Daily Express: BBC reverses decision to axe Red Button services amid backlash

Daily Express: BBC reverses decision to axe Red Button services amid backlash

Article by Steven Brown for the Daily Express - published 1 October 2020

The BBC has ruled out axing Red Button services amid warnings removal of the interactive platform could leave the vulnerable more "isolated and marginalised" from society.

Last November, the broadcaster announced plans to remove the text and data element of the Red Button service but moves were halted in January. Red Button is used for digital interactive television services provided by the BBC.

Critics raised concerns the removal of the services would have a detrimental affect on the elderly and vulnerable people, leaving them “further isolated and marginalised from society”.

But now the BBC has announced plans to keep local, national and international news, the main sport headlines, stories, fixtures and results, as well as weather forecasts on the service.

Last year, it was revealed the corporation spends more than £290million on its online and Red Button services.

This figure is enough to pay for £1.9million licences fees for the over-75s - whose free licences were scrapped by the BBC earlier this year.

Dan Taylor-Witt, director of product for BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds, said: “I’m pleased to let you know that we have found a way to keep the most valued text and data elements of the Red Button service.

“This means you will continue to be able to access local, national and international news headlines and stories, main sport headlines and stories, sport fixtures and results, as well as weather forecasts.

“To enable the continuation of the most valued text and data elements of the service, we are having to find ways to reduce cost and complexity elsewhere.”

Changes are expected to take place from mid-2021 and will no longer include Lottery results and regional sports pages.

Back in January, MP Damian Collins said: “People have expressed their concern that the closure of Red Button text service could negatively affect elderly people and people with disabilities.

“These are issues which I feels [sic] deserve to be explored in more depth… so we have decided to suspend its closure pending further work in that area.”

The BBC has come under fired over recent months after scrapping free TV licences for most over-75s.

The move by the BBC was met with anger from the Government and pensioner charities including Age UK, who called the decision a “kick in the teeth”.

The Defund The BBC campaign called out the corporation claiming the new measures could open the door for scammers.

Rebecca Ryan, campaign director, told Express.co.uk: “It’s just extremely unclear to people what they can and can’t watch.

“I think if that’s how people under-75s feel then how do the over-75s feel about these threatening letters and fear of somebody turning up on their doorstep?

“I think it opens them up to scammers.

“You hear of scammers turning up of people’s doorsteps forcing their way into old people’s homes.

“I would love to see them go back on that.

“If they are supposed to be a public service broadcaster, they must be held to account to provide an actual public service and I think that’s the key part of it.”

As of August 1, three million households will now be forced to pay the mandatory £157.50 for a colour licence and £57 for a black and white licence.

Those who receive pension credit benefit and are aged over 75 will be eligible for a free licence.

The licence fee is the annual cost viewers must pay in the UK and funds the TV, radio and online services of the BBC.

Those caught watching television without a licence can be fined up to £1,000 in addition to court costs.

Copyright 2019 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Russell Tillson for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP


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