Oracle Teletext (from the TV & Radio Yearbook 1988)
Teletext is a system which enables television viewers to receive a large amount of constantly updated information displayed as words and graphics in page form on the TV screen. It is transmitted in digital form with the normal television programme service signals and can be received on suitably-equipped television sets.
At present, the IBAs teletext contracts are held by the ITV companies (excluding TV-am) who jointly own the operating company - Oracle Teletext Limited. Oracle stands for Optional Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics.
With over 20% of all TV households already able to receive teletext, around 70,000 additional teletext sets are purchased or rented each month.
About three-quarters of Oracle's staff are concerned with editorial or subtitling work. The number of 'pages' available to viewers has recently increased to 1,450. Some of the extra space is used to provide a separate service for teenagers, Buzz. There has also been an expansion in the sports pages, a particularly popular service which, together with the muchread news pages, is provided by a team at ITN.
Another major development has been in the provision of regional information, much of which is inserted for each ITV company area at Oracle's headquarters in London. It covers local weather, road and traffic conditions, travel information, what's on in cinemas and theatres, and information about concerts, exhibitions and events in the area, as well as TV programme listings.
In addition to the central input of local information, eight companies now insert their own programme-related information. Additionally, TVS is joining Channel Television in providing a local news service on Oracle a development which research has shown is particularly wanted by Oracle viewers and which Channel Television has shown can stimulate local advertising.
A clarification in the grouping of pages now enables viewers to find information more easily in one 'magazine', rather than having to refer to various pages in the main Oracle service and to others on the same subject within 4-Tel, the pages provided to Oracle by Intelfax on behalf of Channel 4.
Oracle consults widely in order to take users' views into account. It commissions two major surveys from an independent research company each year and has established viewer panels to give advice. A special survey of younger viewers' attitudes has also been carried out.
Today's television transmitters send out 625-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. Originally seven lines on ITV and seven lines on Channel 4, Oracle now uses eight lines on both channels. This advance will result in the provision of more pages of information and faster access, something that audience research has shown to be of particular importance to users. New 'Fastext' television sets have been developed, in consultation with the broadcasters, which will also considerably speed up the access time for teletext.
Oracle subtitling for deaf viewers
Subtitling is a labour intensive process and despite a variety of technical innovations, 20 people are needed by Oracle to subtitle around 1,250 hours a year of ITV and Channel 4 programmes for the deaf and hard of hearing. This service continues to expand and now includes ITN's News at 5.45 on ITV and Channel Four News. A major breakthrough in terms of technical skills and a facility which has been particularly requested by the deaf.
The number of people with an Oracle set in their home now exceeds 12 million - a massive figure when compared to even the largest circulation newspaper, and contributing to Oracle's acceptance into the mainstream of advertising. Oracle is proving particularly suitable for advertisers who need constantly to update information, such as holiday operators, bookmakers and mail order houses. Airlines and rail information services are also large users of the medium.
A Subscription Teletext service has been introduced by the IBAs teletext contractors, in which data are encrypted before being broadcast over the IBAs television network. Access to the various data streams is via payment of a subscription to the information provider, entitling users to a decoder set. Anyone who is prepared to pay for the appropriate decoder can receive the data.
The service has been pioneered by a joint venture company formed between Oracle Teletext and the communications company Air Call. Initial take-up and trials by prospective users suggest that data broadcasts will become a regular feature of the broadcasting scene.
Additional teletext services will be provided in association with the DBS television service, described on pages 20 - 21. A DBS Teletext contract has been offered by the IBA to BSB, the IBAs DBS programme contractor.