BBC Unveils its Red-Button Interactive TV Schedule for Next Two Weeks

--BBC Round-Up: Freesat iPlayer to Beta-Launch December 7th, Canvas Delays, No iPlayer on Xbox

The BBC has announced the line-up of content that will be available through its red-button interactive TV service for the next two weeks and beyond:

  • From 9:55PM, December 11th through December 26th, digital viewers will be able to press red to access a weekly updated selection of videos designed to supplement the BBC Two three-part Christmas special, "Victorian Farm." According to the corporation, the videos showcase, among other things, "the secrets of traditional gift and festive decoration making," and 19th century recipes and Christmas games. All 25 of the supplemental videos will also be available on the BBC's Victorian Christmas Web site (, together with printable templates and designs for making Victorian Christmas crackers, cards, gift boxes, tree ornaments, mince pies and more. (Note: this red-button offering will not be available on the UK's free-to-air satellite TV service, Freesat; it will also not be available on Freeview on December 12th.)
  • Through December 4th, digital viewers can press red to access highlights of a live concert organized in Sheffield, November 28th, by the BBC's urban music radio station, 1Xtra. (Note: this red-button offering will not be available on Freesat and will have limited availability on Freeview.)
  • At 10:25PM on December 2nd and 9th, following the show's Wednesday night broadcast, digital viewers can press red to see Noel Fielding and Phill Jupitus, the stars of the BBC Two satirical music series, "Never Mind the Buzzcocks," debating what the BBC calls "an Issue of Cultural Importance." According to the corporation, the debates to date have "revolved around the relative merits of Brian Ferry and ferries, and just who is the greatest: legendary glam-rockers Wizzard or, er, wizards." Sky and Virgin viewers can additionally access the debates through the red button on the evenings of December 4th, 6th, and 11th. (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • On December 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th (and, also on December 1st on Sky and Virgin), digital viewers can press red to access exclusive additional content from Armando Ianucci's political comedy, "The Thick of It." (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • From 9:00AM-11:00AM on December 5th, digital viewers can press red to watch a "visualization" of BBC Radio Five's "The Danny Baker Show." The visualization app presents viewers with video of Baker as he hosts his show, as well as text messages and pictures sent in by other viewers; access to a range of informational content, including the weekend's soccer tables, fixture lists, information on upcoming commentaries, sports news, and details of upcoming red-button content; and a range of what the BBC calls "unexpected content," including "spoof fixtures and unique animations as Danny sets up audience head-to-heads on the phone." (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • On December 3rd (Sky, Virgin and Freeview) and 10th (Sky and Virgin only), starting at 6:30PM, digital viewers in Scotland can press red to access uninterrupted coverage of "Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two" (note: in other areas, the show can be seen on BBC Two). (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • During the December 3rd and 10th broadcasts of the BBC One political panel talk show, "Question Time," viewers will, as always, be able to view information on the show's panelists and discussion topics, as well as a selection of comments texted in by viewers, on Red Button page 155.
  • On weekdays, around the clock, digital viewers can press red to access Video Choice, a recently launched feature on the BBC News Multiscreen application. The feature consists of a two-minute package of highlights which is billed as featuring the day's best picture stories, and which is put together by BBC News's On Demand team. On weekends, the daily highlights package is replaced by a topical video interview, entitled "Five Minutes with..." (Note: not available on Freesat or Freeview.)
  • A range of soccer-themed programming continues to be available through the red button: on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, Sky, Virgin and Freesat viewers can press red to access "Lawro's Friday Focus," a show in which commentator, Mark Lawrenson, shares his predictions for the weekend's games; from 2:30PM on Saturday afternoons and on select midweek evenings, digital viewers can press red to access the soccer results show, "Final Score"; and on Sunday mornings until noon, digital viewers can press red to access the BBC One Football League round-up show, "The Football League Show."
  • From 6:30PM on December 3rd through 6:00PM on December 5th, digital viewers can press red to access classic World Cup soccer games; from 6:30PM on December 4th through December 11th, they can press red to access highlights of World Cup qualifier games; and from 6:30-7:00PM on December 4th, they can access a "World Cup Post-Draw Forum" show. (Note: the classic soccer games and the post-draw show will not be available on Freeview.)
  • From November 30th through December 15th, Sky, Virgin and Freesat viewers can press red to access a show highlighting the contenders for the Sport Personality of the Year 2009 award. Freeview viewers can access limited coverage on December 6th, 8th, 10th and 11th.
  • From December 5th through 13th, Sky, Virgin and Freesat viewers can press red to access live coverage of the Snooker UK Championships with a choice of tables. However, only one table will be available to Freeview viewers.
  • Starting at 7:00PM on December 4th, digital viewers can press red to access live coverage of the Rugby Scrum V game between Scarlets and Edinburgh, with audio options. This coverage, and all the sports coverage listed above, is offered through the BBC Sport Multiscreen, a 24/7 red-button application that provides up to five screens of extra coverage as well as round-the-clock headlines.

In other BBC news:

  • The corporation says that it will launch a trial of a Freesat version of its broadband video catch-up service, the BBC iPlayer, with a select group of Freesat viewers on December 7th. Participants will initially require a code in order to access the iPlayer on their TV sets, but the BBC says that the service will be more freely available by Christmas. The trial is designed to work on Humax HD set-tops, that are used by around a third of Freesat households. ITV Player, the broadband video catch-up service of UK commercial terrestrial broadcaster, ITV (which is a partner with the BBC in Freesat), is scheduled to begin a beta launch on Freesat early next year. More detail on the launches is available here and here.
  • In a new submission to the BBC Trust, BSkyB has renewed its attacks on Project Canvas, the joint over-the-top-TV venture between the BBC, ITV, BT and Five. The satellite TV provider's criticism comes despite the fact that BBC management recently stated that non-public service broadcasters could become partners in the venture. "The proposals for membership of the joint venture remain exclusionary," Sky's submission claims. "The new proposals pay lip service to the idea of an open joint venture and the governance changes will make little difference in practice to the current Canvas members' ability to pick and choose their partners in the future...The admission criteria to be applied by the Canvas board are subjective and therefore open to arbitrary interpretation." The Guardian has more detail.
  • Meanwhile, in a speech at The Media Festival in Manchester, the BBC's head of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, has warned that Project Canvas will be delayed until 2011, unless the BBC Trust makes a ruling on it shortly. "My hope is that before the end of this year we will get interim conclusions from the BBC Trust," Huggers said. "If we get those and they are pointing in the right direction--if they are positive--then I am fairly confident that it is possible to launch in 2010, although it will be towards the end of 2010. If we do not get those, I'm afraid we will not be able to launch until 2011." The Daily Telegraph has more detail.
  • According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, the launch of the BBC iPlayer--which is now available on the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii--on the Microsoft Xbox 360 is likely to be delayed indefinitely because Microsoft's desire to place the service behind a subscription firewall is incompatible with the BBC's public service remit. "Microsoft only wants to offer its users access to platforms it can charge for as this is the model it is pursuing," a source described as "close to the BBC" told the newspaper. "It wants to ensure that only those paying for Xbox Live Gold accounts can access its additional content services and even then there is usually a charge on top to get access to those. For example, to access the Sky Player on Xbox, you have to pay for a Gold subscription as well as a Sky subscription. This does not fit with the BBC's model and Microsoft will not budge at the moment. It is really frustrating for those involved on the BBC side who want to make sure iPlayer is rolled out on as many popular entertainment platforms as possible."