New BBC Reith typeface to give the British Broadcasting Corporation a unique identity, whilst saving money on licensing costs

By the end of this year, the Gill Sans typeface will be a thing of the past for the British Broadcasting Corporation. In place of Gill Sans and other typefaces, all typography for the BBC’s main graphics will use the BBC Reith font family. The BBC Reith font family comprises of ten sans-serif typefaces and eight serif typefaces, including italic versions. There are four weights available: light, medium, bold, and extra bold.

Where BBC Reith is not supported, Helvetica Regular and Bold are their recommended alternatives. The font family is named after the BBC’s first Director General, Lord John Reith.

A unified identity as well as economy

In Colin Burns’ recent blog post, he stated how the reasons are twofold. Firstly, to create a uniform style that is suitable for television and digital projects. The second reason was economy. To use Helvetica and other proprietary typefaces, we have to pay licensing fees to font foundries for public use.

If the BBC wanted to use Helvetica Bold, they would have to pay Linotype. To buy the full Helvetica font family, it would set you back £1,020 including VAT at 20%. With BBC Reith, a bespoke font family, bye bye licensing issues. Also a better deal for licence fee payers.

BBC Sport first off the blocks

First to try the new font family will be BBC Sport. The typeface in its four different weights will come into its own for displaying sports results, on-screen captions, and league tables. In the last week, it was given its first airing on Football Focus and Final Score. On the 19 August, BBC’s athletics coverage will follow suit. By September, the PDC Darts Championship and cycling events will be seeing the BBC Reith typeface.

The sans-serif version of BBC Reith is inspired by Humanist typefaces like Frutiger, Futura, and Eras Medium, with a hint of Grotesk leanings. BBC Reith Serif’s looks owe a debt to Georgia and slab typefaces like Rockwell.

Dreamkatcha, 17 August 2017.

BBC Broadcasting House, London image by Claudio Divizia (via Shutterstock).