UTV branding and continuity replaced by ITV

In the lastest change to services in the nations, viewers in Northern Ireland will see and hear fewer references to UTV on the channel, as ITV branding takes over.

As a result, for the first time since the channel's launch in 1959, viewers will see ITV branded annoucements, trailers and idents throughout the day in place of UTV announcements. The measure was announced to viewers during UTV's main evening news.

The channel says the suspension of localised continuity announcements is part of a temporary package of measures introduced by the ITV-owned channel as staff count in the channel's Belfast base is reduced in the wake of the current virus outbreak. 

With the implementation of the move, UTV viewers will see the same annoucements and trailers that are already seen across the rest of the ITV network, across England, Wales, the Scottish Borders, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It also ends the creation of separate versions of ITV trailers with the UTV brand added in.

Although the move is described as temporary, since ITV completed its acquisition of UTV in 2016, there have been fears that the standalone UTV brand, used in Northern Ireland instead of ITV, would eventually be phased out, ultimately sharing the fate of other local ITV channel names in the rest of the UK. 

While ITV is obligated to offer a number of local programmes for Northern Ireland as part of its Channel 3 licence commitments, separate branding is not stipulated.

Unlike the rest of the UK, UTV has a long history doing its programme announcements differently, being the last station (until ITV took over) to have its announcers appear on-screen to introduce programmes, with announcers including Julian Simmons becoming household names.

UTV is not the only service in the nations affected by significant changes: BBC Two Northern Ireland has been suspended during the current crisis, with programmes moving to BBC One Northern Ireland and BBC Two NI simulcasting the main BBC Two network schedule, as is BBC Two Wales.

In Scotland, the BBC Scotland channel has suspended its pre-7pm BBC Two simulcast. Scotland's STV has also cut back parts of its output, dropping regional news in favour of a single news programme for Scotland at 6pm.

Early regional news bulletins have been axed on the BBC across the country, while various BBC and ITV regional services have been spotted pooling resources and sharing output, such as pan-regional bulletins and/or weather forecasts.