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BBC Red Button.svg
The main page of BBC Red Button (with BBCi branding), accessed by pressing either the red or text buttons.

BBC Red Button (known as BBCi until 2008) is the brand name for digital interactive television services provided by the BBC, and broadcast in the United Kingdom. The services replace Ceefax, the BBC's analogue teletext service, and is only available via digital television receivers. The service can be accessed via Digital terrestrial television (DTT) (DVB-T), satellite television (DVB-S) and cable television (DVB-C).


History and branding

BBCi logo 2001-2004
BBCi logo 2004-2008

The service was launched in 1999 as BBC Text. It was relaunched in November 2001 under the BBCi brand and operated under this name until 2008, when it was once more rebranded as BBC Red Button. The "red button" name refers to the common interface on remote controls for digital televisions and set-top boxes, a red button, which launches digital teletext services.


BBC Text

BBC Text originally launched on digital terrestrial services in 1999, and was later introduced on satellite and cable platforms. In the first phase, the service was created using content migrated from the existing analogue teletext service, Ceefax. A digital text service had been available since the launch of digital terrestrial television in November 1998, but the BBC Text service was not publicly launched until November 1999, due to a lack of availability of compatible set-top boxes. [1]

BBC Text was considerably more advanced than Ceefax, in that it offered a richer visual interface, with the possibility of photographic images and designed graphics (as opposed to Ceefax graphics which were composed of simple blocks of colour). BBC Text also enabled channel association, the ability for the user to retain their selected television channel visible in one section of the screen whilst viewing the text service, in contrast to Ceefax, which could only be viewed as a full-screen display, or as a semitransparent overlay above the television picture. The original text service had no return path, this being made available in later phases.

BBC Text pioneered an early form of "on-demand" interactive television, called Enhanced TV. During the 1999 Wimbledon Championships, the BBC presented a service which allowed viewers to select a video stream of different matches, and access additional information such as player profiles, scores and interactive quizzes. Although the experimental service was publicly available, there were no digital set-top boxes or receivers available on the market which could decode the signal and the service was only presented to the public via BBC demonstrations using prototype receivers.[1]

The BBCi brand

BBCi TV i-bar, 2001
BBCi website navbar, 2004

The BBCi brand launched in 2001 and was conceived as a cohesive multi-platform brand name for all the BBC's digital interactive services, encompassing the corporation's digital teletext, interactive television and website services.[2][3] The use of letter "i" prefixes and suffixes to denote information technology or interactivity was very much in vogue at this time, notably with the launch of the iMac and the iPod by Apple Computer; according to the BBC, the "i" in BBCi stood for "interactivity" as well as "innovation".[4]

The various services all took on a common interface device, an "i-bar" branded with the BBCi logo, which sought to emphasise the brand across different technologies by providing similar navigation. For example, the BBC website, which had previously been called BBC Online, took on the BBCi brand from 2001, displaying an i-bar across the top of every page, offering a category-based navigation: Categories, TV, Radio, Communicate, Where I Live, A-Z Index, and a search.[5] Similarly, BBC interactive television services all offered a horizontal i-bar along the bottom of television screens, with four colour-coded interactions linked to the four colour buttons on TV remote controls.

After three years of consistent use across different platforms, the BBC began to drop the BBCi brand gradually; on 6 May 2004, the BBC website was renamed, after the main URL used to access the site.[6] Interactive TV services continued under the BBCi brand until late 2008.

Today, the broadcaster's online video player, the BBC iPlayer, reflects the branding legacy by retaining an i-prefix in its branding.

The BBC Red Button brand

From 2008, the BBC gradually began to drop the BBCi name from its digital interactive TV services also, replacing it with the name BBC Red Button. The BBCi logo continued in on-screen presentation for some time.

In November 2008, the BBC celebrated 10 years of the digital interactive TV service.[7]


BBC Red Button is broadcast on all digital television platforms in the UK, including digital cable (DVB-C), IPTV (TalkTalk TV - channel 503, no red button or teletext), digital satellite (DVB-S) (Sky Digital & Freesat) and digital terrestrial television (DVB-T) (Freeview). On Freeview Channel 301 and 302, interactivity does not permit users to submit data (such as answering questions in a quiz or requesting video on demand), as the platform does not provide a return path.


Generally, BBC Red Button offers text and video based services, as well as enhanced television programmes which offer extra information, video or quizzes.

In September 2005, BBCi launched an update to the interactivity available from the BBC's Radio channels on Freeview. Originally only Radiotext was available. After the update, users could access information about the programme, schedules, news, sport and weather. From 2005, Freeview users could access the CBBC Extra video stream.

The same team behind the BBC's digital text service also launched the early incarnations of the BBC's Interactive Wimbledon and Interactive Open Golf services in 2000, which were awarded an Interactive BAFTA that year.

The News Multiscreen was removed from the digital service in October 2009, to make room for future Freeview HD broadcasts.[8]

Here is a table of the contents of the BBC Red Button (as of December 2009)

Numbers Name Category
100 Home Page N/A
101 - 198 News

(except UK, World, Health, Community and Election Results news)

199 Index N/A
200's Business (except Loans & Home and Savings) Business
300's Sport (except Tennis, Golf and Racing) Sport
400 - 415 Weather Weather
430 - 480 Travel Travel
481 Golf Sport
485 Tennis Sport
500's Entertainment Entertainment
660 Racing Sport
700 Election Results News
888 Subtitles Help
911 Retuning Your Digital TV Help
1010 UK News News
1020 World News News
1030 Health News News
1050 Community News News
2500 Loans & Home Business
2510 Savings Business
4010 Weather World 5 Day Forecast
4100 Forecast Summery Weather
4110 - 4117 UK Forecast Maps Weather
9990 Help Help


The service is still compatible with ONdigital and ITV Digital boxes, though loading speeds are slower than newer Freeview boxes. The BBC has not announced if support for the older boxes would be discontinued. The Teletext service from the UK commercial broadcasters had stopped supporting the old boxes in 2005.

Page numbers were introduced in 2004 to aid navigation, with 3-digit page numbers matching with those of the analogue Ceefax in 2006. Pages exclusive to digital are given a four digit number.

See also

  • MHEG 5 Programming Language for Freeview
  • OpenTV C-based programming Language for digital satellite
  • BBC Online


External links


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