We appreciate your feedback and answer your emails wherever possible, but we can't always guarantee a personal reply. Please look at the FAQs below to see if your query is answered before getting in touch directly.
You can watch a great range of BBC archive online at bbc.co.uk/archive, and more will be found on bbc.co.uk/bbc4 in the future. Radio archive can be found via Radio 3 or Radio 4 online, for example Desert Island Discs. You can also find a selection of clips from the BBC archives on the Hands on History website to support Reel History of Britain.
There are a number of reasons why much of the BBC's TV archives are not directly accessible to members of the public at the moment. The BBC's archive contains films from the birth of television through to today's current programmes and there are over 500,000 hours in the TV archive. Much of the archive is on formats that are becoming obsolete and therefore the programmes require preservation and digitisation. Digitising everything is a time - consuming and costly process, but thankfully it's recently been getting faster and cheaper to do. Indeed the BBC's Research & Development department together with other industry experts is playing an important part in advancing the preservation and digitisation technology required to do this.
There are also copyright and rights restrictions that may make releasing the footage difficult: whilst the BBC owns the copyright in the programmes it has recorded, there are many underlying rights owners in programmes whom we may have only acquired limited rights from in the past. Some programmes we don't own at all, but have licensed them for broadcast. The way that audiences watch and listen to our programmes has changed radically over the years, and the BBC has always been at the forefront of this change to deliver greater value back to the Licence Fee payer. It is therefore a very complex and administratively burdensome to research and clear rights to archive programmes - some programmes can literally contain hundreds of contributors!
The BBC is planning to release as much of its archive as possible on a permanent basis over the coming years but this will take time, and is likely to be available either freely or via commercial formats, or (as now) a mixture of them both. You can catch up on recent TV and radio programmes via BBC iPlayer.
As a national public service broadcaster, the BBC has an obligation under its Charter to maintain archives of the programmes it produces. The programmes are kept for reuse (e.g. repeats and sales) and for heritage reasons.
If you believe the footage you have found to be unique, then you can contact the BBC via Donating to the BBC Collection.
You can find out more at the BBC Archive homepage, including interviews with archivists and the BBC's preservation teams.
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