Oracle Teletext (from the TV & Radio Yearbook 1987)
Oracle is the teletext service for both ITV and Channel 4. It is an up-to-the moment electronic newspaper which is transmitted in page form onto the TV screen. Current information is available at the touch of a button, without the viewer having to wait for scheduled television or radio broadcasts or the delivery of their newspaper.
Editorial content ranges from constantly updated news, weather and traffic reports to family competitions; from city information to horoscopes. In all, around 1,200 pages of information are at the finger-tips of the Oracle viewer. Subtitles for selected ITV and Channel 4 programmes are also provided a service greatly appreciated by the deaf and hard of hearing.
Oracle Teletext Ltd was formed in 1980, and is jointly owned by all the ITV area contractors. Supervised by the IBA, in terms of both editorial and advertising content, it functions as a self-supporting service.
How Oracle reaches its millions of viewers
Oracle stands for Optional Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics. It may be described as a system of transmitting information in digital form to be displayed as words and graphics on the television screen.
Today's television transmitters send out 62 5-line signals, but less than 600 of these horizontal lines are used for the television programme picture, leaving the remainder free for other purposes, some of which are used to carry the Oracle information.
Oracle may be seen by anyone who has access to a television set capable of receiving teletext signals. These signals are added to ITV and Channel 4 programme transmissions, and then decoded by the teletext set. The decoder translates the signals into words and graphics which are displayed on screen when the viewer calls up a page. To access Oracle pages, the viewer simply uses the remote control pad to select the relevant page number chosen from the index.
Now that teletext sets cost little more than basic television receivers, even more households are using Oracle. It is predicted that by 1995 over 75% of UK households will be equipped to receive the varied news, information and features offered by teletext.
Interesting and varied features
Oracle provides the viewer with a wide variety of features, and there is something of interest for the whole family. Features are either written or researched by Oracle's own journalists or supplied by specialist contributors.
It is a whole collection of magazines catering for everyone from the child just learning to read, to the hobbyist. It is fun with its quizzes, and practical in its 'Your Money' pages. Additionally, 4-Tel provides teletext back-up and support material for Channel 4 programmes.
Oracle also provides a regional service, with information on regional television programmes and the weather, and a What's On? guide of things to do and places to go. Regional data is input centrally at Oracle's London head office, and sent by land-line to the mini-computer at the appropriate regional TV company where it is combined with nationally networked Oracle signals ready for transmission. Page numbering is consistent throughout the country so that when viewers call up a television or weather page they automatically receive information for their own area. Advertisements may also be regionally networked as with conventional 1TV and Channel 4 commercials.
Up-to-date news, sport and business information
Oracle news, sport and business information comes direct from the newsroom at ITN where a team of journalists have access to a wide range of news services.
Amendments and up-dates to news and information can be made at any time, appearing on screen within seconds. Delivery of news has thus become a nonstop process - stories are updated continually throughout the day. Indeed, in a typical day, journalists make over 5,000 changes - one in every ten seconds.
Another important feature of much of Oracle's information content is that direct feeds are taken from the source of the data. The travel information service, for example, has direct links from the AA, British Rail, London Transport and British Airways. A link with the Stock Exchange ensures similar speed for City news, and leading bookmakers do the same for racing odds.
Advertisements on Oracle
Oracle displays many interesting and informative advertisements. Just as many people readily admit to buying a newspaper or magazine 'for the advertisements' so Oracle's continuous research demonstrates that viewers show great interest in its advertisement pages.
The classified advertising section has also proved a very successful and popular addition to Oracle's display advertising. Job vacancies, houses and cars for sale and cut-price holiday announcements have all attracted large and rapid responses.
A special Oracle unit subtitles an average of 25 hours of network ITV and Channel 4 programmes a week, including popular serials, selected documentaries, plays, films, comedies and light entertainment shows.
The service is optional and can be obtained on a teletext set by paging 888, whichever channel is being watched. It is designed primarily for the large number of viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, who number over six million in the UK.
In order to subtitle programmes, special computer equipment (NEWFOR) was designed and built to Oracle's specification. It is the most advanced of its kind in the world.