BBC News Channel Theme Revamped in March 2013

BBC News Countdown March 2013The BBC News channel “countdown sequence” has this week has a revamp – new graphics, and a change to the iconic BBC countdown theme that rolls in before the hourly news bulletin on the 24 hour rolling news channel.

The change of theme tune and graphics co-incidences with the move of the BBC News Centre from studios in the old Television Centre in West London, to the new studios at Broadcasting House near Oxford Street, which took place on Monday the 18th of March 2013.

Various versions of the BBC news countdown theme have been used on the rolling news channel since 1998 to handle one of the constant problems with a news channel – filling the last 60 seconds of the hour in a way that handles the unpredictable length of reports and weather, whilst still neatly making sure the news starts at exactly the right time at the top of the hour. The countdown used by the BBC, with music created by David Lowe, includes various images of the BBC’s newsgathering organisation, typically showing how the news is brought you, often with camera filming camera.

If you’ve not seen and heard the new theme, here are a couple of clips we found on YouTube:

45 second countdown into a news report on 18th March 2013:


BBC News 85 second countdown:

There are a surprisingly high number of fans of the BBC News Countdown theme, including one of the guys here at Radio & Telly, who uses the old one as his ringtone.

Music: Much of the old musical theme is still in there, including the audible marker at -30 seconds, and the ten countdown “GMT” pips. For those accustomed to the old theme, it seems like quite a change. The theme has been around in various guises since 2008, and this change seems to have been the most radical of the various updates over the years to a theme that was once dubbed by comic Bill Bailey as “an apocalyptic rave”. The drumbeats are still there, underscored by a lot of strings. The drumbeats under the headlines seem unchanged, and the end stab after the headlines has undergone a subtle change too.

Images: The visuals have changed too, with new images including the space shuttle on top of a jumbo, use of the BBC’s Quickfire mobile news-gathering package, a BBC news helicopter in action, icebergs, and then shots of various data streams arriving at the new central London Broadcasting House complex. We’ve also noticed a distinct daytime and nighttime ending for the final BBC Broadcasting House shots. The old “data beams” from various satellite dishes have been removed, instead being replaced by datastreams (that can turn corners unlike the old satellite beams). There are also some interesting white tracking beams accompanied by low-level data bleeps (see -31 seconds and -20 seconds on the daytime version)

We’d love to know if you have any thoughts on the new countdown theme tune or sequence. Maybe it’s only us here at Radio & Telly’s that either noticed, or cared enough to write a blog post on the subject.

One comment

  • Heather Duffin

    We have a small teddy bear – Rusty – who dances to the news theme every evening at 10pm (she limbers up beforehand). Normally she sits quiety between us on the sofa watching TV all evening, but as we turn over to Channel 80, she springs into life. She preferred the theme previous to the new one, and became especially excited when it got to the couple of seconds when Kate Silverton (or the Flappy Lady as Rusty refers to her swishing about in her long coat) crosses the Millennium Bridge. She used to call out to the Flappy Lady but Kate never replied. All history, now. Rusty is quite sad. She sends Kate her best wishes, anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *