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Freeview scheduling on BBC Red Button - making hard decisions

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John Denton John Denton | 13:01 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

It's been a while since I last wrote a blog so apologies for that. It's been an incredibly busy time for BBC Red Button as we saw a record number of viewers tuning in for all manner of Sport, Music and Entertainment; we have been taking part in a Service Licence review (more soon) and this year we have begun to focus on how we can take advantage of TVs that are connected to the Internet but more of that for another day.

But whilst we enjoy your great feedback, a large number of your comments received are around the lack of Red Button content on Freeview due to restricted bandwidth on that platform.

We do try to use the capacity available to cater for the widest range of programmes and we have reduced run times of certain programmes to fit in as many services as possible.

Our top priority is major events especially Sport but also events such as Glastonbury, BBC Proms, Chelsea Flower Show, alongside Wimbledon and this year’s World Cup.

Outside of these events decisions are made based on a number of factors including: linear TV schedule, live services with uniquely available content, continuity for on-going and returning services, as well as providing a range of different genres to engage the widest possible audience. I hope you enjoyed these programmes that included for the first time this year; Dragon's Den; Inside the Den; Radio4 Comedy from Edinburgh Festival and Bake Off which taught people how to bake for Children In Need.

In the countdown to 2012, we are also showing a lot more Olympic sports including Youth Olympic Games from Singapore; Paralympics World Swimming, BMX all featured.

When we have to make a choice between different events of the same genre (often the case with sport and music festivals), we aim to offer what we think will be the most popular service based on previous audience figures. At the same time we endeavour to offer unique content and to enhance and not duplicate that already available on linear TV channels.

Occasionally it looks like we are showing the same content on BBC One (or Two etc) as on BBC Red Button but this is when we hand over from those channels to Red Button and we have a cross-over period. Often Red Button will be showing a live stream when BBC One is also showing some of that sport, but we have decided that maintaining one live stream on Red Button even if BBC One is showing some of it is preferable.

So we do agree that when live events are available on Red Button, Freeview viewers do not always receive the same amount of video content as on satellite or cable - although you can watch the same content for free via bbc.co.uk and often BBC iPlayer – but for all other content we aim to make sure it is scheduled on Freeview during the week.

To help viewers find the video content on Freeview, we introduced Electronic Programme Guide information available by pressing ‘i’ on your remote controls when watching a Red Button video or from the Electronic Programme Guide for channel 301. This allows you to record video (if you have a PVR) and also to make a note of times, a feature that is not available on other platforms.

Coming up in the next week is The Commonwealth Games where we will be looking to bring all viewers the very best of this sporting event. I hope you enjoy it.

John Denton is Managing Editor, BBC Red Button


  • Comment number 1.

    Answer ....

    Get ALL SCREENS on the BBC iPlayer Desktop PDQ. If you can get all the linear channels there, taking one small step further would really help.

  • Comment number 2.

    Don't confuse "restricted bandwidth" with your decisions on how to use the existing bandwidth. The choice was taken to remove Red Button content last year to make way for HD which many won't be able to get until 2012.

    The BBC deserve all the blame for this decision and can't blame "restricted bandwidth". There is also the question of whether it is a good use of license payers money for the BBC to produce content exclusively for pay TV platforms.

    Providing a higher quality feed online than is available via the pay TV platforms would start to redress the balance.

  • Comment number 3.

    "There is also the question of whether it is a good use of license payers money for the BBC to produce content exclusively for pay TV platforms."

    The last time I checked FreeSat wasn't a pay TV platform.

  • Comment number 4.


    Myself and several others ask this on fortnightly basis and never get anywhere. I have always argues that it is wrong that virgin and sky customers get better red button coverage than the rest of us.

    John, all I have ever asked in these blogs is whether you will ever let freesat match sky as the feeds are logically already being transmitted. Will you finally say that there are no plans to do this?

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for the long awaited blog on the subject John - though I'm not sure anything is answered by it.

    Two big issues though regarding the Commonwealth Games. Firstly, it's just billed as Commonwealth Games Live on the EPG, so pretty much useless as, especially with events during working hours for many, it would be good to know what exactly is being shown (I appreciate there is some flexibility).

    And secondly, bloody Wogan is taking the slot at night again. For events such as the Commonwealth Games only essential live content should make it on to Freeview throughout the period. With these being a daytime games, the red button should be offering at least highlights and preferbly delayed coverage during the evening. I'm sure Sky viewers will be getting up to 6 streams of games related stuff 24 hours a day - us Freeview folk will be getting nothing in the evenings!

    And two pieces of news today which add insult to injury. Firstly the BBC still ignoring this major issue on the biggest digital platform while thinking about wasting money on broadcasting the 2012 games in "Super HD" - a format which isn't predicted to be commercially available for another decade.

    And once again the BBC seems to be putting commercial opportunities before the licence fee payer. A stream is to be made available, but the BBC don't seem to even be considering reinstating an interactive stream. This is the third stream made available by the BBC since the two streams were axed last year - and the first two went to Sky Sports.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 6.

    Re: 5

    So, during a busy sports event thyey've actually left some non-sports streams on teh Red Button for those of us with less than zero interest in sport?

    Fantastic! Makes a change.

  • Comment number 7.

    Was looking forward to watching the three day eventing from the world equestrian games on the red button (on freeview)and was shocked to see that the most exciting part of the eventing (the cross country)is not being shown on free view red button. After enjoying 2 nights of the dressage being shown earlier this week I had thought that we were going to see daily coverage of the games and had set to series record. Very disappointed that there was nothing on last night or tonight. With regards to the cross country, All we appear to be getting is the highlights for an hour on BBC2 on monday which is after the 3 day eventing is finished! I was under the impression that BBC channels were supposed to be available to all and feel aggreived that it is only if you have subscribed to sky or cable that you are able to get the full coverage. If you are saying that there is limited capacity on Freeview for the red button, there appears to be a lot of time that the red buttons are not in use so why not screen through the night etc and people are able to record the red button and watch later? If it has been filmed and being shown on other red buttons I am sure that you can find time to show it!

  • Comment number 8.

    I have to agree with wendylock about the three day eventing, particularly as eventing is one of the biggest spectator sports in the country, with Badminton getting 250,000 spectators on a wet weekend in May !!!

    It would also fit in perfectly with your Olympic Sports coverage as Eventing is one of the few sports where we regularly win medals, so to limit the audience is just wrong !!

    I suggest you look again at your reasons because they don't make sense !!

  • Comment number 9.

    We have our top Eventing Riders at The World Equestrian Games and the BBC do not allow us to see the Cross Country on the Red Button (freeview). Amazing. Can someone at the BBC please tell me why not. I sincerely hope that they will do better at the 2012 Olympic Games.

  • Comment number 10.

    I too am very disappointed that the cross country eventing was not shown on the red button.

    The British team are in poll position for a Gold Medal, and yet this seems to be ignored by the BBC even on its mainstream sports news.

    Can anyone tell me how I can record on the red button?

  • Comment number 11.

    On Freeview you can record on channel 301 through the EPG in the same manner as other channels. I don't think you can officially on other platforms.

    I reckon this year we're getting about half the coverage of the Commonwealth Games on Freeview compared to four years ago with the axing of one stream and an apparent downsizing of BBC TV coverage. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would have been watching back then expecting that come 2010/12 we'd be getting a service more comparable to Sky, not less.

    And so frustrating not to have the no commentary option today as Huw & co. talked their way through the Opening Ceremony.

  • Comment number 12.

    Agree with all the complaints about coverage of the Equestrian World Championships in Kentucky. I can believe there has been so little of it on the BBC. Do you know how many people ride/follow horsey sports? Why can't credit be given to our teams both able bodied and disabled. Its no use telling me its on the red button when I can't work out how to find out what's on the red button!

  • Comment number 13.

    It has been mention in a previous blog entry that you will not be broadcasting live channels on the internet TV version of the iPlayer. But what about the showing of live red button events that would otherwise be unavaliable. e.g. extra commonwealth games streams.

  • Comment number 14.

    I am aslo finding it frustrating that the Commonwealth Games advertises 6 channels of Red button coverage but there is only one on Freeview. Unlike when the digital switchover started, there is no information on how to get the other Red Button channels. Is this because the BBC would then be seen to be advertising SKY (who I assume can get all 6 channels)? I can't find out from Freesat whether they have any of the Red Button channels so I assume they do not.

    Having done what the BBC asked and gone to Freeview I find it very frustrating to have had my Freeview service reduced to only one channel and not be told how to get the other channels.

    If I knew what I needed to get the other channels I might be tempted to move over and increase audience figures (unless it required SKY which I don't want to pay for).

  • Comment number 15.

    Hello again,

    Freesat - you can receive all of the Red Button sport video content on Freesat by selecting the Sport Multiscreen option from the main homepage or pressing 3001 Quickcode. This has been available since August 2008.

    Other Red Button video is not available but we hope to remedy this by Q1 2011.
    For those with an IP Connection to their Freesat HD box, you can receive BBC iPlayer and also BBC Comedy currently. So you can catch up with a lot of programming for the Commonwealth Games via iPlayer on your TV.

    Putting Red Button content into PC iPlayer is usually done for Sport but it does depend on rights what we can add to it.

    Freeview HD coverage is now available to over 50% of the country and you can buy TVs and boxes to watch HD channels now.

    The epg is only available on Freeview as on other platforms the channels are hidden. There are technical and business reasons why we cannot expose programme data on non-Freeview platforms. This means you cannot record Red Button video content easily unlike on Freeview.
    I will follow up why the EPG information is not more explicit as mentioned but I know when I push 'i' on my Freeview during Commonwealth Games I get full information rather than just programme title.

    I will follow up with regards to equestrian scheduling to understand why we didn't bring the whole event to you.

    So Freeview limitation is something that we will continue to work around by better EPG information, tighter scheduling and by reminding our kind presenters and staff to let viewers know when something is not on Freeview. Please do continue to read our What's On guide and check the Radio Times for information about Red Button schedule.

    All best for weekend.


  • Comment number 16.


    "Other Red Button video is not available but we hope to remedy this by Q1 2011."

    Does this mean Freesat finally offering a full red button service which matches Sky? If so, then thank you for finally being the one to address this issue along with a possible timescale.


  • Comment number 17.

    "Other Red Button video is not available [on freesat] but we hope to remedy this by Q1 2011."

    Now why couldn't the nice man at Freesat tell me that when I called up earlier this week? He did tell me that he would get someone from the BBC to get in touch with me within "the next 48 hours". 96 hours later and I'm still waiting!

    All I want is for Freesat to provide a red button service that at least matches the service provided on Freeview. I pay my licence fee, so I sort of feel I'm entitled to at least that, especially since I live in a Freeview blackspot.


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