The BBC flagship quiz programme, Test the Nation, lived up to its name for viewers attempting to play long at home with the interactive service.

BBC Test the Nation – Red button pressed

Satellite viewers pressing the red button on their remote at the start of the programme in response to the prompt to “Play Along” would have be told “Please wait”, accompanied by blue screen. After ten seconds, the set-top box would have timed out to show a caption: “There is a technical fault. Please retry later.”

BBC Test the Nation – Please wait – There is a technical fault

Anyone pressing the text button on their remote would have been able to access the interactive menu, but after selecting the Test the Nation option would have seen a loading screen for thirty seconds, followed by an error message saying “The BBC Interactive Service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.” with an error code.

BBC Test the Nation – Text button pressed and service selected from interactive service menu

The problem persisted for at least four minutes, and arose because links were provided to an interactive application that was not available, rather like receiving a 404 “Not Found” error message on a web site.

BBC Test the Nation – Please wait – The BBC Interactive Service is currently unavailable

As a result, anyone trying to access the interactive service at the start of the show would have been disappointed, and may well have missed out on the entire interactive experience.

Broadcasters must be aware of the risk that confusing consumers in this way may well result in them turning away from interactive television. There is no point in blaming the technology. Issues such as this, and others reported by informitv, are ultimately operational and can be addressed by more rigorous procedures and testing.

Fortunately, this problem was corrected in reasonable time, but after five years of interactive television, viewers still deserve better.