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BBC to mull Red Button future as part of of interactive and online services review

The BBC has announced it is launching a public consultation (opens in new tab) into its online and interactive offerings, raising further question marks over the future of its now famous red button service.

Venturing that the investigation will look at whether the digital television feature has "adapted to changes in technology, media and audience behaviour," the iconic broadcaster said it will conclude its review on 23 January, 2013.

Launched in 1999 as BBC Text - part of the recently deceased Ceefax (opens in new tab)teletext infrastructure - BBC Red Button was last scrutinised in 2010, when governing body the BBC Trust deemed that it was "widely used." But earlier this autumn, the British public service institution aroused speculation that the interactive feature was on the way out, saying that the plan was ""ultimately to replace the red button."

The BBC has backtracked on that statement since, now claiming that recent decisions to scale back red button streams on Sky, FreeSat, and Virgin systems "in no way signals the demise of BBC Red Button. The BBC is committed to maintaining a vibrant and popular red button service."

(opens in new tab)As a result, one possible scenario is that BBC Red Button and BBC Online will find themselves integrated into a new, more comprehensive service that takes into account recent developments like iPlayer, smart TV capability, and the explosion in mobile.

"The BBC's digital offer is constantly evolving – last time we examined BBC Online, the now firmly-established iPlayer (opens in new tab) did not even exist – so it is particularly important to review these services regularly," said BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne, who is leading the review.

If the Red Button as we know it is slowly being phased out, it certainly had a terrific swan song. Typically most popular during simultaneous action events like Wimbledon and the Glastonbury Festival, the BBC's interactive switch really came into its own this summer, forming a vital part of the network's Olympics coverage that reached over 50 million traditional viewers as well as a further 11.5 million mobile spectators and led to record-breaking data delivery of 2.8 petabytes at the height of London 2012 coverage (opens in new tab) - not a bad last stand for the grizzled digital veteran.

James is a freelance editor, journalist, and writer with 10+ years experience in digital media, SEO and news writing. He has produced content on a number of Future sites, including TechRadar, ITProPortal, Tom's Guide, and T3, and was Senior Staff Writer at ITProPortal.