Permanent collections - the next stage in opening up the best of the BBC

Tuesday 8 February 2011, 12:00

Roly Keating Roly Keating Director of Archive Content and Executive Editor of BBC Online

Tagged with:

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Something happened today that should interest anyone who thinks the BBC's archives should be more easily accessible.

Alongside the BBC Trust's announcements about the Service Licence reviews of Radio 3 and Radio 4 came a new approval: an amendment to those two networks' Service Licences - and that of BBC Four - that allows all three the ability to offer programming on-demand for an unlimited period after broadcast. There'll also be an amendment to BBC Online's licence to reflect the new permissions.

What it means is that BBC for the first time has a clear, defined remit to start building a 'permanent collection' of some of its best programmes for free online access by anyone in the UK now and in the future.

That word 'defined' is important: this isn't about all programmes, on all channels. Many of the BBC's most commercially popular titles and archive classics are of course available on DVD, or via pay-TV channels or paid downloads, and long may they continue to be so.

But today's announcement confirms that in the online age the task of making more of the wealth of its fantastic archives easily accessible to audiences is an inseparable part of the BBC's mission as a public service broadcaster. That's why the new vision for BBC Online which we announced last week put archive discovery at the heart of its design.

It's also why we've chosen these three much-loved networks and channels to shape the offer. All three are well-known to their audiences for their intelligent use of material from the archives, whether it's Radio 4's Archive Hour linking past and present with topical acuity (can't wait to hear their Rupert Murdoch birthday celebration scheduled for 8th March), or BBC Four, with its smart scheduling of archive rarities alongside its highest-profile new shows. Who'd have imagined that a 1963 episode of This is Your Life with Hattie Jacques would grab 1.2 million viewers when it was shown last month?

So how would it all work? Luckily you don't have to look far or wait long to get a sense of the possibilities.

Tomorrow night BBC Four launch their Focus on Sculpture season, coinciding with a big new exhibition of British sculpture at the Royal Academy in London. It's a great example of how they're already experimenting with using collections of online and on-demand archive to support some of their theme seasons and big broadcast events.

Press Red Button on digital TV any time during the season and you'll be offered a curated selection of relevant archive content, starting with BBC Two's 1998 Henry Moore biography Carving a Reputation. Go to BBC Online's Archive website and you'll find a collection of newly-cleared and digitised sculpture programming that's been put together to enhance the season. And if you go along in person to the Royal Academy itself any Friday evening for the next two months you can see BBC archive highlights on the big screen - a classic case of how a more open approach to the archive stimulates new kinds of partnerships, to everyone's benefit.

At the moment these are all relatively separate experiences, especially online - you have to put in quite a lot of work to make the connections. But as we build the new-look BBC Online you'll gradually see the currently separate websites for iPlayer, TV channels, programmes and archive coming together into a single environment that's simple to explore and enjoy. And on internet-connected TVs we intend to make it as easy as possible to switch from live viewing of BBC Four to a menu of relevant on-demand archive, ready to play on your main TV screen.

For the two radio networks the basic principles are the same but the editorial experience will be more focussed on favourite long-running strands. Radio 4's In Our Time has led the way - the whole back-catalogue of the series is already available on-demand and every new episode enriches the mix. Expect to see more on BBC Radio's archive plans from Tim Davie and his team in due course.

These channel and network brands will act as the gateway to the permanent collection and will bring all their editorial flair to the task of selecting what goes into it. But that's just the beginning of the story.

Once published every one of these programmes will become part of a standing resource at the heart of BBC Online, linkable to by others inside and outside the BBC, re-usable by future producers and editors for new propositions as yet undreamt of, and discoverable through open search by anyone pursuing an interest in the topic of the programme. And as media becomes ever more social, individuals will find their own personal treasures in the collection, and popularise them among their friends and networks.

The current Archive website will remain live while content is migrated into the new TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music products on BBC Online. The wealth and range of what's already been built up over the last few years - cleared and selected within the limited permissions and rights frameworks we've had to date - is a tribute to the pioneering work of Julie Rowbotham and her team. They've laid the groundwork for the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.

In Putting Quality First last year we set out a vision of "opening the BBC's current and future programme library", with a permanent archive of BBC programming available online "as part of a large and growing set of public archives made available by UK institutions." As of today we have the green light to start making that vision a reality.

Roly Keating is the Director of Archive Content

Tagged with:


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I was very excited by this, as it does seem to represent a key change from the current 'one week then limbo' policy, but 'free online access by anyone in the UK' bit is still distressingly short-sighted.
    Unlike radio transmitters, the internet is naturally global in nature. It takes extra work to prevent people outside the UK from enjoying the cultural heritage that the BBC will be preserving in public here.
    With the merging of the World Service budget into the general BBC one, and the current atmosphere of funding cuts. to spend money to actively prevent aver 99% of the population of the planet from appreciating this precious history seems a distressingly retrograde way of thinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I agree with Kevin. Has it been empirically validated that the average Brit is so selfish as not to wish to allow the world access to the BBC's output. Yes, we pay for it, but I for one have no objection to others sharing. After all, we imposed the empire - surely this is a lovely gift in return?

    Let's stop this horrible bit of petty particularism and simply call the BBC a gift from the British people to the world. Isn't that a nice sentiment? Yes - I'm sure Rupert will object, but I don't really care :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I would like to know more about the process of who chooses what for the archive, and whether there will be any consultation about those choices.


  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    #3 - Russ,

    This is what Roly's told me in response to your question.

    BBC Four’s collections will be curated around seasons/themes such as the channel's current Sculpture season, while Radio 3 and Radio 4’s will be around long running series, such as In Our Time. Audiences will then be taken on a deeper journey through each subject via content from the BBC’s extensive archive. The controllers of these services will decide the nature of these collections just as they currently do for the programmes chosen for broadcast on radio and TV.


This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Bringing the generations together in Bristol

Friday 4 February 2011, 14:14

"This website is nice": CBBC website relaunched

Thursday 10 February 2011, 16:30

About this Blog

This blog explains what the BBC does and how it works. We link to some other blogs and online spaces inside and outside the corporation. The blog is edited by Jon Jacob.

Follow About the BBC on Twitter

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

External links about the BBC

BBC Three online proposals set out as relaunch scheduled for autumn 2015 (Digital Spy)
"This is not moving a TV channel and putting it online. This is new. We are the first broadcaster in the world to propose something like this."

BBC Three to cut Don't Tell the Bride and other reality TV shows when channel moves online (Independent)

BBC theme park featuring Doctor Who and Top Gear set to open in 2020 (Telegraph)

JK Rowling's Cormoran Strike crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling will be turned into BBC series (Daily Mail)
"With the rich character of Cormoran Strike at their heart, these dramas will be event television across the world."

Yentob leads the BBC fightback: we're being smeared for exposing Fake Sheikh (Independent)

BBC Makes Unprecedented Counter-Attack To Sun Editorial Accusing It Of Left-Wing Bias (Huffington Post)

Serial podcast set to air on Radio 4 Extra (Radio Times)
"We know we already have tons of Serial listeners in the UK but we love that the BBC will help us reach many, many more than we ever could with podcast alone"

BBC iPlayer launches on Xbox One (Broadband TV News)

BBC ‘a great British company, not a government department’: Danny Cohen (Guardian)
"I ask you to stand by the BBC in the year ahead. Support it, make the case for it, speak up for it, celebrate its achievements and help us make sure we can keep offering such an extraordinary range of programmes for all audiences."

See Doctor Who, Miranda, more in BBC Christmas trailer (Digital Spy)

The BBC is right to point out failure on debt. Osborne is wrong to complain about it (The Spectator)

Chris Morris returns to airwaves with new sketch on BBC 6 Music on Sunday (Guardian)
"Blue Jam and On the Hour satirist’s first radio sketch in 15 years will be broadcast on Mary Anne Hobbs’ morning show"

BBC releases game maker kit for kids (Ariel)

BBC Music Sound of 2015 longlist revealed (Guardian)
"Solo artists such as James Bay, George The Poet and Raury make up most of this year’s list of musicians tipped for big things in 2015"

Why Gillian Anderson is the new Helen Mirren (Telegraph)

War and Peace to take over Radio 4: Ten-hour production of Tolstoy's novel to be broadcast on station on New Year's Day (Daily Mail)

Sherlock returns: BBC confirms special with picture of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman back filming (Mirror)

The Reith Lectures explain why doctors fail (Telegraph)
"Dr Atul Gawande delivered an excellent first lecture on the fallibility of medicine, says Gillian Reynolds"

Nine-year-old Katie Morag star on winning BAFTA award and juggling TV series with school lessons (Scottish Daily Record)

Strictly Come Dancing 2014: Same-sex couple dance received positively (Metro)

Doctor Who, Andrew Scott and Sir Ian McKellen up for BBC Audio Drama Awards 2015 (Radio Times)
"Maxine Peake, Marcus Brigstocke and Toby Jones also scoop nominations for their work in audio drama"

Last updated Thursday 11 December 2014

Blogs from across the BBC

Selected by the About the BBC Blog team.

Making radio [BBC Outreach & Corporate Responsibilty]
Award-winning research [Media Action]
BBC Online Briefing Winter 2014: keynote [Internet]
Booking agents: how they can develop your act [BBC Introducing]
Introducing Emma Smith one of our new 2015 Fellows [BBC Performing Art Fund]

MatOf ThDay At 50: onic theme even has a banjo [TV]