TVNZ to switch off Teletext service next year

TVNZ is cutting its "obsolete" Teletext information service after almost 30 years.

Teletext has provided news, weather, Lotto, flight schedules, horoscopes and financial market information through televisions in simple text format since 1984.

Teletext broadcasts will end on April 2. The service first launched using money raised in the 1981 Telethon to give New Zealand's deaf community more access to news and information, but many Kiwis used it as a source of news.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said it had no way of knowing how many people used Teletext, which it said in 2009 would be stopped when the switch from analogue to digital was complete. "Our viewership is measured by ratings and ratings don't cover Teletext.

"We have never had any mechanism for finding out the numbers. Our best estimate, based on information that came through focus groups some years ago, is that there are fewer than 100,000 people who are regular users.

"At that time, people also told us their use of the service was declining at a slow but steady rate."

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick called Teletext an obsolete, fading service for information duplicated on the internet. TVNZ did not have the resources to maintain it, he said.

Grey Power Wellington Central president Duncan McDonald said it was a "shock" to hear the service was ending.

"We've got members of the extended family over 65 who are hard of hearing that use it.

"I think it is going to have quite a large impact on older people. I think they're forgetting who their customers are.

"This is verging on discrimination for hard of hearing and older people."

Age Concern chief executive Ann Martin asked several of its members if they would be adversely affected by the service ending. One said the service was useful for news and information, particularly for busy people, and should not be discontinued.

TAB services would continue because it runs its own standalone service. Closed captioning services for the hearing impaired, which are separately funded by NZ On Air, will continue.

National Foundation for the Deaf chief executive Louise Carroll said she did not know how many of the more than 700,000 hearing-impaired New Zealanders used Teletext.

"A couple of years ago, there was demand and I've not seen any change, but of course there are a lot more people coming on the internet.

"It is good to see Access Services [who provide closed captioning] are continuing to do the great job they do, and if there are any gaps in the information for hearing impaired people, that needs to be covered by NZ On Air funding for captioning services."

The Dominion Post