BBCi is the brand name for digital interactive television services provided by the BBC and broadcast in the United Kingdom. BBCi replaces Ceefax, the BBC's analogue teletext service, and is only available via digital television receivers.

History and brand name

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 name refers to the common interface on remote controls for digital televisions and set-top boxes, a red button, which launches digital teletext services.

The BBC Red Button brand

The BBCi brand launched in 2001 and was conceived as a cohesive mutli-platform brand name for all the BBC's digital interactive services, encompassing the corporation's digital teletext, interactive television and website services.cite news|url=|title=BBCi heralds new interactive era|date=2001-11-07|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2008-10-02] cite web|url=|title=What is BBCi?|date=2002-12-15|publisher=BBC (sourced via Web Archive)|accessdate=2008-10-02] 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".cite web|url=|title=A fresh i for BBC|last=Gibson|first=Owen|date=2001-11-12|publisher=The Guardian|accessdate=2008-10-02]

The various services all took on a common interface device, an "i-bar" 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.cite web|url=|title=What is BBCi? - On the web|date=2002-12-15|publisher=BBC (sourced via Web Archive)|accessdate=2008-10-02] 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. cite web|url=|title=BBC website gets new look and new name:|date=2004-05-04|publisher=BBC Press Office|accessdate=2008-09-30] Interactive TV services, however, continued under the BBCi brand. The BBC's online video player, the iPlayer has, however, retained an i-prefix in its branding.


BBCi is broadcast on all digital television platforms in the UK, including digital cable, IPTV (Tiscali TV - channel 503, no red button or teletext), digital satellite ("Sky Digital" & "Freesat") and digital terrestrial television ("Freeview"). The service varies slightly on different platforms due to middleware and bandwidth constraints; on Freeview, 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, BBCi 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 viewers 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.

Issues and criticisms

BBCi has been criticised for being too slow, especially compared to Ceefax. This usually has to do with the speed of the user's set top box and the programming required to correctly render content.

A second criticism charges that the service is hard to navigate. In response, page numbers were introduced in 2004 and matched with those used on Ceefax in 2006. Exclusive BBCi pages are given a 4 digit number.

BBCi is currently still compatible with the ONdigital and ITV Digital boxes but has very slow loading speeds compared to newer Freeview boxes. The BBC hasn't commented on when BBCi will stop supporting the old boxes. Teletext had stopped supporting the old boxes in 2005.

See also

* MHEG 5 Programming Language for Freeview
* OpenTV C-based programming Language for digital satellite
* Liberate Technologies HTML-based programming language for digital cable.

External links

* [ BBC Red Button at]
* [ BBC Text screenshots before its change to BBCi]
* [ BBCi listings for Sporting Events] .
* [ Key dates in BBCi history]


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