PBS idents are the television idents used by the US Public Broadcasting Service. Programs distributed to its member stations end with a television ident including the network's name and logo and often a voiceover, known in the industry as a "system cue". Prior to 1984 the logo was usually displayed on-screen for eight seconds; since then the logo has appeared on-screen for five seconds.
This article also covers the idents used by PBS's predecessor, National Educational Television.
This identity is rather rare, and only known to exist in black and white. It was used from 1966 to 1968. First, gray dots appear and disappear rapidly. A white circle is drawn around the dots and several curved vertical and horizontal lines cover the circle to create an image of a globe. A small live-action fire appears in the globe. Several white lines appear under the globe to make the letters "NET". The globe ultimately winds up on top of the "T". The music playing in the background during the animation is industrious-sounding. When the animation is complete, an announcer says, "This is N-E-T, the National Educational Television network."
A red block sets down from the left side of the screen, then, a yellow block rises up from the center of the screen and a blue block sets down from the right side of the screen. Afterwards, the blocks turn into the letters "N-E-T" before coming closer to each other. Then a man's voice would say "This is N-E-T, the National Educational Television network." As he says this, the words 'National Educational Television' appears above the NET logo. The words morph into a line, and it bends to form a roof with an antenna on it, which connects the T.
The color version followed the same principle, except that the announcer (believed to be longtime ABC staff announcer Fred Foy) would say "This is N-E-T, the Public Television Network." As this is said, a blue line (which replaced the words above "N-E-T") was drawn above the letters, and was bent to form its usual position. This was used from 1969 until the forced merger with New York station WNDT-TV (now WNET in October 1970, officially disbanding the network). Both logos were used on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (with the latter, the logo was superimposed into a building within the model set at the beginning and end of each program and still remained in reruns well into the 80s).
The music was a choppy synthesizer score composed by Eric Siday, who also did the synth for the Screen Gems ID of the period (referred to by some as the "S from Hell") and for CBS's color programming ID, which sounds somewhat similar.
Just a black background with the words:
stacked on top of each other. A man says, "This is P-B-S, the Public Broadcasting Service."
On October 4, 1971, PBS introduced its first animated ident. This ident features cel-animated tricolor letters that assemble onscreen to form the logo, similar to the concepts used for production logos from that era, such as those from MTM Enterprises.
This logo starts with a full-screen abstract purple 'P', which zooms out to the upper-middle, taking on the shape of a face in profile as it moves left. Soon after, an orange 'B' and then a green 'S' appear, with dots punched out to form the letters. In tandem with the letters appearing, the words "PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE" appear individually at the bottom of the screen, left-justified, and in a sans-serif font.
This ident was designed by Herb Lubalin. The accompanying music, composed by Paul Alan Levi, consists of a bold Moog synthesizer score which began with a rapidly descending, telephone-like scale, followed by six warm, heavy notes. This was the first PBS ident with no announcer.
The logo was used for all PBS programming until the third PBS ident debuted in 1984. But even after 1984, this ident could occasionally be seen if local stations re-ran programs using older tapes, at least until 1990. It is preserved on present-day DVD sets such as Sesame Street: Old School and Best of The Electric Company.
On October 1, 1984, PBS began using a ident with a redesigned logo. The logo was developed by Chermayeff & Geismar. It was developed to overcome a serious problem with the prior ident, which focused solely on the initials. Using a stylized profile of the human face, which also recalls the initial P in the prior ident, it repeats the profile two times, playfully putting the "public" in public television. This abstract profile has become known as the "P-head."
The ident starts with a purple abstract profile of the human face, facing right, set on a black background. A piece comes out to the right, and settles a short distance from the profile. The letters PBS appear below in a white, slab serif typeface. The accompanying music, composed by Jonathan Elias, consists of a majestic piano chord accompanied by some pizzicato tones, then a softer version of the piano chord. This is the second PBS ident with no announcer.
There are some special variations of the 3rd PBS Ident:
The logo was remodeled to its fourth format on October 2, 1989; the first PBS ident to implement CGI. In the ident, the profile used in the previous ident appears by rotating from the left edge of the screen, leaving a trail, then filling the screen. The profile appears as if it was made of glass. After the profile finishes rotating, a group of five lines streak across the bottom of the screen leaving behind the text PBS in very small letters in the lower-left corner. The accompanying music consists of a high-pitched string sound, followed by a descending harp scale as the profile rotates. Then, actor Liam Neeson says "This is P-B-S." Most PBS programs stopped using this logo in 1992, but kids programs continued to use it until July 1993. This ident was still used on taped reruns of Mister Rogers Neighborhood (until 1997) and Reading Rainbow. It can also be seen on some VHS editions of Nova and Sesame Street.
Introduced March 2, 1993, the fifth PBS ident might appear on reruns from time to time, but is otherwise rather rare. It starts with a pink glass circle rotating while the faces of various people appear and disappear whithin it. Then, we zoom out through the eye of the profile. The profile is also pink in an orange/pink installation art environment. The familiar "PBS" text spins in, in white and to the left of the profile. The accompanying music, composed by Peter Fish, is a jazz-style boogie, with a female voice singing in the background. An announcer, this time Maximilian Schell, says "This is P-B-S."
Contrary to popular belief, this ID is not animated with computer graphics, but rather was created traditionally with real models on film . However, the effects used to put the people in the circles may be CGI. Perhaps this was done in a backlash against the proliferation of computer-animated IDs. The profile is frosted glass, and the PBS text is rotated into place by rods beneath a rostrum. This logo was the last to be seen on children's' shows as well as adult programming, although this ident occasionally made appearances on 1996 television shows. In August 1993, children's' programming beagn using special idents.
A short featurette about the making of this ident was aired on some PBS stations to fill airtime.
There was a non-animated variant seen on Triumph of the Nerds and Square One TV. This consists of a still image of the profile and PBS text in a different pink installation art enviroment. This ident also appears out of focus (it is not known whether or not this was intentional), but slightly sharpends towards the end of the announcer spiel. The same music as the 4th ident was used.
This PBS ident was introduced on September 2, 1996. Its composition now included of a variety of objects: A telescope rotates in the lower left corner; a globe of the Earth appears at upper right; while at center a framed windowpane zooms in. The various objects fade away to reveal the P-head, which is initially yellow-green with the right section colored blue. These colors change to blue and green, respectively, while the "PBS" text fades in below. The end result resembles the 3rd ident. A female announcer, Lauren Bacall, says "This is P-B-S". She is the only announcer to reprise her job for the following logo (7th logo).
The seventh PBS ident was used from November 2, 1998 to September 1, 2002. It is a combination of live action and computer effects. It begins with a man or woman holding up a black, round disc imprinted with a white PBS logo. As he/she holds the disc in front of his/her face, several superimposed acrobats jump and somersault behind the person, in a circular pattern. The letters "PBS" fade in at right, while the PBS website address, www.pbs.org, appeared below in smaller type. The accompanying music is a world music/new age piece, with Bacall once again saying "This is P-B-S." Sometimes, the announcer will say "You're watching your public television station, P-B-S." This was the first PBS logo to include the network's web address, as well as the first to be made in a version with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio for HDTV programming. People who have held the round disc in this ident include Jocelyne Loewen, Jake Martin, Kyle Hebert, Lynne Thigpen, Michelle Ruff, Chris Rock, Steve Burns, Gong Li, and even Bacall herself. This logo is still seen on reruns.
This ident also introduced a minor change to the PBS logo. From hereon, the PBS profile logo almost always appear in a black circle, with the "PBS" text to the right.
The eighth and current PBS ident is quite different from all of its predecessors. It first appeared on September 2, 2002, and features live-action footage filmed on a large set with a hardwood floor and shaggy brown curtains. It has many variants, including "Young People" (voiceover by Edie Mirman), "Performers" (voiceover by David Kaye), "Flowers" (voiceover by Helen Mirren), "Daddy and Son" (voiceover by Kyle Eastwood), "Cowboy" (voiceover by David Kaye), and "Generations" (voiceover by Edie Mirman). It ends with the PBS logo animating over the scene. Each variant has its own special arrangement of the current PBS promo music, along with a voiceover. The voiceover is one of these four people saying "We are P-B-S," or occasionally (in the case of "Flowers" and "Cowboy"), "I'm P-B-S." The News Hour and Bill Moyers Journal stopped using this logo in 2008.
There is also a version that uses a purple-blue background instead of the original shaggy brown curtains. The words "Perspective. Analysis. Understanding." zoom in briefly and fade out, then "Be More" scans to the right, followed by the s and "PBS" in white. Bob Hilton says, "This is P-B-S." This variant can only be seen on Frontline. A special ident is also currently being used on PBS political programming for the 2008 presidential election.
Prior to August 1993, PBS Kids (the current banner for PBS' children's programming) television programs used the same PBS idents seen on adult-oriented programming (or the logos of National Instructional Television). Starting that year, a new ident was commissioned specifically for children's programming.
It consists of three PBS profiles, complete with appendages, drawn as a cartoon (and affectionately called "P-pals" by the PBS staff), set on a white background. The profiles are in different colors and patterns that change throughout the ident and eventually stop on blue, orange, and green, respectively. The profiles dance and sing "This is P-B-SSSSSSSSSS! Woo-hoo-hoo!,", then stop when a dog (also shaped as a P-head) walks by the lower portion of the screen and barks. At the same time, the third P-head adlibs and his red hat flies off of his head for a moment, then drops back on his head. The "PBS" text appears in black to the lower left to the profiles.
The music is a pop-rock tune with the profiles singing at once.
Recently, several new idents have been introduced. In each one, Dash or Dot, or both, participate in an activity, such as looking through a telescope and flying kites. These idents have been seen on new episodes of Barney & Friends, Sesame Street, and other new PBS Kids programs.
PBS Kids Sprout got its first ident in 2005, which consists of a green flower with the words PBS Kids written on it and the word "sprout" under it in children's handwriting.
At first, PBS distributed copies of its programs on its own, under the "PBS Video" label. There was no special ident for PBS Video. The tapes were simply copies of PBS' master tapes. Then PBS introduced its "PBS Home Video" label, going through commercial distributers: Pacific Arts (1990-1994), Turner Home Entertainment (1994-2004) (now part of Time Warner), and currently Paramount (2004-). PBS Home Video idents are usually modeled after past TV idents.
The first PBS Home Video ident was used from 1990 to 1998, and was modeled after the 4th PBS television ident. The large 3-D glass profile is set on a black background, filling the screen as it did on the TV ident. Initially, a cloudy sky pattern fills the profile, which then fades to a blue P-head against the cloudy sky background. Lines shoot out of the profile's eye, and "PBS HOME VIDEO" appears below in the familliar slab serif typeface. The text is filled with a "water" pattern. The accompanying music is a classical tune, along with an announcer saying: "The following presentation is from PBS Home Video." On some tapes, a PBS televison ident appears afterward. The ident would repeat itself at the end of the videotape, except that the was no announcer, and the music had a different, abrupt ending.