IPTC7901: The text transmission format

Starting in 1979, the IPTC formulated its Recommendation 7901 for use in the transmission of text messages to newspapers, news agencies and other recipients. The first public version appeared in the early 1980s and was updated regularly, the last being revision 5 which was approved in 1995. Since then the development of IPTC 7901 is frozen despite the fact that it is still used heavily in many countries.

Although designed primarily for computerised information handling, the Recommendation 7901 is also suitable for transmission to non-computerised recipients. The Recommendation has been influenced by the “Highspeed Wire Service Transmission Guidelines” contained in Bulletins 1312 and subsequent amendments thereto of the American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA), subsequently the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) and now known as the News Media Alliance.

Because it is intended for international use, it takes into account technical and linguistic differences between countries and is designed for use in numerous languages and alphabets. To provide a degree of flexibility and to minimise changes from earlier practices, some elements in the Recommendation have been designed as “optional” or “recommended”. Those elements not designated as “optional” must be complied with when using the Recommendation.

The Recommendation is code transparent. It was originally designed for use in conjunction with versions of the 7-bit coded character set of ISO 646 (CCITT Alphabet Nr. 5), later the possibility for use of alternate character sets (7 and 8 bit), including non-Latin alphabets, has been added (see 7. and Annex C).

Who’s Using It?

Despite of its very limited features IPTC7901 is still the most widely used standard for exchanging text news. Virtually all news agencies worldwide still maintain a feed using this format or its North American sibling ANPA1312.

Corresponding to this wide use also a wide variety of software and blackbox-systems still exist which are able to distribute, forward, receive and filter IPTC7901 text messages.

Specification document: