Big Centre Television

Box Set: Continuity

Now this is where it gets a little anorakky, so pull up your hood, do up the zip and brace yourself…

On the telly, the bits between the programmes where you hear the announcer speaking and saying things like “This is BBC1, now it’s time to see who’s the most depressed, in tonight’s seventeenth edition of EastEnders”. Yeah, well, anyway, those announcer bits are also known as ‘Continuity’. Oddly enough that sort of thing has quite a big following online these days.

I had grown up watching people like Mike Prince doing it on ATV & Central and at one point on my radio show in the early 2000’s I’d do some jokey stuff using the old music. When I got a chance to do it for real, and was actually working alongside the real Mike Prince himself at Big Centre TV I was once again in my element!

Big Centre had never really done any of its own continuity, because there simply wasn’t the time to devote to this kind of ‘luxury’. The programmes were made, sent over the internet to the play-out company, who would broadcast them out to the transmitters, and then into your telly-box, according to a specifically-timed schedule which we controlled back at the station.

It was perfectly possible to schedule elements like this, but due to time-constraints and the availability of people who all had specific roles, there wasn’t the chance to do anything like this. All we could do was run programme trailers (when individual programme producers remembered to make or update them) plus station idents of varying durations from 5 seconds all the way up to a minute. We would also occasionally run the odd classic pop music video as filler items (I exploited this during the season of my Tiswas programmes, by running ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘The Bucket of Water Song’)

For some reason I became involved in a conversation about doing some form of continuity for the station, and it was suggested that I make a couple of demo versions of ‘run-downs’ to promote the schedule for a particular evening.

So this is what I came up with (I did all of the graphics arrangements too). My years in radio helped of course, and the Big Centre bosses must have liked them because I did a set to be used across the Christmas period in 2015, then I was asked to do more for the following months too.

All of these had to be pre-produced and scheduled as there was still no chance of dedicating someone to do it all the time, even less so doing it live (bar the odd ‘coming up tonight’ mentions within the News).

I deliberately followed a similar style to that which had been popular years before on Central Television, even making use of the same library music tracks in order to evoke a similar feeling of familiarity in the audience. I kept the graphics to a minimum whilst still using colourful and eye-catching designs and library backgrounds.

Each one had to be as flexible as possible, and so multiple versions with (for example) ‘Tuesday’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Today’, ‘Tonight’ were produced. I kept the voice-overs fairly generic too in order to mix and match differing speeches, at different lengths, with different backgrounds, differing music, for different ‘times’. In all I produced quite a few versions and variants on a theme in quite a short space of time. Exactly the same as Central had done all those years before.

Big Centre underwent a number of changes in the Spring of 2016, including new branding and although there was some talk about expanding the amount of continuity they ultimately decided against anything more like this as it was still difficult to spare anyone enough time to achieve what was needed. For a while we began to make a 2 minute ‘start-up’ segment for 7am, produced the previous evening by the duty News presenter in order to promote the breakfast news programme – and once again I prepared the graphics and styling for this.

Later, when the company was merged with Made Television, any station promotion was originated in Leeds. Although I did manage to do one final piece of continuity for the closedown of the final day of Big Centre before it was altered to Made in Birmingham and I played the chiming ‘Birmingham Lads’ signature tune for one last time, all fully approved and encouraged by Mike Prince and our brilliantly creative Station Manager Mat Cooper.

Now, its bee-in-my-bonnet time! For any budding ‘mock’ continuity announcers on YouTube, less is more, keep it actually interesting, don’t be self indulgent, and for pity’s sake DON’T SOUND BORED! If appropriate try to smile when you talk! (you can tell I’ve taught broadcast journalism can’t you!!)

Watch my bits-between-the-programmes now!

A quick note about how the listings below work. Videos all play in the main big screen, and you choose from the thumbnail listing underneath! Oldest first, newest last. Most of the titles are self-explanatory, and there are some alternate versions. Some have my own reference codes on but you’ll see what they are when you watch them!

This article, along with various others in my website are part of the wider story of Big Centre Television as seen from the perspective of the programmes I was making at the time. Most of the articles contain a video gallery of the original shows that I made.

I was with Big Centre Television from the very first day of production in January 2015 until the last of the original team were made redundant in November 2017 when the bulk of production and operations were being moved up to Leeds, the HQ of Made TV with whom Big Centre had merged in October 2016. Big Centre had a wonderful team all the way through, I miss them all and I remain really proud of what we ultimately achieved.

Contents (click an entry to go to that page)

  1. The Beginning
  2. Spring 2015 - An (Early) Day In The Life
  3. July/August 2015: Postbag
  4. Summer 2015 - Reading The Television News
  5. Summer 2015: Crossroads Check-In
  6. Summer 2015: Tiswas Pies Again! (new 8th July 2022)
  7. August 2015: The Story of Children's Television
  8. Bloopers and Behind the Scenes
  9. Autumn 2015: The Big Centre Magazine
  10. Winter 2015: The Midland – Weekend Edition
  11. Continuity - The Bits Between TV Programmes
  12. Spring/Summer 2016: The Big Magazine
  13. Autumn 2016 - Spring 2017: Weekend Magazine (Walsall)
  14. Promotional Trailers
  15. Summer 2017: Weekend Magazine (Birmingham)
  16. Autumn 2017: Community Noticeboard... and The End...

As time goes on, I'll be filling in some of the gaps as well as adding more to these existing parts of the story too. If there's anything missing, or you'd like me to talk about something in particular, send me a message on social media (see the very top or very bottom of this page) or contact me through the website.