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BBC must reduce cost of red button service, says Trust

The BBC needs to reduce the cost of delivering its red button interactive services, and to work to increase audience appreciation of the service, according to a review of the service by the BBC Trust, the UK public broadcaster’s governing body.

The cost of the service currently runs to £39.3 million (€46.1 million) for 2009-10, giving a per user per week cost of £0.064.

However, the Trust said, “audience appreciation is moderate rather than high, and it does not achieve the same high quality scores as other BBC interactive services, such as BBC Online and iPlayer”. The cost of delivering different versions of the service is seen as high, with £20 million a year being spent on distribution. According to the Trust, the service “should seek to reduce costs and refine its remit by offering a service that varies less between digital TV platforms, and so improves the consistency of service for viewers”.

The review recommends that the service should focus on core applications including digital text (news, weather and sport) and coverage of live events including Glastonbury, Formula 1 and the Olympics.

On the positive side, the Trust found that the service was the most widely used UK interactive TV service. The review looked at the performance of the service, including usage, quality and value for money. It found that it is used by a broad cross-section of the population, with an average of 12.7 million users every week. It also found that red button has a role in providing interactive services to people who don’t access the BBC’s other interactive services, with five million users who do not use BBC Online using the red button service.