• Protestors hit BBC London HQ to save BBC red button
  • Changes to occur in coming days and set to end in a few weeks
  • Service considered “vital” for vision and hearing-impaired audiences

red button

Interactive services: Petition to save red button

Protesters have handed a petition to the UK government and the BBC over the latter’s plans to switch off Red Button services in the coming weeks.

The petition has been organised by the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), urging 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.

The NFBUK said the service is critical for people “who want to find out information independently in an easy, convenient and accessible format”.

It added that its withdrawal “will leave many people, who are already vulnerable, further isolated and marginalised from society”.

In a report from the BBC, the first changes to the red button are in place for the coming days with the service likely to close over the next “few weeks”, according to an unnamed spokesperson.

The petition demands an immediate pause on the withdrawal of the BBC red button Teletext service which is due to be phased out from this Thursday. It has asked for immediate clarification and public scrutiny on how the BBC came to the decision to switch it off.

According to reports, several protesters were seen outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in London on Monday morning ahead of the petition hand in.

Last November, IBC365 reported the changes the UK broadcaster announced to its interactive service.

Explaining the changes in a BBC blog, BBC CTO Matthew Postgate blamed “financial pressure and the continued need to spend the licence fee as effectively as possible” for scrapping some of the services.

The red button was launched in 1999, taking over from Ceefax, the world’s first Teletext information service, which was phased out after its launch 45 years ago.

BBC media and arts correspondent David Sillito said that ten years ago, 12 million people a week used the red button and reached around five million people who did not have access to BBC online.

In 2010, the service was considered “old fashioned” and was valued at costing £39 million per year to run.

Sillito said: “Maintaining and updating a service that is used by a rapidly declining audience is hard to justify at a time when the BBC is looking to make big savings.

“However, for people who have no access to online services, it is for some households (after the demise of other Teletext services) the only way to check headlines or weather reports at the touch of a button. It is also easy to read and simple to navigate.”

According to the BBC, it employed an independent research firm that concluded the vast majority of people could access red button information in alternative ways including from TV, radio and online services.

Viewers can still access this information on the BBC website, BBC News and Sport mobile apps - as well as 24-hour news on the BBC News Channel.