BBC Trust Calls for Merger of Online and Red Button Services

Mike Wheatley

The BBC Trust has said it will begin a public consultation that will consider a new proposal to merge the broadcaster’s Online and Red Button services into a single service. The announcement comes following a review into the services by the Trust that came up with several criticisms of the services.

BBC Trust
BBC Trust calls for merger of Online and Red Button services

The review was the second time each service has been reviewed – Red Button was last reviewed in 2010, while Online was vetted for the first time since 2008. While the Trust noted that the services were “distinctive” and had both proven to be popular with audiences, it criticized the the navigation and search functions of BBC Online, as well as its local pages.

BBC Online in particular is extremely popular, used by around 22 million people each week, according to the Trust. Red Button has also attracted a large audience for its news, sports and weather coverage, and the Trust noted that its extended coverage of events like Glastonbury and Wimbledon were especially well received.

However, the Trust points out that the BBC has drastically reduced the number of linear streams in recent weeks, while the broadcaster is also focused on developing its new, ‘connected’ Red Button, which is currently available on Virgin Media. The Trust says its concerned that Red Button might fail to meet audience expectations in light of these changes. In addition, BBC Online attracted strong criticism from the Trust for its perceived “poor coverage” of local news in comparison to its excellent coverage of national and international news items.

Suzanna Taverne, the BBC Trustee who led the review, concluded that while the services are good, it might be better if they were merged:

“Since we first reviewed BBC Online five years ago, the digital landscape has altered dramatically and people’s expectations of online services have changed with it. Back in 2008 we had only just launched the BBC iPlayer for example. Now, there are millions of viewers who consider it to be an “essential” aspect of the BBC’s online services,” said Taverne.

In response to these concerns, the Trust has made an official proposal for the BBC to merge its Online and Red Button services. The proposal is now up for public consultation, and the Trust is inviting members of the public to share their opinions before it closes on August 13th, 2013.

Source: BBC Trust