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Archives for April 2012

From Ceefax to digital text

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 09:20 UK time, Wednesday, 18 April 2012

People living in London and its surrounding areas on Wednesday joined those in other parts of the country who have gone through digital switchover.

One of the effects of this is that they will no longer have access to Ceefax, which is broadcast via the analogue signal.

Although we won't be saying our proper goodbyes to Ceefax until later in the year when switchover is complete across the country (viewers in Northern Ireland, for instance, will still be able to see it until October), I wanted to send a note of reassurance and a reminder: our digital text service, available via the red button to people who use cable, satellite or Freeview, provides national, local and international news, plus sport, weather and much else besides.

And it is still produced by the editorial team which has long provided Ceefax and the BBC News website.

UPDATE 20 April 11:25 BST

Q Reading your article I immediately want to scream out NOT TRUE! For those of us who use their Tivo service, when we press the red button all we get is iPlayer, hence missing a lot of content. I am assured that by the time the Olympics come around we will have access to Red Button content; I am not holding my breath given Virgin's history of delivering late.

A As of last week, we now offer a Red Button BBC News service on Tivo. It's a full-screen experience that also offers on-demand video, so not an exact replacement for Ceefax, but we hope it offers an innovative and useful way to keep up with the News.

Q The digital equivalent of Ceefax is far inferior mainly due to the fact that you have to watch telly on the screen along with the text - there is no way of switching the telly screen part off. I find that infuriating! Please, Beeb, can you fix this?

A The Red Button service is designed to allow viewers to read content while keeping in touch with what is on the TV channel they were watching. We do not currently offer any means to turn the TV off in the background - apologies to those who find this annoying.

Q The beauty of Ceefax was you could quickly take it in while watching a programme. With Red Button it takes you away from the programmes for a very long time, and this seems a backward step. With smartphones I can access more information quickly without having to switch off the show I'm watching, which makes it look like the Red Button service is almost obsolete before it's barely begun.

A It's true that in many ways smartphones offer a handy way to consume information while watching TV, and it would not be sensible for us to develop Red Button services in a way that simply tries to replicate this. With the design of the new News IPTV service, we are offering a service which prioritises video on-demand over text (though you can get both). We'd be interested to know people's feedback on this approach.

Q I did write about this to the BBC but have had no reply. Last week during the second test there was no run-by-run coverage as there was on page 341. Why is this? If it is as good as Ceefax, why are they not carrying this page? There would never be an issue of live footy scores being carried.

A I'm afraid I don't know the answer to this, but have passed on the question to colleagues at BBC Sport.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Another step for IPTV

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 14:22 UK time, Wednesday, 11 April 2012

We're pleased to say that the BBC News app for connected TVs, which provides the latest news reports, around the clock, in on demand video and text, will from today be available to Virgin TiVo users for the first time. I wrote about the thinking behind the service when it first launched, on Samsung TVs, last year.

There's more on today's launch, and on a brand new BBC Sport app for connected TVs too, in this blog post by Aaron Scullion, Executive Product Manager in BBC Future Media.

Screenshot of IPTV


Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

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