Nearly half the adults in the United Kingdom have never used any interactive television services. Although pressing the red button has passed into popular parlance as a result of constant on-screen repetition, many still seem unaware about interactive television. A survey suggests that 20 million adults, or 45% of all adults in the country, have never used interactive television. Just under 20%, around 9 million adults, avoid the red button for fear of costs, although most services are free of charge.

With digital television penetration now at nearly 90% in the United Kingdom, it seems that there is still a lack of awareness about interactive services, despite prompts to press the red button. A decade after the introduction of digital television services, 13% of those surveyed said they did not understand what the red button did, equivalent to six million adults across the country.

The survey was carried out by Opinion Research as an online poll of just over 2,000 British adults in August 2009, weighted to a nationally representative sample. It was commissioned by

“Most people still associate the red button on their remote with the traditional teletext,” said James Parker, who is responsible for mobiles and broadband at the price comparison web site. “It is a shame that almost a third of users don’t understand what going interactive is, and as a result they are missing out on some great services. Providers should do more to educate their customers on what extra services and additional programmes are available if they hit the red button.”

Nevertheless, over a quarter of those surveyed, or 28%, said the red button was one of the best innovations in television.

According to the BBC annual report, almost 10 million adults a week use the red button every week to access BBC services.

The BBC recently reduced its red button interactive television services on Freeview digital terrestrial television, dropping two of its three video streams, including news, sport and weather, to make way for high-definition television.

The BBC Trust is conducting a consultation on use of the red button. It is asking individuals how often they use the red button, how well it works as a replacement for teletext services in offering continuously updated news, information, education and entertainment, what they think of the extra programming provided, and how easy services are to use.

The consultation is also asking organisations how well they think the BBC red button services are performing and whether they should change in any way as a result of new technologies. Further details are available on the BBC Trust area of the BBC web site.