Advanced Television

BBC Red Button reprieve

October 1, 2020

By Colin Mann

The BBC has reviewed its decision to bring an end to its interactive Red Button TV text services. In November 2019, the Corporation said it planned to remove the text and data element of the service as a result of financial pressures and the significant technical effort and cost of retaining the service, which would come at the expense of investing in other services.

However, following a campaign on behalf of people with disabilities, the elderly and those without online access, it reviewed the plan in January 2020, halting the planned closure, in order to learn about the potential impact on certain parts of its audience.

Writing in a BBC Blog, Dan Taylor-Watt, Director of Product, BBC iPlayer & BBC Sounds, noted that since then, the BBC had been in contact and had extensive dialogue with a wide range of representative groups to build on its existing research into what elements of the service were most used and valued by different groups.

“We have listened to this feedback – and I’m pleased to let you know that we have found a way to keep the most valued text and data elements of the Red Button service,” he revealed. “This means you will continue to be able to access local, national and international news headlines and stories, main sport headlines and stories, sport fixtures and results, as well as weather forecasts.”

According to Taylor-Watt, to enable the continuation of the most valued text and data elements of the service, the BBC was having to find ways to reduce cost and complexity elsewhere. “This will mean we will be no longer be providing Lottery results (from November 2020) or English regional sport pages and individual sports’ headlines, besides football and those on the main sport pages (from mid-2021) via the Red Button. National sport indexes (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) will be retained – as will all sport fixtures and results. Due to cost implications, we will not be updating the news and sport element of the service throughout the night – however, this will be refreshed each morning and then throughout the day to ensure you are up-to-date,” he advised. Red Button video streams for the likes of Wimbledon or Glastonbury won’t be affected by this change.

“For people using the Internet-based version of our Red Button service, we will be consolidating our Internet-connected TVs apps, retiring the BBC News and BBC Sport connected TV apps before the end of the year as well as the lottery and weather pages on connected TVs,” he said. “BBC iPlayer will become the home of much of the video content that is currently available on the BBC Sport and BBC News TV apps and the traditional text and data offer will remain accessible on the majority of Internet-connected televisions via the ‘Text’ button on the remote control,” he added.


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