With the teletext concept in general and with Oracle in particular, British technology is a world leader.
The Channel Television Oracle service was established during January 1982. Since that date the service has continued to change and develop as the magazine became refined for the Channel Islands region — only the second regional service in the world.
But Channel’s Oracle is just one part of the National Oracle teletext system, originating from London. The magazines contains hundreds of pages of news and information plus a modern efficient advertising service in which copy can be changed within seconds.
This means that any teletext viewer in the Channel Islands can. just by selecting on their remote control the appropriate page number, receive up to date news on a regional and world-wide basis. The service is on the air up to 19 hours a day and is updated throughout most of that period.
Channel Oracle opened with a limited service. It was anticipated that fifteen pages of news and general information would form the basis of the regional magazine but in fact the service went “on air” with thirty pages and that was with just two staff.
Regional teletext was new to the Channel Islands and it was decided that together with the development of the service, efforts would be made to publicise teletext and increase the set count throughout the region.
Personal contact was made with teletext retailers, circulars were sent to every hotel and guest house in the Channel Islands, and advertising campaigns were mounted using the main Channel Television network.
During the Ideal Homes Exhibition, held at Fort Regent in October 1982, the teletext computer was duplicated and closed circuit Oracle was generated each day with viewers given the opportunity to use the computers and teletext receiving sets.
The success of the development can be measured by the jump in the percentage of teletext sets in use in Guernsey and Jersey. Just one year after the service was established domestic penetration in Guernsey was recorded as 8.4%, and in Jersey 12.1%.
If the sets used in the commercial sector, banks, finance houses, hotels and other agencies are calculated then in Jersey alone a penetration of at least 14% can be claimed. At present in the UK it’s estimated that teletext is in 5% of all homes, so, for a small region, the Channel Islands have established a formidable lead.
Why is teletext proving so popular in the region? Firstly, there are dozens of finance houses and banks conducting offshore transactions and many retired business people who, having moved to the islands, continue to watch the stocks and shares pages. Another factor is that colour came to the Channel Islands some time after the UK and our sets tend to be more modern. But one of the most important factors is viewer loyalty.
Over 21 years CTV has built up a service giving extensive coverage in all the islands and Oracle is being looked upon as a complementary service, giving the overall broadcasting picture a broader base.
At present the local service opens at 7.30 a.m. during weekdays and updates of the magazine continue until 8 p.m. each evening when the service continues automatically until closedown.
The reason for the arrangement is economics, and is due to the region itself. We are not a national service, news is not generated at the same speed in a small region and the sport is amateur. The same follows in the business section with banks and finance houses closing at weekends. Unless some emergency occurs hard news is not easy to find.
It took only weeks to establish a 70 page magazine and a sales executive was engaged to look after the advertising pages. This was a difficult assignment but within the first five months of operation 18 major business houses were making use of the service with seven of them on yearly contracts.
Among them were estate agents, TV rental businesses, the States Social Security Department and since then many more advertisers have taken space. Recent newcomers include Pepsi Cola. Gorey Yacht Service, and a classified section which has opened including second hand cars.
Oracle has led the way with several new developments with the emphasis on service to the viewer as against a hard news magazine.
The financial aspect of Oracle advertising has spread into the field of credit card fraud. This came about due to a police-sponsored “Early Warning Page” designed to bring all the names of stolen or missing credit cards, cheque books and other documents swiftly before the public.
The police believe that teletext is the medium to handle the distribution of such details. In fact the information is normally on the air within two minutes.
Now Visa (Barclaycard) have their own private page giving several missing or stolen card numbers. This page is now mandatory for many banks and business houses who have established teletext in their premises.
Service to the public could prove an important direction for the future of Oracle. Channel is the first teletext system in the UK to link up with the airport arrivals and departures boards.
Now a hotelier, businessman or anyone expecting an arrival or departure of a friend by air, can just call up the appropriate page and an updated display on all movements is available all day, seven days a week.
The information comes direct from the computer keyboards operated by the staff at the airport and within seconds of being entered is automatically displayed on all the teletext sets throughout the Channel Islands.
At present the weather is updated three times a day but it’s planned to install a special keyboard and computer at the Weather Centre so that forecasts can be updated on a 24-hour basis as and when required.
However, it must not be forgotten that Oracle needs to earn money to support the system. Recently the Independent Broadcasting Authority revised the amount of advertising space allowed on each magazine.
It’s now possible to insert an interleaved system on pages within the copy which enables the advertiser’s message to be brought before the viewer in a similar manner to a normal commercial break on television, making it an attractive option for the commercial sector and one that is bound to develop.
Viewers in the region will have noticed one great improvement in the service and that is the access time. Engineers have been seeking to speed up the turn-over of pages and at.present Channel Oracle is just about the fastest selection in the National Network.
The development of the teletext service is continuing across the United Kingdom, and naturally it will change and modify as experience is gained. The same applies to the Channel Islands and during the month of July this year some very important decisions were taken to ensure its future in the islands.
Channel Television has taken over the Oracle operation as part of their main broadcasting service. It now comes under the control of Channel’s Controller of Sales and Marketing, Michael Le Cocq. who will guide the service along on its next phase of development.
A new computer is being established at the Rouge Bouillon TV Centre which will be able to handle more information and present it in a new attractive manner.
The basic pages will stay — news, weather, and general information — but future development will be designed to fit in with the needs and interests of the local audience, combined with a comprehensive national service from London.