Created Th 10-Jun-99
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After five years of broadcasting, Channel 5 has decided to radically change its image. The revamp was officially launched on Monday, September 16th, 2002 and saw all aspects of on-screen presentation change. The trademark multi-coloured strip was gone and even the name was different: it now calls itself simply Five.
The great news is that as part of the new look, the channel's DOG device, which generated the logo that has lurked in the corner of the screen during most of the programmes, has finally been turned off, for good.
When Channel 5 first began at Easter in 1997, the logo in the corner was supposed to be cool, in the same way that clothes and trainers with prominent designer labels on them are supposed to be cool. The then-Chief Executive, David Elstein, told The Sunday Times: "Consumers are very brand-conscious these days, and we are definitely describing ourselves as a very modern channel. It would be curious to launch an old-fashioned channel without an image in the era of Next, Levi's and Nike."
But when Teletext ran a phone-in poll on the logo after a fortnight of broadcasting, the results showed that viewers thought the logo was not cool. 70% voted for its removal. Channel 5 acknowledged the 'handful' of complaints and compromised by turning down the DOG's intensity.
It has also played around with the look of the DOG over the years. For St. Valentine's Day in 1999, it changed into a heart-shape for 24 hours (see right). And earlier in 2002, it was joined by a Party in the Park logo sitting next to it.
In April 2002 The UK Campaign for Logo Free TV sent a delegation to see Channel 5 to put the case for the removal of the DOG. The meeting was friendly, with the Director of Strategic Planning revealing that plans for a re-branding were already at an advanced stage.
At first it appeared that these plans included the retention of the DOG. In the days leading up to the launch of the channel's new identity, the Duty Office confirmed that although the image of the station would change, the DOG would remain. However, hope emerged with a fortnight to go when it was admitted that part of the re-branding exercise would now include an examination of the on-screen logo. "Although at present," they wrote, "there are no plans to remove the logo."
Thankfully there was still time for the plans to change, and in early September they did. A statement confirmed that the DOG was history and gave the reasons for its retirement.
Let's hope that other channels can quickly improve to reach a point where they too feel their DOGs are no longer necessary!
Spot the DOG!
Love me, Love my DOG
An old logo featuring the multi-coloured strip
Images shown © 1997-2002 Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd
BBC Four's DOG sometimes has a few hours off.
BBC Four is the digital channel that rose from the ashes of BBC Knowledge, and hit our screens on March 2nd, 2002. It was promoted as British television's "boldest new investment in cultural programming for a generation" and its slogan promised us "a place to think". Curiously, channel controller, Roly Keating, without thinking, has managed to create a two-tier schedule of worthy programmes and the not-so worthy.
How do we know this? Well most of BBC Four's offerings, the tattier stuff, feature the station identifier DOG in the top left-hand corner of the screen. But for the good stuff, usually films, plays and concerts, the DOG is removed. Clearly some culture is more worthy than other culture.
And sometimes the decision as to what is to be left unspoilt is a very last-minute one, with the DOG appearing or disappearing half-way through a showing.
Implicit in this policy is the BBC's admission that DOGs are not popular. After all, if they were well liked, there would be no need to ever remove them, would there? So having realised that this branding device is hated by the viewers, why doesn't Mr Keating do us all a favour by removing it permanently?
The current policy is somewhat bizarre. For example, a programme on the history of paintings has featured close-ups of masterpieces defaced by a BBC logo, whereas the televised play, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, was shown logo-free. And whilst the news is DOGged, foreign language cinema is not.
Are we to learn from this that Eddie Izzard is more cultured than Picasso? Are copulating, subtitled Swedes more important than the reporting of world events?
When his channel first began, The Guardian invited Mr Keating to take part in an on-line chat. No DOG questions were asked or answered, despite many being submitted. On the channel's web site there is a forum which is full of discussions about the intruding DOG. In fact, it is the most popular topic of debate! But not once has Mr Keating responded.
It wasn't until July, when the BBC Four web site invited questions for Mr Keating, that we got any sort of answer. He said he would only answer one question on the subject and began by disclaiming that "in any case, it's an industry-wide debate, not just a Four thing".
If you would like proper answers about BBC Four's branding policy, then why not contact the BBC...
ITV1 has shown that a DOG doesn't have to be on screen for a long time to become extremely irritating. On March 2nd, 2002, it introduced a rotating graphic that appeared for only a few seconds, expanding to show the name of the show coming up next. Talking to viewers over the end credits is no longer enough to persuade them to stay watching a particular channel, it seems. So ITV1's new DOG goes one step better, by intruding further back into the actual programme, before it has come to an end.
ITV1 calls this marketing device an On Screen Next or OSN. Immediately after their introduction, viewers began complaining that their enjoyment of programmes such as The Bill and Heartbeat was being ruined by ITV1's distracting marketing. In response, ITV1 dropped OSNs from drama programmes after the first week of their introduction. Although this didn't stop them slipping one in at the end of an episode of Coronation Street in May 2002.
The ITC has also been looking into OSNs and asked the ITV companies to justify their use and report back on how many complaints they had received about them. The answer was 46. From this ITV deduced that viewers weren't too bothered by them. This is the ITC's initial assessment...
In July, the ITC told me that they were still monitoring developments and were "concerned that programme integrity should not be compromised to the disadvantage of viewers. In some circumstances the appearance of this device does not necessarily intrude while in others it most certainly does. We do not believe that a blanket ban is justified but will wish to ensure that the device is used only in appropriate circumstances when viewers are unlikely to object."
Davina McCall blinded by ITV1's quality programmes.
OSNs have now been adapted to match ITV1's new look.
So if you are bothered by the use of OSNs, it's important to complain to ITV and especially to the ITC, so that when the ITC finally makes it ruling, it will do so knowing that a large number of viewers do indeed object to their use.
Digital channel BBC Choice was born with high ideals. As the BBC's third network, it would complement BBC One and Two's output by going into greater depth. However, we ended up with another trendy youth channel. A station of repeats, Liquid News and repeats of Liquid News.
In ratings terms, Choice was a failure. Sky One, E4 and ITV2 all managed places in the Top 20 multi-channel TV programmes of 2002. There wasn't a single BBC channel represented on the chart.
All that may be about to change as on Sunday, February 9th, BBC Choice is replaced by BBC Three. A channel with a much bigger budget and one guaranteed by the Government to have fewer repeats. But it's not all change: the controller of BBC Choice, DOG-loving Stuart Murphy, has been kept on.
Here's the story so far...
In April 2000, the six-month trial period was over. Viewer Mark Carver, who had complained to the BBC at the start of the trial, wrote again to find out the results of this experiment and to find out why the DOG was still there. He was told by BBC Information that Stuart Murphy had decided on arriving at his new post that the DOG was here to stay...
At this point, my bullshit detector exploded.
The BBC have done some research into DOGs, and it reveals that the BBC Choice DOG has in fact had some negative reaction, with some viewers saying it puts them off watching the station. (See here.)
In a further attempt to get at the truth, Gareth Randall wrote a letter to the BBC staff newspaper Ariel in May 2000 to see if anyone was prepared to justify the existence of DOGs on digital without resorting to nonsense marketing speak. After all, all digital platforms can tell the viewer what channel he's watching simply by pressing a button on the remote control. This was the reply from Stuart Murphy:
So the DOG is there first for all the slobs watching and secondly for TiVo. But TiVo is basically a digital video recorder and we've had video recorders in this country for years. In fact one of the advantages of TiVo is that an interested viewer can easily find out which channel a recording was made from! And anyway, the BBC logo already appears in the opening and closing titles of all of its programmes and appears next to BBC programmes on the TiVo's menus. So surely a DOG is overkill? The excuse of the introduction of TiVo, a device which practically no-one owns, and which won't be owned in any great numbers for many years (if ever, judging by TiVo's poor sales figures), seems to be an extremely weak argument to me.
Could it be that the real reason these DOGs are there is so that up-and-coming channel controllers can make their marks (quite literally) and so somehow help further their careers? Sounds more logical than all that guff about TiVo!
BBC Choice has also experimented with DOGs for each programme and for a whole night of programmes. DOGs have appeared for Madonna Night and Robbie Williams Night. There has also been a LIVE DOG for Liquid News, which has also featured full colour, 3-D animated logos.
So should we expect more of the same from BBC Three?
In September 2002, Stuart Murphy was interviewed at BBCi about his new channel. He was asked whether it would be blighted with this plethora of onscreen logos that currently blights BBC Choice. Mr Murphy said it probably would be. What's the justification for that?" asked the host. "They get in the way don't they?". Mr Murphy seems somewhat confused in his answer...
The host then pointed out that all the digital platforms have an EPG so why is the DOG necessary. (A point Mr Murphy first attempted to answer in the pages of Ariel.)
BBC Choice DOG = logo + web address.
2xlogo + 2xURL = Overkill.
BBC Choice Wales - now closed down.
An early example of choiceus interruptus.
Sometimes they run out of repeats.
Original pictures from BBC Choice are © 2000-2002 BBC
Stuart Murphy is inviting intelligent arguments as to why the DOG must go. The contact details are below...
The HTV news DOG is still there...
Does adding a DOG to regional ITV news attract the MTV generation to the programmes or does it simply make the news look naff?
The clever marketing whizz kids at Anglia, Granada, HTV News, Meridian and UTV have decided to permanently brand some or all of their bulletins.
Tyne Tees wisely removed the DOG from its bulletins last year. If you would rather there were fewer DOGs and more skateboarding ducks on your regional news programmes, you can get in touch with them as follows:
...but the Tyne Tees news DOG is no more.
Could the fashion for slapping a logo on everything that moves finally be coming to an end? It seemed that way for a while on Channel 4. After getting a new logo at Easter in 1999, it decided to give digital viewers a DOG on all of its programmes. After this was dropped following complaints (see below), it then began instead to DOG different strands of programming. More recently, this trend was on the way out, with only one DOG remaining. Sadly the canine count has now gone back up, to three.
In 1999, C4 brought us a new 15-week late-night strand called 4 Music, hosted by Jo Whiley. Over the weeks, the DOG that came with the programmes, moved position, became transparent and finally went back to being opaque again. But when 4 Music returned in April 2000, the DOG had been left at home.
But the powers that be, wouldn't let it lie! January 2002 saw the return of 4 Music and the return of the DOG, this time with a new design.
The most recent series, which started on September 18th, 2002 features the same DOG. (When they remember to turn the machine on.)
The late-night strand, 4 Later, featured a DOG similar to the original 4 Music DOG, but with a mirror-image 4 logo. Happily this was eventually dropped from the programmes. More recently, the 4 Later strand itself seems to have been abandoned.
Jo Whiley has something in her hair.
The new 4 Music DOG, getting in the way.
Channel 4 Racing's red DOG.
Sports lovers also had to suffer C4's DOGs. The Tour De France and cricket coverage, being two examples. By adding the words LIVE or TODAY underneath the white box, C4 could pretend it was really Sky Sports!
Today the DOGs in white boxes have disappeared and most sport on 4 is DOG-free. The exception is horse-racing, which for some reason sports a little red DOG.
Breakfast TV on all channels has a DOG - usually just a clock. During half-term holidays, C4 used to extend its Big Breakfast programme into a Bigger Breakfast strand. This meant there was a clock on screen until the afternoon! (How stupid and pointless can you get?) When Babylon 5 was screened during this strand over Christmas in 1998, with a DOG so big it obscured the episode titles, C4 received a record number of complaints. In January 1999, C4 promised it would ensure that the end titles of all shows would not be obscured from view. But it still happened, thanks to the Bigger Breakfast clock.
The good news is that the Bigger Breakfast (and indeed the Big Breakfast itself) have now been scrapped, so there are no more clocks getting in the way after breakfast. The bad news is that its replacement is a daily dose of T4...
The Bigger Breakfast plays Blankety Blank with Babylon 5.
The first T4 DOG annoyed viewers of The Waltons. (It's actually coloured blue and red, but you can't tell in this shot.)
T4 DOG Mark II - Andi Peters' little yellow stain
T4 DOG Mark III - up Dawson's Creek without a paddle.
T4 and Dawson's Creek Days
Former Children's BBC presenter Andi Peters created C4's youth strand T4, introducing a blue and red DOG for the duration of the programmes and the links between them. This didn't please fans of The Waltons who found their favourite programme was now part of children's viewing on Sunday mornings. Over 100 people complained. I spoke to Andi Peters on Right to Reply (see link to the transcript and video at the foot of the page) and he promised to give The Waltons its own special sepia-coloured DOG. As if that would fob them off! Eventually John Boy and the rest of the family were moved to a new slot earlier in the day, outside of the T4 zone.
On Sunday, August 1st, 1999, the second version of the T4 DOG (see left), now yellow and in a different corner, appeared on C4 screens for most of the day. Tiny lettering above and below the DOG explained that it was Dawson's Creek Day. However viewers watching Stargate that evening were far from impressed.
On Sunday, September 10th, 2000, a new, white-outline T4 DOG span around in segments to reveal it was Dawson's Creek Day II. This appeared during Dawson's Creek and the bits between the programmes, but when Hollyoaks appeared, for some reason Andi Peters' old yellow stain was back in the corner. Shortly afterwards, a static version of the white-outline T4 DOG was adopted, and it is this which is still in use during T4 today, although nowadays it can be found back in its original home of the top-left hand corner.
In the Radio Times of 10th-16th February 2001, the Digital Know How page claimed that BBC research suggests that 81% of viewers find on-screen logos a useful reminder.
Is this research or propaganda? Who was surveyed and when? Were they digital viewers with access to an EPG? What age range were they?
The BBC steadfastly refuses to publish this research, but after much persistence from the UK Campaign for Logo Free TV, some light has been shed on the results.
According to the BBC, the research was carried out back in 2000 amongst viewers of BBC Choice. Which means they were digital viewers who did have access to an EPG. (But we still don't know many viewers were asked.) A "substantial majority", 81% said they found DOGs "useful identifiers of the channel viewed". Of course, BBC Choice viewers aren't necessarily representative of digital viewers in general. However, in the same survey, we learn that 29% would prefer BBC Choice itself to be without its DOG but with 78% saying it would not affect their viewing.
So 81% of a sample of BBC Choice viewers surveyed in 2000 found on-screen logos useful, but not necessarily on BBC Choice itself! 29% of these viewers would prefer BBC Choice to be DOG-free and, if I infer correctly, 22% say the DOG affects their viewing of the channel.
Is it just me or do these figures paint a confused story? I think it's time the BBC was honest enough to publish its research in full and open it up to public scrutiny.
Interestingly, Radio Times did its own survey in January 2003, asking readers what irritated them most about today's television. DOGs were rated as the fourth most annoying (behind programme trailers, announcing over credits and the over-user of music).
Can the BBC claim to care about its viewers any more when its own survey tells us it's happy to turn away as many as 22% of potential viewers from BBC Choice? Sadly, it would appear that today branding is far more important than viewers' choice.
Why not add to the statistics and tell the BBC what you think...
ITV2 was launched on December 7th, 1998, to viewers in England and Wales. It's now available in most multi-channel homes throughout the UK. Unfortunately, ITV2 decided that it would be competing against so many other channels, it would need a distinguishing mark. Hence the DOG, which sat obediently in the bottom left-hand corner. However, shortly after ITV2's first programme, the DOG had done a runner.
Another victory for common sense? Nope. It seems the Digital DOGgy machine had gone dodgy. "We have had a technical problem with the DOG technology," said ITV2, "but we are fixing it and the logo will be back."
Viewers were left to enjoy DOG-free TV for a full six months until the second week of June 1999 when the logo returned and ITV2 unleashed the world's ugliest DOG, whom I called Smudge. This is because whereas most of the other TV DOGs are white and disappear when on a light background, ITV2's DOG just became a smudge.
ITV2's Mark II DOG - Smudge
ITV2's Mark III DOG is sometime slim, but there's a fat DOG lurking
in the widescreen shed.
ITV2's Mark IV DOG together with the CBS bug in the opposite corner. Dave Letterman does not look amused.
The channel was quick to realise its mistake. DOG Number 2 lasted only a couple of days, not much longer than its first effort!
Sadly, whilst ITV2 agreed that Smudge was poorly designed, this didn't put the channel off DOGs entirely. So Smudge was redesigned and eventually returned to the screens again on Monday, March 6th, 2000.
But DOG Number 3 was not without its problems either. Because of the way it was added to the picture, it would vary in size and position. If a programme was transmitted in widescreen, then you got a fatter DOG in a different place on the screen. And when the picture switched between normal and widescreen modes, the DOG would seem to bounce around the corner in the transition. (We could name this DOG Bouncer after the real canine from Neighbours!) Eventually the fat DOG problem was fixed, but you do sometimes still see the bounce when they forget to turn it off, when the screen goes black during the switch between widescreen and normal screen modes.
On Monday, November 19th, 2001, ITV2 was relaunched with a new look and a new logo to match ITV1's. The DOG was changed accordingly. It has also learned a new trick - when there's live football showing, the DOG nips over to the right-hand side of the screen, so that it doesn't clash with the scoreline graphic in the top-left. It then darts back over to the left during the commercials at half-time.
BBC News 24 is the BBC's 24-hour rolling news service and was launched on November 9th, 1997. Like its main rival, Sky News, the screen features a station logo and a clock. But unlike Sky, News 24 spread its DOGs over two corners. This is the way things remained for the first two and a half years of the channel's life.
Then Sky announced that it was to launch an interactive news channel on Sky Digital and ITN also announced similar plans for digital news. So there was a quick rethink at BBC News 24. It's response was swift. The answer was a new DOG. This was added on Monday, July 17th, 2000 and used a third corner of the screen to continuously tell us the address of the BBC web site.
Was this a carefully considered marketing ploy or a knee-jerk reaction from a know-nowt marketeer? Well, the fact that they had to remove the DOG for a day, so they could correct the address (they forgot the "www." prefix), might give an insight into how well thought out this move was.
The URL lasted until Monday, November 19th, 2001 when BBC News 24 again sought to catch-up with its rivals at Sky and ITN who had already realised that displaying the web address all the time was encouraging viewers to switch off their televisions and in favour of browsing the web. (Now the top right-hand corner is used for digital TV viewers to invite them to access the enhanced BBCi news service.)
Not only was the URL pointless, it was also just plain ugly. You had three corners of the screen occupied with text in three different styles. The effect was a right old mess - like walking into a junk shop with odd bits of furniture scattered around the place!
But even with the web site address gone, BBC News 24's screen is still a shambles. Sky News and the ITV News Channel display their logo and clock as a single, co-ordinated graphic, taking up just one corner of the screen. The colourful Sky News DOG is also removed during breaks and title sequences. But BBC News 24's DOGs are always there, sprawled out in the corners. (Or near the corners, if you're watching in widescreen.) So the BBC could do DOGs better, but the question, as always, is why do them at all?
If you're not a cable or digital viewer, you can see the DOG's dinner that the BBC has made with your licence fee by watching News 24 overnight on BBC One.
If you don't like what you see, then why not complain to the BBC?
BBC News 24 source material is © 2000-2001 BBC
BBC News 24 - three out of four corners
The oops-we-forgot-the-www DOG
BBC Graphics 24 - you can just about make out the news in the tiny window.
BBC News 24 in widescreen, with all 4 corners occupied.
Is it Bottom? No it's arse.
Ironically, when UK Gold launched in 1992, it used a real dog to promote itself on screen. Today the station is one of the most popular in multi-channel homes, despite showing nothing but repeats (including BBC programmes with adverts inserted into them) and sporting a permanent logo in the top left-hand corner.
In 2001 it used another corner to tell viewers they were watching Summer Nights of Comedy. So we not only didn't have to worry about remembering which channel we were watching, but we could also tell the season, the type of day and the type of programme, all without having to think. Or perhaps there was a more commercial reason for this waste of space. This 'strand' was sponsored, by RadioTimes. So could this new DOG really have been there to remind us that a magazine, owned by the BBC, is throwing money at UK Gold to show programmes which they have already bought, from the BBC? Er...
A spokesman told me, "UK Gold wished to highlight the fact that the summer nights of comedy were every weeknight. It is a new thing for the channel to have a logo on each side of the screen and I think it has worked well over the month." They admitted that there had nevertheless been a few complaints. Unfortunately, this didn't prevent the channel from repeating the exercise in 2002.
UK Gold's latest trick is to display the name of the programme coming next at the bottom of the screen while you are still watching the current programme. Nasty!
The BBC seems to have woken up to the fact that viewers would like its DOGs to bog off and has done something about it, at least in Wales anyway.
On November 5th, 2001, BBC Wales launched a new strand of programming for viewers watching on digital, replacing the usual BBC 2 output with extra shows and "the best of BBC Wales". This new strand is snappily called BBC 2W and even though the new programme line-up didn't start until later in the evening, there was an unhelpful BBC 2W DOG added to the top left-hand corner of the screen from 6pm each night.
BBC Wales, keen to gauge viewer response to its new baby, must have been a little shocked to find that viewers weren't too impressed with the logo that had been slapped on their screens. But they were quick to do the decent thing - the DOG was gone after only a week.
Viewers wishing to sample the DOG-free output of BBC 2W in Wales can find it by switching to BBC 2 on any of the digital platforms. Outside Wales it can be received on Sky Digital only.
The BBC 2W DOG - enough to give even a vampire
slayer a fright.
S2 was supposed to be a new channel for a "fresher, younger, livelier" generation, and was launched exclusively for viewers in Scotland on 30th April 1999. From the beginning of 2001, however S2 has mostly been re-broadcasting ITV2, losing nearly all of its Scottish programmes. The pictures it gets come complete with the ITV2 DOG (see above), and so to disguise the English-origin of the channel, S2 puts its own, opaque DOG over the top of it.
You can see the results of this mess in the pictures on the right, from when ITV2 showed Aliens. Not only was the dark, scary film ruined by the bright S2 DOG, but it also kept getting in the way of the actors' faces, making the film look more like some sort of Readers' Wives programme!
This charade was finally ended on Friday 27th July 2001 when the channel dropped the separate S2 branding for Scotland and became ITV2.
To tell ITV2 you prefer its programmes without a DOG
Thanks to John Masson for the vidcaps.
Many channels that have a DOG, keep them on screen at all times, even during the adverts. Live TV was one such channel and their policy got them in hot water with the Independent Television Commission. Live TV showed many adverts for telephone "dating" lines. One such advert had the small print, showing how expensive the calls are, at the top of the screen. This vital information was obscured by the Live TV logo. In June 1999, the ITC told Live TV this was in breach of its code. The channel was forced to remove the offending advert and later redesigned its DOG. On November 5th, 1999, Live TV closed down and now there's one more DOG in heaven!
One year after the previous ITC ruling, music channel VH-1 Classic was found to be guilty of the same practice. In September 2000, the ITC told me it was reviewing its advertising rules and may revise them to specifically mention that DOGs in the ad breaks should not obscure important text in the commercials.
If a DOG gets in the way of the small print, do what I did, report the
DOG-loving channel to the regulator.
When Channel 4 introduced its new look at Easter in 1999, they had an extra special surprise in store for those watching through their newfangled digital set-top boxes. They introduced a permanent logo, burning brightly away in the top right hand corner of the screen throughout all programmes.
C4 tried to introduce a DOG once before, but backed down after viewers complained. Then in 1998 the BBC was forced to remove its DOGs from BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Choice on digital. (See below.) So knowing how popular DOGs are, what were the people at Channel 4 thinking when they began broadcasting a DOG for its digital viewers at Easter? Obviously they weren't thinking about the record number of complaints they had received over Christmas when they showed Babylon 5 covered up with a huge Bigger Breakfast DOG.
The digital DOG attracted so many complaints that C4 had to draft a standard letter to send to everyone explaining how its DOG was our best friend. However the letter failed to explain why digital viewers needed an on-screen reminder of what channel they were watching when this information and more can be superimposed by the viewer at the touch of a button.
But just as it looked as though Channel 4 had decided it knew best, the top brass had a change of heart. The DOG barked its last on Friday 30th April 1999, following growing complaints and the threat of the cancellation of FilmFour subscriptions. Like the BBC digital DOGs, it had lasted about a month before being put to sleep. And so we chalk up another victory for viewer power!
"These new logos are a great idea, aren't they Ted?"
One Wednesday night in November 1998, the BBC showed a UEFA Cup football match in which Leeds played Roma. As usual during a live game, the score and the time since kick-off together with a BBC logo were shown in the corner of the screen throughout the match. But viewers watching on SkyDigital wouldn't have seen the score because it was obscured by the digital channel's DOG, which is there all the time.
When the BBC realised the problem, its solution was not to remove one of the logos, but simply to shift the match graphics from the left- to the right-hand side of the screen, leaving the BBC logo in the centre. Viewers on digital were thus treated to two miniature BBC logos at the top of the screen throughout the match.
This behaviour was just the latest in a long line of craziness brought about by the BBC Branding Machine. The corporate BBC logo is permanently on screen during trailers for programmes; it pops up during the opening titles of programmes and appears at the end of them too. The BBC is obsessed with its corporate image and is determined to stamp its brand all over everything it's involved with. So the new DOGs on digital were a natural progression.
But Auntie had not figured that they may have gone one stage too far. Despite the few viewers then watching on digital, there were a huge number of complaints. Many of these came from the BBC's own staff and an MP was also involved in the clean-up the DOG's mess campaign.
Eventually, the BBC gave in. On November 30th, 1998 at 6pm, it removed the DOGs from its digital channels BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Choice. Unfortunately, those in charge at BBC Choice did not seem to learn anything from the viewer backlash, and decided to give the DOGs another go less than twelve months later. (See BBC Choice article above.)
BBC One in widescreen on digital.
The DOG, as seen
in the top left corner, was there at all times. Viewers north of the
border got to watch Hunt for Red October with |B|B|C| ONE Scotland
tattooed on Sean Connery's head.
BBC Parliament televises proceedings from both chambers plus select committees. But why does the channel have such a big DOG? It's obvious we are watching BBC Parliament. After all there are no other Parliament channels and we're not likely to mistake the pictures for those from Playboy TV are we? It's almost as if the BBC are claiming Parliament belongs to it rather than to the citizens of the country!
Yes, even BBC Two has a DOG. It's a sneaky one added overnight during the Learning Zone. What is the point?
Are DOGs popular?
The BBC and Channel 4 originally defended their decision to introduce digital DOGs by claiming that there were so few complaints that it was considered viewers actually liked the DOGs! This is nonsense. Channel 5 was the first terrestrial channel to have a permanent DOG. After its launch, Teletext ran a telephone poll on the issue and 70% of callers wanted the DOG removed. Channel 4 received the most complaints it had ever recorded when it put a Bigger Breakfast DOG over Babylon 5 one Christmas. Obviously the majority of viewers do not like DOGs or else the BBC and Channel 4 wouldn't have been forced to remove them!
Some might say that DOGs are inevitable and that there's nothing we can do about it. We've already forced the removal of DOGs from the digital versions of BBC One, Two and Channel 4. Channel 5 toned its DOG down making it harder to see, and finally decided to remove it in 2002. It was also viewer power that forced Sky to remove its DOGs from its movie channels during the films, because viewers didn't want them in the way. Channel 4's movie channel, FilmFour, was also launched without any permanent on-screen logos.
Are viewers stupid?
But, without DOGs, say the branders, how will viewers know what channel they are watching when there are going to be hundreds available? Well on digital TV, when you change channel the box tells you not only what channel you are watching, but what is on now and next too. And this information can be brought back on screen at the touch of a button. The broadcasters must think viewers are too stupid to operate their TV sets! But viewers are not stupid. It is the broadcasters' responsibility to make their channels stand out not with ugly designer labels but with distinctive, quality programmes.
Everyone else is doing it
If everyone else on cable and satellite are doing it, then the other channels might think they have to follow suit. But remember, the times when channels are most indistinguishable are during the ad breaks. Why then do Sky One and others remove their DOGs during the ads? Because the advertisers who fund these channels wouldn't stand for it. In the case of the BBC it is you and I who fund the BBC, and Auntie needs to be told that we won't stand for it either!
Do broadcasters really like DOGs?
Broadcasters are happy DOGging their own material, but already have the technology to blur them out when showing other people's DOGs. This has already happened on news channels and has also been used on camcorder footage and police video footage to hide the date and time recorded into the picture.
Are DOGs bad for you?
The word is that the expensive plasma displays in reception at BBC Television Centre have already been damaged by the use of DOGs - they now have the BBC logo burned into them. Do we want this to happen to our own sets?
At the moment most DOGs are restricted to digital, cable and satellite, so you might think it doesn't concern you. But one day digital TV will be the only TV available. And already DOGs are encroaching on children's TV and late night TV. If like me you detest this ridiculous use of in-your-face promotion and find DOGs intrusive, please let the broadcasters know. Your voice can make a difference!
The The UK Campaign for LOGO FREE TV site is devoted to ridding our screens of DOGs. Already over a thousand people have signed up to show their support.
What Video & TV magazine launched an on-line petition against screen junk back in January 2002 and invites viewers to add their names.
DOGs were in use in Europe and the Middle East as long ago as the Seventies. The idea then was to prevent pirate stations stealing broadcasts and showing them as their own. But it was the USA that first used DOGs as a marketing device. According to Peter Hall in his fascinating article for the web site of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the first US channel to get a DOG was VH-1.
Mike Brown ponders the use of permanent logos in Gone to the DOGs, an article at the Transdiffusion web site.
Another British anti-DOG site is Squash The TV Bugs. It includes to links to similar sites around the world.
Cafe Shez says TV Logos? Just Say No!
Scott Sturdevant's Stop the Logos web site campaigns for fed-up viewers in the US.