The BBC has responded to protests by suspending the shut down of its interactive red button service, just one day ahead of its planned phase out.
MP Damian Collins, who had campaigned against the shutdown, tweeted a letter from BBC director general Tony Hall which confirmed that concern expressed by the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK) along with other MPs has informed the decision to halt the closure.
While still arguing that the decision was made “in order to re-direct resources towards new and better ways for audiences to experience BBC content across all our platforms,” Hall acknowledged the concerns that “the closure of Red Button text service could negatively affect elderly people and people with disabilities.”
In keeping with the demands of the NFBUK, Hall wrote that “these are issues which I feel deserve to be explored in more depth before again considering whether to close the service.”
The NFBUK delivered a petition to the BBC and Downing Street earlier this week with the backing of over 100 organisations. It argued that the red button is vital for the elderly with limited sight, hearing, or internet access, and that its closure “will leave many people, who are already vulnerable, further isolated and marginalised from society”.
The letter continues on to say that the broadcaster will “listen carefully and with an open mind to the views that have been expressed and to understand more about the possible impact of closure.” Hall added that the BBC will discuss the issue with “representative organisations” before making “a fresh decision in the Spring.”
The switch-off was announced in September 2019, with the broadcaster arguing that the service is no longer required, with nearly 80% of British adults now owning a smartphone, and that it carries an unnecessary cost of £39 million per year to run.
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