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Teletext and Ceefax after the Digital Switchover?

The BBC started broadcasting their text-based service back in the 1970's. Most will know this as "Ceefax", with the ITV's service starting as Oracle, then becoming "Teletext".


Analogue: Ceefax from the BBC, and ITV's Teletext


The UK has almost complted the switch over to digital TV. Ceefax is planned to be phased out as part of the Digital Switchover, and will disappear in October 2012. The ITV Teletext service ended in December 2009.


Digital Text Services

So what replaces Ceefax and Teletext?

New digital TV services, such as Freeview, Sky Digital, Freesat, BT Vision and Virgin Media offer a different text service. This is the successor to Ceefax and Teletext, offering higher-quality images, a better level of interaction, and faster data rates.

BBC Interactive

The new text service is available via the red button on your digital TV or set-top box's remote control.

Here's how to access the new Interactive service:

  • Freeview - Tune to BBC1, ITV1 or Channel 4, then press the Red button on your Freeview remote. Alternatively, the service is available on special channels: channel 101 (Teletext), 105 (BBC Red Button), 104 (Channel 4 Teletext) or 108 (Sky Text)

  • Sky Digital - Tune to BBC1, ITV1, Channel 4, or one of the Sky channels, then press the Red button on your Sky remote . You can also access a range of text services, including Sky Active, by pressing the 'Interactive' button on your remote.

  • Freesat - BBCi and Teletext are available on Freesat. Tune to a BBC TV channel or ITV, then press the Red button on your Freesat remote control.

  • Virgin Media - This seems more complicated. Former Telewest cable customers seem to be able to access the Digital Text service using the Red button on channels like BBC1 and Channel 4. This doesn't work for customers in former NTL areas, though. Also, there seems to be a problem with text services on a V+ box connected via HDMI (as opposed to via a SCART lead). For text services, you can also press the Interactive button on your Virgin box remote for access to limited text services. See this thread in the Radio and Telly forum for discussion of text services on Virgin.

If you still wish to receive the older Ceefax, it's still being broadcast on analogue TV. If your TV region has not yet "gone digital", you can still get Ceefax on standard TV sets that have an analogue receiver and are connected to a TV aerial with a suitable signal.

Your Questions:

Some Ceefax pages are not yet available on BBC Interactive. What happens after the switchover?

Sorry, but we have no information about specific pages of Ceefax content, and the BBC's plans to move them to BBCi. Best advice is to contact the BBC about this.

The address we have is: BBC Ceefax, Room 7540, BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, W12 7RJ

Your Comments:

We'd like to thank James Dobson for submitting the following on the subject:

I am really frustrated at the false information that you cover in selling digital. Yes, it has a few gadgets which make it appear great but let's face some issues and agree that digital Ceefax is offering a far poorer service than analogue Ceefax. Here are several examples:

  1. On Analogue you type a number and the page comes up. Example 316 gives premiership football results.
  2. On 340 for Cricket on analogue you get a separate page for each game in progress.
  3. In the business section on Analogue you get all companies listed and not the top few hundred.
  4. It is much easier to page back and forth in analogue.

I am all for progress - the digital camera is miles ahead of any of its predecessors. However, digital TV is a retrograde step as illustrated above and the fact that it is time delayed and also subject to atmospheric conditions.

You will counter argue that there is more choice but analysing the social ineptitude of Big Brother Celebrity rubbish is not choice but part of the moral disintegration of our society where we place Kerry Katona as some kind of role model when in fact she is just plain awful and should be ignored.


Remembering Ceefax

Thanks to Anna for submitting the following great message:

"Following a sleepless night I stumbled over Ceefax being broadcast on BBC 2 in its original font and with the brilliantly retro music. From a completely and unapologetically reminiscent heart (and I'm only 32!). What's to become of the old format after switchover. A lot of Ceefax and Teletext's charm is its unabashedly retro feel and I, and probably countless reminiscing ex-students, would mourn its loss if it was just to disappear.

What plans are there to keep this treasure safe so that future generations can see what was there before the internet and digital revolution?

Well Anna, the good news is that loads of hours of "Pages from Ceefax" have been captured for posterity and placed on YouTube. Here's one of our favourites... BBC 2 Ceefax from October 1982. Sigh...


No doubt, DVDs of Ceefax will be appearing on eBay before too long too... "Now That's What I Call Ceefax"...

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