Whitehaven loses Ceefax
In the early hours of Wednesday 14 November, an entire town lost something no one else has lost. Teletext and Ceefax.
Whitehaven in Cumbria became the first place to complete the process and so comes the true test now of what the public really think of the digital equivalents. There will be some who love them, some who loathe them and some who just put up with it. The exact ratios of which will no doubt be revealed.
It’s something I’ll be watching from a personal and professional level with interest, especially as there’s a team of people sitting near me in the office working on Digital Switchover, whose meetings I occasionally go to as some of the things they are looking at will affect what I’m doing as part of the process of trying to launch BBCi services on the forthcoming Freesat.
Whitehaven wasn’t a huge technical problem for us as they’re using existing digital infrastructure, however when the next region changes over in October 2008, there will be more to it. Huge amounts of technical reconfiguration will be needed as the BBC (and other broadcasters) will be re-arranging how their services are transmitted. This will only affect areas that are switching over – regions which still have analogue and digital TV will use the old set up – meaning that we essentially have to double everything up for five years until the switchover process is completed. Over coming months a crack team will be putting all the many pieces in place.
The full details of how the new configuration will be set up, isn’t yet known. The overall amount of space is going to increase, however there’s also aims to launch a BBC HD channel on Freeview, and the fact that CBBC wants to broadcast until 9pm in the evening which could eat into that. The changes could, in theory BBCi could get more space. Or it could even get less. Or it could be the same, but organised differently on a technical level. Even when everyone knows what is happening, there’s the non-trivial matter of making it all work.
Oh and then there’s the content. There’s some content on Ceefax not currently on BBCi (and indeed, BBCi has much that Ceefax doesn’t have). That’s due to the fact that the two are run by different groups of people and in the past (way before I joined the team) decisions were made to have things like CBeebies games rather than displaying 1000 shares. Those little issues are now being looked at again by another bunch of people – complete with a pile of research data. And when they’ve made their decisions, there will be a batch of work to do getting content onto BBCi, which I know from past experience, is never as easy as people might think!
In my experience, content (or specifically, the lack of something that people think should be there) is one that generally gets people annoyed the most. Which is why the whole Whitehaven switch-off will be revealing. Where Whitehaven leads, others follow. And what Whitehaven thinks, others will think also.