The BBC Television Archive

The BBC Television Archive

An interview with Adam Lee, BBC archive expert

We haven't got copies of everything we've broadcast in the archive. Find out why we've got the items we've got and how the BBC tries to keep them safe in this interview with Adam Lee, BBC Television Archive expert.


Why aren't there many recordings from the early days of television?

There aren't any, or many, recordings from the early days of television because firstly the programmes were all live, and secondly there was no way to record them. Of course, live television must have been a truly terrifying experience for people back then. They'd have four or five cameras, three or four sets, so you were quite restricted in what you could do, although they did used to achieve amazing things. It must've been stomach-churning and there are stories of people being physically sick just before they go on screen. They did develop a way of recording television pictures by 1947, which may seem very crude nowadays, but essentially they would put a film camera in front of a monitor, and record the pictures off the monitor onto film. So when you see clips from things like the coronation in the trial, those were done using film recording, and sometimes that's why they don't look the most fantastic quality - the original picture would have been better than that.

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