FROM THE ARCHIVE OF: The TV Room
Thursday 12th October 2023 marked the end of the road for RTÉ’s teletext service, Aertel.
The service first appeared quietly, in late-1985, as part of unpublicised engineering tests.
RTÉ announced a 6-week trial period for the service, starting on 14th January 1986. In fact, the trial was subsequently extended and Aertel launched officially, the following year on 22nd June.
From the start of the original trial, an in-vision service was also broadcast on RTÉ 2 during non-programme daytime hours – initially from 2pm weekdays until the first programme of the day. Later, the start time would be brought forward to 12pm.
From humble beginnings in 1986, Aertel expanded substantially in later years, offering a wide range of content: news; sport (including extensive racing coverage and dedicated regional soccer/GAA pages); business; weather; airport arrivals/departures; holiday offers; car/home sales; arts; children’s pages; cinema/book reviews; nationwide cinema listings; TV/radio listings; programme support; jobfinder and lots more.
With the increasing success/expansion of the RTÉ website, much of the original content produced for Aertel was replaced by automated feeds from the website.
Although an MHEG5 version of Aertel was made available with the introduction of digital terrestrial television, the original Level 1 teletext service continued on satellite SD versions of RTÉ One and RTÉ 2 – right up until 12th October 2023.
Many of Aertel’s sections remained largely intact until the late-2010s – even the Travelfinders holiday offers section.
But beyond this, some content started to disappear, leaving a service largely consisting of news, sport, business, weather, RTÉ TV/radio listings and movie reviews, sourced (automatically) from the RTÉ website.
The beginning of the end
At 10.16am on Thursday 12th October 2023, viewers would see the first signs of the shutdown of the service.
At this time, page 100 became corrupted. A fourth sub-page was added and it looked as though there was an attempt to put out a closing down message but the original template for page 100 was overlaid, making the intended message impossible to decipher.
Moments after the change to page 100, the removal of content supplied from the RTÉ website began. When this process was complete, only static pages (mostly indexes) would remain.
Magazine 1 was targeted first, with the news section (pages 102 – 119) and most of the financial pages (131 – 139, 141 – 149) disappearing off the carousel.
The various lottery pages (150 – 152) were also removed.
At 10.17am, magazine 4 pages were stripped out. Magazine 4 was effectively removed from the transmission system at this point too (the carousel stopped cycling at “10:19:24” according to the header clock).
Magazine 2 pages started dropping off the system at 10.18am. Only the index page 201 would remain, for now.
The next chunk of editorial content to be removed sat in magazine 3. All entertainment news pages (300 – 315) disappeared, as well as cinema reviews (321, 324).
Index pages 320 (reviews) and 330 (TV Extra), as well as 343 (subtitles reception advice), 344 (subtitled programmes list) and 345 (an out-of-date soap preview page) would remain for now.
In terms of auto-generated content, all that remained now were some stray finance pages, the weather pages and some TV/radio listings.
The remaining financial pages (153 – 155) were next for the chop, at around 11am.
Radio listings (184 – 188) and the TV Now page (180) vanished at 11.35am.
The weather pages (161 – 163) were removed at 11.38am.
At 11.40am, the RTÉ One and RTÉ 2 listings pages were deleted from the carousel.
Just before the final pages are stripped out
With all content supplied from the RTÉ website and other data sources now stripped out, here’s a quick tour of the RTÉ One Aertel service at 1pm, showing what content was left on the system:
Magazines are shut down
We’re now into the final minutes of Aertel. This is where the remaining magazines were removed from the transmission system.
We start with a clip of the magazine 1 carousel cycling round. During the period covered by this clip, other magazines are being removed. As this happens, notice the carousel speed up.
Following the earlier purge of pages from magazine 2, only page 201 remained. The magazine was withdrawn from transmission at 1.07pm.
Magazine 5 – which only contained a single index page – was shut down at 1.08pm exactly.
Magazine 3 was withdrawn from service at 1.09pm.
The end is upon us
A quick scan through the magazines, showing all but magazines 1 and 6 have been taken out of service.
NOTE: this page covers activity relating to the RTÉ One version of the Aertel service only. We don’t have the equivalent detail for the RTÉ 2 Aertel service at this time.
PICTURED: RTÉ Aertel index page. COPYRIGHT: RTÉ.