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Goodbye BBC Red Button!

The BBC is going to make saving this year of £150m because people are disconnecting their TV tuners and using the iPlayer online.

BBC Red Button to be cut off  Photograph: unknown
BBC Red Button to be cut off Photograph: unknown
published on UK Free TV

Too many people have been Cord Cutting...

Details have emerged today[1] of the current cuts to BBC services that will be made to save £150m from the BBC's budget – you might have had a go yourself at predicting the nature of the cuts.

From the £201.0m annual cost of BBC Online, iPlayer and Red Button budget, the £16m spent of Red Button will stop and £12m will be cut from BBC online. 

Another £35m will cut Sports rights,  £12m from the TV services, £5m from BBC News.

£50m more will be about 1,000 job cuts and £20m from long-term contracts.

This still leaves another £513m or so to be cut each year by 2020 to deal with the BBC taking on the social sending of free TV licences for the over-75s, something the governing parties manifesto promised to provide.

Will you miss the Red Button or is a relic from the pre-internet era? 


[1]  BBC unveils £50m cut to sport and TV under savings plan

All questions
BBC Three Linear channel re-opens1
Removing all barriers to communication between diverse cultures2
How do I get a test card with Freeview3
What can I do when my Sky Digibox says 'No Signal' or 'Technical fau4
Can I receive UK TV in Ghana?5
In this section
BBC salami-slicing returns to overnight services?1
#GreatBBC campaign launched2
Want to know how much the BBC spend in England, Scotland, Wales and NI per home?3
S4C and Welsh Exceptionalism?4
BBC future: make sure you make the deadline5
Time for the BBC to release the DOGs?6

Thursday, 19 November 2015
Jon Freeman
9:14 PM

I think the last time I used the red button was during Springwatch. My parents had spent a while trying to get into some follow on thing, asked me when they got stuck and it took me something like a further 10 minutes to get them where they wanted to be!

As for the text side, I think the Internet has replaced that for us although in view of a previous comment, it might also be worth noting that while I liked the old ceefax where I used to flick through things like county cricket scorecards, I never really got on with the digital "improvement". I think in terms of being able to get to read what I wanted, Ceefax made excellent usage of what were presumably limited resources.

As for cutting the cord and iPlayer, some of this started when things were a lot slower and Internet speeds here have improved here over the past 12 months and we often can get 3Mb but I still view it as a limited resource. We have mythtv with both dvb-t and dvb-s2 tuners and both PCs where tv might also be watched have their own dvb-t cards and I don't think we will be moving from this in the foreseable future. Our "rule" use don't use the iPlayer for what you can do by the other means still stands here.

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Jon Freeman's 15 posts GB flag

11:04 PM

Jon Freeman: Thanks for your comments. If I'm going to be picky here, it's worth remembering that Ceefax WAS a digital service. It - and Oracle/Teletext ran using 6 transmission lines per "625", which meant 6 lines x25 frames per second x 40 characters x7 bits = 42,000 bits per second, or 42kbit/s! As I've got Hyperoptic internet running at 1,000Mbps = 1,000,000 kbps I think I'm better off with the internet - my rules is save the DVB-T2 transmissions for thigns stuffed with adverts.It's odd that people think that Ceefax carried more stuff than BBC Digital Text, why is that?

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Briantist's 38,915 posts US flag

11:06 PM

Jon Freeman: Details of Teletext/Oracle/Ceefax here - 2 days left of analogue television - goodbye teletext .

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Briantist's 38,915 posts US flag
Friday, 20 November 2015
Jon Freeman
2:47 AM

Thanks for the info, Brian. I'll try to read up on the tech info which seem way above my own head at tomorrow. and see what bits I do understand.

I'm not sure about the carrying more data bit and would suggest that the ceefax (etc) bit at least for me was possibly a user interface type thing?

I'm no computer expert but followed the sort of Vic 20 to PC1512 to the past 10 or more years a Linux user and have some basic familiarity with the command lies/ shells.

I can't draw exact time lines but I guess I could suggest that where ceefax sort of fitted with my say DOS experience, the newer thing never for me was say a Windows (or as a Linux user say KDE) experience.

Sorry, clumsy I know but I can't think quite how to explain. It looked nice but I never found it worked as I'd have wished.

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Jon Freeman's 15 posts GB flag
Saturday, 21 November 2015

11:09 AM

Briantist: When you read the article, you realise that:

a) The Telegraph actually reported it straight (which makes a change), although they described BBC4 as upmarket, which is the sort of cliche they normally use for Waitrose.

b) The BBC are playing a clever game. By delayer management, paying less for sport, etc, they can show they have listened to their critics. And the push for better Scottish coverage (such as hireing the excellent Sarah Smith as Scottish Editor) show they recognise the complaints from some sectors in Scotland.

However, what they are saying in very clear terms is that its all about the money, and thats down to the government, not them. They had a deal about the closing of the loophole, and its looks like Whittingdale is trying to welch on the deal, hence them talking about it. It boxes the government in on their promise.

And they have mentioned BBC4 and CBBC/Cbeebies, and what will happen if there is no more cash. Thats the big guns. It reminds you of the scene in Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little holds a gun to his own head. BBC4 and the children's channels are urBBC - its the very essence of public service educational goodness - its what the BBC does, and pretty much everyone else doesn't. They should be their sheild, so why are they putting them on the table?

BBC3 went because they needed to save money, and although it gets more viewers than BBC4, the channel is watched by a fragmented and undemonstrative audience. Yes, they might tweet, but they dont write letters to the Telegraph. BBC4, on the other hand, has a very loyal audience, who do communicate, who do write letters to the Telegraphe, Times and the Daily Mail, as well as their (often Tory) MP.

Same goes for Cebeebies and CBBC. If you dont have kids, they are not on your radar. If you do, you tend to treasure them. CITV isn't awful, but its full of ads and mostly bought in stuff. Pop TV (which my kids have latched onto like junk food) is worse - huge amounts of toys ads, and even some programmes which are in effect ads themselves (My Little Pony, Transformers). The kids are not going to write to their MP, etc when Mr Tumble vanishes from the screen, but their parents will. And their grandparents.

A couple of years back, the GOP in Congress floated a bill to defund what little part of Federal funding PBS received, and then Mitt Romney said the same thing during the 2012 election. It was basically political theatre, although it distracted attention from some even worse things that the GOP actually did do. However, Romney was widely condemned (and worse - laughed at). People got angry. When people tweet phrases like 'Sesame Street is brought to you by the letter F and U', you know you have a problem - Internet Gets Big Bird's Back After Romney Says He'd Defund PBS | WIRED

The middle class Tory voters who love BBC4 are going to get angry. And the BBC will point out whose fault it is. People often complain that the BBC pays James Purnell (often described as a failed Labour politician). They pay him because he thinks like a politican, and isn't stupid. It will be interesting to see what the Government does, because I'm not sure if Whittingdale is singing from the same hymn sheet as Osbourne on tactics.

As for Jesse Norman, there is an old phrase in American politics - 'if you want a funeral, hire an undertaker'. Jesse Norman is, at best, a concern troll. He, much of the committee he heads, and certainly Whittingdales 'advisors', are there to destroy the BBC, for political, ideological and business reasons. They can't just say that, but thats how it is. He will smile, and do his best to murder while still smiling. However, the BBC does have allies (even if the dont regard themselves as such), and I suspect its alerted some of them to what might happen. Clever.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
11:53 AM

I cancelled my tv license two months ago as I only watch catch up and dvd's/ld's.

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David's 20 posts GB flag
6:22 PM

I remember seeing Ceefax at the Science Museum back in the 1980, and I still didn't have a TV with a text facility.

I use the news and weather pages on the BBC text service every morning to get a 'flavour' of the day, although some of the news summaries appear to have been written by a pupil on work experience. I also check my lottery ticket via this medium just in case I've become a millionaire overnight. It's useful for sports results, exchange rates and so on.

I'd be sad see it go; it's much more convenient than 'firing up' the 'puter in the morning.

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Peter's 14 posts GB flag
8:05 PM

I'll miss it because as we don't have a permanent internet connection (working on a dongle and trying to stay at 15/3gb/mth) I use the red button to watch F1 highlights, Music concert reruns/live and at the world cup the other matches.

Plus I'm always checking 301/302 for sports news/scores and 501 for entertainment... it'll be cutting me off :(

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matthew's 11 posts GB flag
Sunday, 22 November 2015

7:38 AM

The whole concept of cancelling your tv licence, just because you don't watch live TV is a nonsense. You are still consuming BBC programmes, but expect them to be provided free. I know at present that's how I pay for BBC content and think it is well worth it. I don't use the Red button services hardly at all. Maybe Wimbledon. Yes I use iPlayer, but feel I shouldn't expect it for free. Either the government changes the rules, so you pay for BBC content however you get it, or we will loose some of the best programmes on TV. I record commercial programmes, so I can skip the ads, which I know are how those programs are paid for.
I am thinking of ditching my phone landline to stop paying silly money for line rental etc., etc and just stick to mobile numbers as we hardly use the phone.

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Billl's 47 posts GB flag

2:23 PM


I worked as a Senior Engineer for a TV Rental company back then and was selected by the BBC in 1977 to conduct various tests on the then fledgling service. Once the equipment was set up correctly, and the aerial aligned to minimise any ghosting, the system worked reasonably well. Over the years it was improved considerably and became much more reliable, though symbol drop-out was always a problem in some locations with signal reception problems that were acceptable to the picture but caused teletext (the generic term for all such services) to be less reliable.

I've always found the Red Button text service to be lacking in content, it had/has much less that the earlier teletext (Oracle, Ceefax and later Teletext) services provided.

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MikeP's 215 posts GB flag
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