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Teletext toddles off as licence taken

Smell you later, interactive telly

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UK regulator Ofcom has revoked the licence that allowed Teletext to broadcast text-based services alongside the TV signal - ending 17 years of independent interactive TV.

The licence under which Teletext transmits its service requires the provision of local information as well as news of some sort, and Teletext pulled those pages back in December, leaving Ofcom little option but to revoke the licence. The regulator did warn Teletext last month, and again earlier this month, but has now issued a final revocation of the licence.

Teletext has been broadcasting a commercial text service since 1993, following the BBC's Ceefax service which launched in the 70s, and these days provides the text service for ITV and Channel 4 - for the moment.

On analogue transmissions both Teletext and Ceefax relied on numbered pages, broadcast in carousel within the video stream. Teletext has always been financed by advertising, while Ceefax relied (and continues to rely) on the licence fee.

Back in 2000 it was fun to tell Americans that the vast majority of UK holidays were bought through interactive TV services, even if the return path was a phone call and the numbers were weighed by the huge number of last-minute bargains which couldn't be advertised any other way.

But the internet supplies that need now, making commercial Teletext a difficult business, and despite making the transition to digital (adding the ability to show pictures!) the service struggles to make money.

So in December last year Teletext pulled its news service along with local information, and today the pages are almost exclusive advertisements for the holidays that once so impressed foreigners.

In December Ofcom warned Teletext that its licence conditions required local information and news, but was told that the company had no intention of reinstating the content, so today Ofcom has revoked its licence to provide the service on both analogue and digital platforms.

Right now the service is still online, and we've not been able to contact Teletext to see how long that will last. But if you're looking for interactive TV then soon you'll find yourself limited to the BBC, or that internet thing that's so popular with the kids these days. ®

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