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BBC Red Button Changes on Freeview

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Rahul Chakkara Rahul Chakkara | 13:36 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

As Controller of the BBC Red Button service, I have to look at what's available for viewers on the service and balance it with the BBC's full digital aspirations. This sometimes means I have to make hard decisions about what we do and what we can offer to our audience.

From October 27th, Freeview viewers will see some changes to the BBC Red Button service that is part of a government backed UK strategy to bring HD broadcast channels to a wider audience, first announced by Ofcom back in 2008.

In order to make space for HD broadcasts in the future we need to now switch off two of the three interactive streams we use to deliver BBC content on Freeview. This means that Freeview viewers will no longer be able to see the BBC News Multiscreen and the interactive stream (known as 302) will also cease to be used for Red Button content.

So what does that mean for you watching on Freeview? Well, we will still bring you coverage of sport, music and entertainment events like Wimbledon, Winter Olympics and Glastonbury.

Red Button will still help you navigate to this content even if it is now available via linear BBC channels rather than via 302.

And whereas before we have run Red Button content in long loops, meaning it is repeated frequently, we will now be scheduling shorter runs to make sure we fit in as much content as possible into the remaining space we have - no more CBBC extra runs through the middle of the night!

To ensure that you can find this BBC content available behind the Red Button we will also be providing better scheduling information to TV listings magazines and improve our on screen now and next information so you can set your Personal Video Recorders to record this content.

Content from the BBC News Multiscreen will remain available on BBC Red Button on Sky, Virgin and BBC Online and Tiscali. My colleague Pete Clifton has written about that in more detail today on the BBC Editors Blog. Like him, I recognise that some viewers will be disappointed they cannot view the News Multiscreen anymore however a broad range of news text pages remains accessible on Red Button; while the BBC News Channel provides frequent summaries of the day's main stories and weather updates.

So why now? Well Freeview HD transmissions will begin in December 2009 in the Granada and London regions so we have to carry out technical work to clear the BBC's multiplexes where all of our channels are played out. Freeview HD will be available to viewers when the first Freeview HD digital boxes hit the shops in early 2010. More on this from Freeview themselves.

We are looking at some of the emerging technologies to explore innovative ways of delivering the services we have taken off. I would welcome your ideas and thoughts on this.

Rahul Chakkara is Controller, TV Platforms

Editor's Update: 29 October 2009 - Rahul has responded to a number of the questions and comments that have been raised in the comments below in a follow up blog post

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