The end is nigh for BBC Red Button text service

The end of the BBC’s Red Button text service early next year will mark the end of an era. It is the end of the service designed as the direct successor to Ceefax. It is teletext in all but name and its closure means the effective end of teletext in the UK. But will its demise be a real blow to many?

There are no publicly available figures on the number of people who regularly use the service. Nor are there figures which say how many of its users also use the BBC website or BBC News App. However one risk is that its loss could be a blow to some parts of the community – those who don’t have access to the internet or consciously don’t want to have access to it.

This may seem Luddite but some people, particularly some older people, may be sceptical of change or new technology – which is not to be ageist as others love the opportunities of the internet. There are also the socially excluded or disadvantaged to consider. Access to the Red Button comes as standard with Freeview.

However the question for the BBC is whether maintaining the service is really worth the cost and effort.

In recent years, there has been little editorial effort – the pages generally consist of the first 4 paragraphs of pieces from the BBC website. Sometimes the stories don’t even make sense in that form.

So will the end of the service bring about an outcry like the end of BBC Three and the proposal to shut BBC Radio 6 Music? Or will the text service go unmourned?

Certainly previous outcries have sometimes been a surprise to the corporation – not least a revolt against a plan in the 90s to axe Radio 4 long wave.

But even if the end arouses little controversy it will be a shame to let it go unnoticed.



PICTURED: BBC Red Button text service index page. SUPPLIED BY: The TV Room. COPYRIGHT: BBC.

Posted by Andrew Nairn

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