• BBC halts red button changes after NFBUK’s petition
  • “Difficult decisions” to be made says CTO Matthew Postgate
  • NFBUK said the news was “fantastic”

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Red button: BBC postpones switch off following petition

The BBC has responded to a petition urging the broadcaster by delaying the switch-off of its red button text services a day before it was planned to be phased out.

The news was confirmed by chief technology and product officer Matthew Postgate in a blog post where he explained the service will remain in its current state while the BBC explores in more depth the issues around removing the feature.

He wrote: “We want to understand more about the possible impact the closure of this service would have, particularly on the elderly and people with disabilities.

“We will listen carefully and with an open mind to the views which have been expressed. And we will be talking to representative groups and gathering evidence from them.”

The service was due to have been completely closed in the coming weeks.

Postgate said the decision to switch off the service was made after a “number of financial pressures and challenges which mean we must think carefully about what we can afford to do.”

Amid the financial pressures, the broadcaster is looking to cut back on expenses and the red button costs around £39 million per year to run.

Postgate added: “It means we have to make difficult decisions and can’t carry on offering everything we have in the past, as we need to re-direct resources towards new and better ways for people to experience BBC content across all our platforms.”

However, a petition organised by the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), urged decision makers to consider how “vital” the red button is for those with limited sight, hearing impairments and those who have no access to the internet.

In a letter to MP Damian Collins, BBC director general Tony Hall, who is set to leave the broadcaster in the summer, said he would examine the concerns and make “a fresh decision” in the spring.

He said: “These are issues which I feel deserve to be explored in more depth before again considering whether to close the service.”

The NFBUK said the news was “fantastic” and that it was looking forward to working with Mr Collins, the BBC and the British Deaf Association “for a better resolution”.