Broadcast archive policy set for industry-wide shake up

The future of Britain’s broadcast archives will be discussed at a high profile summit next month, attended by representatives from the BBC, British Library and other industry and radio research communities.

The event, chaired by former Chief Executive of the Radio Authority Tony Stoller CBE, has been orchestrated by a group of researchers at Bournemouth University, who firmly believe the lack of formal archive policy creates severe access difficulties and restricts use of these valuable historic resources.

Hugh Chignell, Associate Professor in the Media School at Bournemouth University said: “There is clearly something of a crisis in our national radio archives and I hope that the summit will bring together some of the key players to find a way forward.  It would be perfect if the British Library took the lead and became the formal home of UK radio archives.”

Although Bournemouth University’s Centre for Broadcasting History has carried out significant work in recent years to digitise and widen access to commercial archives, the BBC presently maintain exclusive rights to their own.

“Historic radio captures our past in an extraordinary and unique manner. Comedy, news, drama, phone-ins all provide an audio history which really brings the past to life.  Teachers, school children, academics and broadcasters can all learn from collections which are currently inaccessible,” said Hugh.

The event takes place on Thursday 15 December at the British Library, where Bournemouth University’s Kristin Skoog and the University of Portsmouth’s Ieuan Franklin will present a report outlining the current state of UK broadcast archives and the best solution for the future.

Radio curator at the British Library, Paul Wilson said: “No UK radio archive is currently equipped or charged with capturing or preserving the output of more than 500 UK radio stations transmitting across the UK today. This vital aspect of our national heritage is in danger of being lost. Bournemouth University have organised this event to discuss the matter with the wider UK radio industry and radio research/education communities, along with representatives of some of the key UK radio archives including those of the British Library and BBC.”

Bournemouth University’s role in lobbying this change has grown out of extensive research by the Centre for Broadcasting History. In 2009 the group launched the UK’s first online commercial radio sound archive, preserving over 3,000 hours of  LBC/Independent Radio News (IRN) from 1973 to the mid-1990s. The searchable recordings include the first hour of UK commercial radio in 1973, coverage of five UK general elections and the end of apartheid.