 1982 there was live coverage of the raising of the wreck of the Mary Rose, which was shown throughout the country but was a major news story for the Southern region. The same year also saw TVS gain the ITV franchise for the South (and South-East) of England.
Above is an example of a short BBC1 South news bulletin preceded by a regional-branded clock ident; again this dates from circa 1982/3 and uses the same colour scheme/"upside down coat hanger" S logo as used in the previous South Today example.
Competition between the BBC's South Today and TVS' new flagship news programme Coast to Coast became pretty fierce throughout the 1980s, with TVS initially having the technical edge due to their investment in new equipment but this wasn't to last forever. Ironically it was the future Director General of the BBC Greg Dyke that was working for TVS during this time!
Shown above is a short news bulletin from 1988 presented by Sally Taylor, and preceded by the South-branded COW (Computer Originated World) globe ident used on BBC1 until 1991.
During 1991, BBC TV South was finally able to leave behind their ageing facilities at South Western House and relocate to a new custom-built studio complex in Havelock Road opposite the Civic Centre in Southampton, which uses an environmentally friendly geothermal energy heating system (as does the Civic Centre). South Today commenced broadcasting from Havelock Road in September of that year, and South Western House was subsequently sold to a developer who then converted the listed building into luxury apartments.
Two years after the long-overdue move to new studios, South Today's main competition changed with TVS losing its franchise and Meridian's early evening news programme Meridian Tonight replacing Coast To Coast at the start of 1993. Meridian Tonight is claimed to be one of the most successful of the regional ITV news programmes which perhaps illustrates the level of competition faced by South Today.
September 1997 saw the new BBC logo featuring letters in the Gill Sans font being introduced across the BBC's operations, and this was the first South Today title sequence that featured the new logo. Digital television was launched a year later but it would be even longer before all the BBC subregions were available to viewers, and BBC Two regional optouts were not available for digital viewers either (but were soon to be scrapped anyway); even digital terrestrial viewers were subjected to news from London on the rare occasion of a regional bulletin being shown on BBC Two. And 1998 saw the launch of TV12, a local television station primarily serving the Isle of Wight, but that particular venture ultimately proved to be unsuccessful for various reasons.
Here is the BBC South regional version of the BBC One balloon ident featuring the Sussex Downs as used before local news and regional programmes, though there was another South-specific balloon ident showing the Isle of Wight's Needles rock formation that was used as well.
BBC South mainly concerns itself with local news and local politics, hence producing a politics (and issues) programme entitled South of Westminster. Much more recently, BBC South provided contributions to the Politics Show and along with the other BBC regions BBC South produces a local version of the magazine programme Inside Out which in this case was presented by Chris Packham.
BBC South celebrated its 40th birthday on 7 January 2001, so South Today looked back at the history of BBC South with a series of five short features shown each weekday during the anniversary's week. And there was a cake to cut as well.
During 2001 all of the BBC regional news programmes adopted the new BBC News corporate look, which was the first time since the demise of Nationwide that the BBC regions had used a uniform presentation style for news programming. The BBC Online Southampton website was also launched at the same time but was later replaced by Hampshire-specific pages.
March 2002 saw the 'dance and movement' idents replace the balloon sequences used on BBC One, and each of the regions have their own individually branded idents to use before news and regional programmes; BBC South tended to use either Tai Chi (pictured) or Acrobats.
And it wasn't long afterwards that the BBC News corporate look was subsequently updated to reflect the changes in general news presentation, with regional news title sequences now featuring clips of activities from the local region that were similar to the changes subsequently made to the News 24 'on the hour' countdown sequence.
The South Today studio also gained the new corporate theme featuring the 'red' colour that now serves as a common link between news and presentation, and the local weather forecast now uses the same studio as the news itself.
When the BBC introduced an updated corporate red and white look for its national and local news bulletins in 2008, BBC South Today naturally adopted the same look as well. Note that the name is now BBC South Today as opposed to just South Today, and as there are currently no regional variants of BBC One HD in England, English region-specific programming is only available in standard definition for the time being.
7 January 2011 was the 50th anniversary of BBC South, and this was the special graphic used to mark the occasion.
6 March 2012 was the day before analogue television transmissions were finally switched off at the Rowridge and Whitehawk Hill transmitters just after midnight, therefore BBC South Today featured a report on what was about to happen at the transmitters as well as explaining what viewers might have to do in order to continue receiving television programmes after the switchover, whether it was buying a new digital TV set top box or doing a rescan on an existing Freeview box.