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DPO consortium calls for BBC not to push the Red Button service

20 January 2020

A consortium of Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) including The National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK) and Disability Rights UK is calling on the BBC to keep its Red Button Teletext service which is set to be withdrawn at the end of January 2020.

The Red Button service has largely been replaced in popular use by internet services, but for visually impaired, D/deaf, disabled, older people and other hard to reach social groups, many of whom do not have internet access, it is a vital service.

The consortium is concerned that withdrawal of the service will leave many people who are already vulnerable further isolated and marginalised from society. It has fears that the BBC may not be meeting its obligations set out in the Royal Charter for public broadcast if the Red Button Teletext service is withdrawn.

DRUK’s Fazilet Hadi says: “The BBC plays a vital role in ensuring television is available to all. This action will exclude some disabled and older people from having equal access to programme related information. It should be put on pause, pending a full understanding of the impact on customers and a review of options.”

The NFBUK has undertaken an internet search and cannot find any reference to a recent Public Interest Test being undertaken on the withdrawal of the service. Such a test is required for any significant changes in the provision of services provided by the BBC. The consortium believes that a ‘Public Interest Test’ must be undertaken in collaboration and consultation with DPOs, older persons groups and all other affected marginalised groups. 

Consortium members have signed a petition and are calling for:

* An immediate pause on the withdrawal of the BBC Red Button Teletext service planned for 30 January 2020;

* Immediate clarification and public scrutiny on how the BBC came to the decision to switch off the BBC Red Button Teletext in relation to:                                                                                                                                                            

                - The BBC's Mission and five Public Purposes outlined in the Royal Charter

                - The BBC Broadcast Agreement with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport December 2016

                - The BBC’s Public Sector Equality Duties under the Equality Act 2010 (has an Equality Impact Assessment been undertaken?)

                - The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Articles 9 on Accessibility and 21 Freedom of Expression and Opinion, and Access to Information.

- All assessments that may not have been undertaken in reaching the decision to switch off the Red Button Teletext Service to be undertaken, and for these to be performed in an inclusive and accessible manner, to ensure hard to reach users of the service are fully engaged in this process. This is to include full collaboration, engagement and consultation with disabled people’s organisations, charities and organisations for and of disabled, older and vulnerable people, who are not online, or do not use the internet much and other groups of people who are important for these assessments.  

- The retention of the BBC Red Button Teletext Service and ensure the service becomes fully accessible with a speech option added to ensure that the BBC can fulfil its Mission, Public Purposes and its Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010. 

The NFBUK will submit the petition to the UK Government, the Select Committee for Digital Culture, Media and Sport, the BBC and Ofcom next week. If your DPO would like to add its name to the petition, email Sarah Gayton at NFBUK at sarahgayton@yahoo.co.uk by Friday 24 January 2020.