Pre-WWW ViewData and TeleText Services where no Archival Agency has Captured and Retained the Signal


 Critically Endangered small

Pre-WWW television information services broadcast within the TV signal that allowed a degree of search and retrieval of up-to-date information, based on Teletext or ViewData technologies and variants.

Digital Species: Sound and Vision

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Immediate action necessary. Where detected should be stabilized and reported as a matter of urgency.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a major effort to prevent or reduce losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


AerTel; Electra; MetroText; Antiope-based systems; Ceefax; TeleText.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of understanding; structure of information silos; Lack or loss of documentation; Uncertainty about intellectual property rights; Lack of funding or impetus.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Captured within on-air broadcast recordings; active research and recovery programme.

2023 Review

A number of important developments were reported since this entry was added in 2017, raising hope that collections can be recovered and reused under certain circumstances.

A trend towards decreased risk was noted in 2020, based on live capture of broadcast output at the BBC and British Film Institute. Embedded signals can be assembled to access the Teletext content, and methods to recover such signals have been demonstrated (where the appropriate broadcast archive exists). In 2019, a proposal to add teletext graphics characters to the Universal Coded Character Set was accepted, making it easier to transmit and archive teletext and legacy computer graphics for archiving and preservation. Version 13.0 of the Unicode Standard, released in March 2020, included the addition of graphic characters that provide compatibility with early teletext broadcasting standards.

The 2021 Jury agreed with the 2020 review with a 2021 trend towards reduced risk. While it is not yet fully clear how such a signal could be made searchable or made available at scale, research has progressed with different threads of research and enthusiast and community-led initiatives being brought together in the development of preservation tools and techniques. In light of these developments and active research and recovery efforts, the Jury supported a change from the Practically Extinct to Critically Endangered classification. The 2022 Taskforce noted no change to the trend (they agreed these risks remain on the same basis as before).

The 2023 Council noted a lower significance of the digital material of this entry than the previous 2021 Jury but agreed with the Critically Endangered with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend).

Additional Comments

From a cultural studies point of view, it is a huge loss: an important source of information about news and social mores of the time. Is there progress to report on this entry, meaning that elements of the problem have been resolved? Major national agencies have collections of off-air recorded television on videotape carriers, which are likely to contain the teletext data. Few, if any, have undertaken substantial extraction and preservation of the teletext in its own right. However, many have digitized videotape carriers to digital file formats, which are now under preservation. An active Teletext enthusiast community has developed and created programmatic solutions to extract the teletext from the video files and emulation of the teletext display. A next step could be a collaboration between the official agencies and the enthusiast community to develop a systematic programme to extract teletext from off-air recordings for both preservation and access via emulation.

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