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BBC Red Button in the Freeview EPG

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Andrew Bowden Andrew Bowden | 11:05 UK time, Monday, 16 March 2009

In our What's On post on Wednesday, we mentioned that one of the comments heard regularly is that people don't always know about some of the content we have on the red button.

As well as our What's On posts, there's schedules for our Sport and Music services, available on the BBC website.

And if you've got Freeview, there's now another another way as you'll now find BBC Red Button entries in the electronic programme guide on channels 301 and 302.

Channels 301 and 302 are the two channels we use to broadcast our video based services, like Sport Multiscreen, CBBC extra and music concerts, and technically they act and behave as any normal TV channel would - and that means we can put programme information for them in the EPG.

This data hasn't traditionally been held in the BBC's normal schedule database, hence it hasn't been available before.

Getting the data isn't as simple as it would be for a normal TV channel. Our schedulers often schedule long blocks of content that is then repeatedly looped over a number of hours - for example, the Sport News Loop in our Sport section (page 300) is usually scheduled in six hour blocks, whilst the video is a couple of minutes long. As the loop can also vary in length, the schedulers don't normally know in advance when each instance will begin and end, which means breaking down the six hour block is not easy.

On the other hand some items like Five Live's 606 - which is broadcast under the red button every Wednesday night from 10pm - are on for just an hour and a half and are therefore much easier to work with!

At the moment, only Sport content is featured, although the aim is to extend the listings for non-Sport services in time once we have the relevant data plugged into our scheduling systems.

We're also currently only able to offer the information on Freeview, although we are looking at how we can provide similar data on other platforms.


  • 1. At 1:47pm on 16 Mar 2009, gottago wrote:

    I'm glad you've done this as it's very useful and much easier to use with a PVR.

    Could you not actually name the channels 'BBC Red 1' and 'BBC Red 2' etc in the EPG so people could realise that it is possible to get access to the channels without having to press red. '301', '302' etc just looks messy.

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  • 2. At 10:29am on 17 Mar 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

    Good thought - I'll speak to the powers that be.

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  • 3. At 8:09pm on 17 Mar 2009, Brekkie wrote:

    The sport listings have helped a lot. Would it not be something to have something similar to the BBC Sport guide (via the blue button) for the general service - just like the last blog highlighting what's on BBCi (give us a few years, it's still Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon where I'm concerned!) for the week.

    And what's the situation now with OFCOM stealing bandwidth to launch their poorly thought out Freeview HD service? The early talk was that the BBC may lose an interactive stream to accommodate it - something which I don't think any Freeview viewer would want. After all, something like 8 million use the interactive services during the Olympics, yet less than a couple of hundred thousand have HD.

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  • 4. At 10:00am on 18 Mar 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

    There's been suggestions of doing something like the Sport guide in the main service, and I know one of my colleagues was looking into it (he's away at the moment so I can't ask him).

    As for what happens for Freeview HD, that's something we're still waiting to find out what exactly is going to happen. There's several different options on the table, and it's taking a lot of discussion. When we find out, I'll try to organise a post about it.

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  • 5. At 10:13am on 18 Mar 2009, Brekkie wrote:

    It's something that needs to be fought for. Freeview is already at a severe disadvantage having just the two streams for all services compared to the multiple streams on Sky, and cutting it down to one would be ridiculous.

    Frankly the news multiscreen would have to go first if it came down to it, with perhaps some replacement service available when 301/302 aren't being used.

    All this talk about the HD Olympics really annoys me - I for one was hoping 2012 would be the year where we finally got an interactive service which compared favourably to Sky.

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  • 6. At 6:10pm on 18 Mar 2009, jTemplar wrote:

    While I am all in favour of the content via the red button, in much the same way as I was in favour of Ceefax via the 'Text' button, why must we have the incessant presence of the "Press Red" icon (also known as the trigger).
    I knew Teletext was available, ( I read the manual), and in fact that was one of the criteria in choosing the TV. Equally, I know there are digital interactive services available via the red button and so would prefer to not have the 'Trigger' repeatably pushed in my face; I know I can press 'green' to remove it, however, as you may be aware, the people at BBC News keep putting it back up.
    As for the schedules being available on the BBC website and now in the EPG, this is most welcome - well done!

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  • 7. At 11:07pm on 18 Mar 2009, Andrew wrote:

    @Brekkie: HD in itself isn't really the problem, the problem is the fact that Ofcom wants to sell off all of the old analogue spectrum without setting any of it aside for future use for HD or more interactive services. So it means that when all of the four planned HD channels on Freeview have launched (by about 2011 if things go to plan), that's it. There'll simply be no more room. And obviously you can't ask people to buy new equipment that can receive DVB-T2 and H.264 and have a 'second switchover' when the first switchover wouldn't even be finished yet. It's very short-sighted.

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  • 8. At 11:48am on 19 Mar 2009, Brekkie wrote:

    There is almost unanimous agreement OFCOM's plans for HD on Freeview aren't viable in the long term at all. I'd still like to know what happened to change the views of the major broadcasters, including the BBC, from it being an awful idea one day to unanimous approval the next.

    I think they'll be a bit of a backlash when people realise their Freeview HDTV's they've been buying over the last couple of years actually won't be able to receive HD due to the change in transmission mode.

    And beyond the BBC too I was hoping DSO would give the space for ITV and C4 to offer at least one interactive stream each, but I guess unless OFCOM made it a condition of their slots on Freeview it's not going to happen as a channel without a regular schedule is probably not commercially viable.

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  • 9. At 2:24pm on 19 Mar 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

    Brekkie - there's some confusion around HD TVs.

    What most people have are "HD Ready TVs" - TVs which can display HD programmes if a HD set top box is plugged in.

    The only TVs I'm aware of that can pick up HD without the need of a set top box are some TVs with Freesat integrated into them. There's never been any TVs which would have picked up HD directly from Freeview on the market.

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  • 10. At 12:20pm on 21 Mar 2009, Brekkie wrote:

    And that's the problem - the general public, and indeed in most cases even the people selling them, aren't aware of that - and OFCOM have failed to consider how annoyed people who (wrongly) believed they had future-proofed their TVs in preparation for HD will be when they discover they still need a new set-top box to get the (limited) service. For the rest of us it's annoying that a whole mux is being lost for such a small service which doesn't seem to be that viable in the long term.

    And as naturally HD becomes the norm for TV channels, the BBC along with other broadcasters will be wanting to offer all their channels in HD, and for that to happen on Freeview at least it's going to mean an inevitable second switchover where all SD signals are turned off and replaced with HD equivalents - by which time we'll probably be moving on from HD anyway.

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  • 11. At 3:01pm on 30 Mar 2009, djce_uk wrote:

    Increased visibility of interactive content can only be a good thing. Lack of awareness of this content has been cited as one of the reasons for the "press red" nag buttons; so here's hoping that the nagging stops ASAP.

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  • 12. At 08:06am on 02 Apr 2009, peper03 wrote:

    Any chance of adding the red button EPG to satellite so we could record things like the F1 Red Button Forum? There are seven (?) video feeds on satellite and we have no way of knowing in advance which one will be used.

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  • 13. At 09:21am on 02 Apr 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

    Hi peper03

    Currently we're not able to put red button content into the Sky EPG.

    This is because of some technical problems we have internally at the BBC.

    One big one is that we need a way in our systems to link a Red Button item with an associated programme on a BBC channel.

    For example, there needs to be a link between BBC One's Six Nations coverage and the Sport Multiscreen in order to be technically able to make the red button video recordable via the Sky EPG.

    At the minute, we don't have that link, and implementing it is a lot harder than it sounds!

    It's far easier on Freeview because 301 and 302 are technically self-contained channels so we don't need to worry about that link.

    It is technically feasible, however if/when it may happen is not something I'm afraid I can answer.

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  • 14. At 4:03pm on 13 Apr 2009, Paul Webster wrote:

    Regarding the comment above - while getting it into the Sky EPG may not be possible ... how about getting it into Freesat, if not already done.

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  • 15. At 12:22pm on 14 Apr 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

    It might be possible on Freesat - we'd need to talk to someone about it. I'm not entirely sure how their EPG works.

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  • 16. At 09:39am on 03 May 2009, tarbatness wrote:

    How do I get these to appear in the Freeview EPG on my BTVision box?

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  • 17. At 10:26am on 05 May 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

    Hi tarbatness - I don't think we've got a BT Vision box around here to give you specific instructions, but there should be button marked "Guide" or "TV Guide" on the remote. Then find the channels marked 301 and 302.

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