World System Teletext

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World System Teletext (or WST) is the name of a standard for encoding and displaying teletext information, which is used as the standard for teletext throughout Europe today.

It originally stems from the UK standard developed by the BBC and the UK Independent Broadcasting Authority in 1974 for teletext transmission, extended in 1976 as the Broadcast Teletext Specification. With some tweaks to allow for alternative national character sets, and adaptations to the NTSC 525-line system as necessary, this was then promoted internationally as "World System Teletext". It was accepted by CCIR in 1986 under international standard CCIR 653 (now ITU-R BT.653) as one of four recognised standards for teletext worldwide, and may now most commonly be referred to as CCIR Teletext System B.

Almost all television sets sold in Europe since the early ’80s have built-in WST-standard teletext decoders as a feature.

WST is used for all teletext services in Europe & Scandinavia, including Ceefax from the BBC and services from Teletext on ITV in the United Kingdom, ZDFtext from ZDF and ARDText from ARD in Germany, and Tekst-TV from NRK in Norway, among many other teletext services offered by other television networks throughout the European continent.

In the early 1980s a number of higher extension levels were envisaged for the specification, based on ideas then being promoted for worldwide videotex standards (telephone dial-up services offering a similar mix of text and graphics). The proposed higher content levels included geometrically-specified graphics (Level 4), and higher-resolution photographic-type images (Level 5), to be conveyed using the same underlying mechanism at the transport layer. In the event only Level 2.5 was implemented, in some countries from the late 1990s, allowing some viewers with appropriate equipment to see the pages enhanced with a more flexible use of a wider range of colours, smoother graphics, and better international language support.

WST in the United States[edit]

WST also saw some use in the United States in the 1980s, for the Electra service, which was carried on SuperStation WTBS (now TBS). It was also used for other teletext services on other television stations and networks in the USA as well.

Zenith in the US also included built-in WST teletext decoders in their higher-end models of TV sets, such as their Digital System 3 line throughout the 1980s. Also, Dick Smith Electronics offered through their American distributors a WST teletext decoder in the form of a set-top box, which was sold as a kit.

This was all in competition to another teletext standard developed exclusively in North America, NABTS (North American Broadcast Teletext Standard). It was developed in Canada by Norpak, and was used by CBS for their ExtraVision service and for a very short time by NBC in the mid-1980s. However, NABTS never became as successful as WST in the American continent, since NABTS was a more advanced technology, which required a much more complicated and expensive decoder (even though it had improved graphics capability over WST).

Further reading[edit]

  • World System Teletext Technical Specification, UK Department of Trade and Industry, 1985. Also retitled as World System Teletext and Data Broadcasting System Technical Specification, various revisions until 1989.
  • CCIR 653 (now ITU-R BT.653) set of four standards for teletext systems worldwide. Adopted 1986. Revisions 2 and 3 were published in 1993 and 1998. WST was formalised by this standard as CCIR Teletext System B.
  • Enhanced Teletext specification ETS 300 706 (ETSI, 1997); Version 1.2.1, April 2003. Current European standard for CCIR Teletext System B.