A clock ident is a form of television ident in which a clock is displayed, reading the current time, and usually alongside the logo of that particular television station. Clock idents are typically used before news bulletins and closedown, though in the past quite commonly preceded regular programming. In the UK, it is also very much associated with schools programming.
Clock idents are typically displayed as an analogue clock, although some broadcasters have experimented with digital clocks. In particular, during the 1970s and 1980s, many ITV regions in the UK adopted digital clock designs, which are overlaid onto a colored card using CSO. The backgrounds were generally static, but some clocks had movement. For example, Associated-Rediffusion had a spinning Adastral. The final clocks from 1995-1998, used by RTÉ One and RTÉ Two, were overlaid onto a video background.
The first station clocks were mechanical, but were converted to an electronically generated format in the 1980s.
A clock will usually match a TV channel's normal ident or idents; TVP from Poland is an exception.
Clocks can be displayed in silence, but can also be accompanied by music or the voice of a continuity announcer giving program information.
Traditionally, clocks have been used before programmes, as well as after programmes and at closedown or startup. Their use before news bulletins ensured that the bulletin began at the exact time dictated by the schedule.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, digital television became commonplace and clocks began to drop out of mainstream use - delays caused by digital systems meant that clocks were a few seconds slow. Most television channels no longer sign off at night, eliminating the need for closedown clocks. BBC One stopped using a clock at Easter 2002 when it changed its idents from the balloon to the dancers. One notable exception is the Welsh-language channel S4C, which used a clock until 2007 at closedown and before news bulletins.
France's public broadcasters have historically used clocks. One of the more famous examples was the clock belonging to RTF Télévision which featured a spiral clock face. Designed by Christian Houriez and introduced in December 1959 it was used throughout the 1960s.
Clocks have also been used in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Poland and Hungary, among others.
Analogue clock idents were used in both the public RTP channels in Portugal, until a major rebranding on 28 January 2002, at which time they were replaced by less obtrusive digital clocks. Clock idents in Portugal have mostly been used before newscasts, although they were sometimes used to align programming with the schedule for continuity.
Clocks are usually not used in Asia, except on few channels.
In Japan, NHK had a famous clock from 1969–1985. The clock had a blue background and the clock piece was white, on the face plate multiples of 3 had two bars while the other numbers had one bar. There is also a NHK logo near the clock. NHK had many other clocks after that. NHK still broadcasts clocks prior to the 7am news, but does not do so during sign-on or sign-off since it started broadcasting 24 hours a day in 1989.
In Malaysia, RTM broadcast clocks on sign-on and sign-off, but clocks had been cancelled in 2009. Clocks on Radio Televisyen Malaysia had music until 1978 but in some occasions, such as before main news program, it has music in background. TV3 used clocks before news program it was launched on 1 January 1985.
In Vietnam, VTV and HTV broadcasts clocks at sign-on. On VTV, digital clocks are broadcast for 3 seconds before the main news program. But Telemundo now legally as TTV clock ident sign on 5pm since 1977 until 1986, 12pm since 1986 until 2007, 8:00am since 2007 until 2009, 5:30am since 2009 until 2012 and 5am since 2012 until current.
In the Philippines, channels do not display analogue clocks during closedown. Knowledge Channel, RHTV, ABS-CBN News Channel, DZMM TeleRadyo, and formerly RPN all use digital clocks at the bottom of the screen. In the Visayas and Mindanao, there are also clock idents.
In Thailand, Channel 3 used to air an analogue clock ident before news program in 1986-1995 after Channel 3 cancelled joint news program with Channel 9, and in sign-off sequences before it became 24 hours in 2005, but during TV3 had temporary closedown in May 2010, TV3 did not use clock idents. Between the 1990s to 2009, Channel 3 air digital clock video counting up to 8am and 6pm for the national anthem. Channel 7 used clock idents in the 1990s, and again between January–February 2010 before becoming 24 hours broadcasting on 1 March 2010. Channel 11 used digital clock idents in sign-ons before becoming 24-hour broadcasting on 1 April 2008. Thai PBS used clock idents in 2008 featuring 5-baht coin as the background. Channel 5 and Modernine TV are not known to use clock idents.
In Israel, in the period between the 70s and the 90s, Channel 1 showed a clock ident before Mabat (primetime news) or some other news programs, as well as sometimes during closedown. Nowadays, Israeli TV stations replace them with ads or other programs.
Since the Soviet era and even to this day, there have been clock idents shown in most channels of Russia, those include the famous Channel One Analog Clock ident with music changing every 12 hours depending on the time of the day, a CGI Kremlin tower clock shown before news on RTR's Russia 1, with the respective ding-dong sounds, and other clocks from other channels, including digital clocks, with the logo on the bottom, top or elsewhere, or even without it.
Certain other channels, like STS, don't broadcast news programs but do show a clock sometimes between programs, at special or scheduled checks or at closedown, though a nightly closedown is rare in Russian channels since most of them are already broadcasting 24 hours a day.
After a tragedy, or on a national remembrance day, those clock idents are shown silent and their color may be changed.