The BBC’s Red Button text service has been given a stay of execution – meaning a version of it will stay on air until the spring.
The news was confirmed by MP Damian Collins, who tweeted a copy of a letter from the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall.
🆕 JUST IN: So pleased Tony Hall has agreed to my request to suspend the @BBC’s decision to end the Red Button service 🔴 I’ll be meeting with him and groups representing those most affected to discuss the best way forward @NFBUK @BDA_Deaf pic.twitter.com/WXaRbbyuFL
— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) January 29, 2020
The letter confirmed that the Director General had noted concern that the closure of the text service would impact the elderly and those with disabilities.
He added “These are issues that need to be explored in more depth before again considering whether to close the service, and so we have decided to suspend its closure.”
“We will keep the BBC Red Button going as close as possible to its current state for the time being”
Red Button text was due to close tomorrow, 30th January 2020, with an information video being looped on the BBC RB1 service, although the BBC later backtracked on the date, saying tomorrow was the day the service was due to begin being phased out.
In addition to Red Button Text, BBC News and Sport Apps were also due to close tomorrow, alongside changes to the BBC’s Red Button+ service on newer, connected TVs. These services are also due to remain online for the time being.
90 minutes after news of the reprieve went public, the BBC’s Chief Technology Officer Matthew Postgate blogged about the BBC’s sudden change of heart saying:
“We want to understand more about the possible impact the closure of this service would have, particularly on the elderly and people with disabilities. We will listen carefully and with an open mind to the views which have been expressed. And we will be talking to representative groups and gathering evidence from them.”
The decision to close a service that many older viewers use coincided with the BBC planning to withdraw free TV licences for non-Pension Credit claimants over the age of 75, creating a considerable backlash from users.
There had been speculation that some of the bandwidth freed up from the Red Button text service on the BBC’s Freeview multiplexes could be used to restore some BBC Radio services in Scotland, where there is a shortfall of available bandwidth during the broadcast hours of Gaelic channel BBC Alba.