Wales politics

BBC Wales says it cannot give National Broadcast Archive more cash

BBC archive tapes
Image caption Lottery funding of £5m has been agreed in principle for the project

BBC Wales has told assembly members it cannot spend more money on helping to run a £9m National Broadcast Archive.

Deputy culture minister Lord Elis-Thomas has called on the BBC to increase its financial support for the project.

The National Library in Aberystwyth plans to house 160,000 recordings transferred from the BBC Cymru Wales's headquarters in Cardiff in the archive.

BBC Cymru Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies said the material was a "gift".

In November 2018, it emerged that the Welsh Government would not commit £1m towards the project over fears the new archive could put the library at risk over the longer term.

The project needs government support in order to secure £5m of lottery funding.

BBC Wales says it has spent £2.3m digitising its material and that between 2019 and 2023 it will make contributions in kind worth £400,000 towards the national archive.

From 2024, the BBC will provide £20,000 a year for three years towards the maintenance of the archive, as well as in-kind support to resolve rights issues which it values at £40,000.

Mr Davies said the BBC was offering a "substantial package" of support.

"We've explained to the library and the government that it won't be possible for the BBC to go beyond the package that's already been shared," Mr Davies told the assembly's Culture Committee.

He said: "It's very important to underline first this is a proposed gift to the National Library.

"There is no obligation on the library to take the archive lock stock and barrel."

Image caption Digitised content would be viewable by the public in Aberystwyth and three hubs around Wales

Because all BBC Wales' content - dating back to the 1930s - is now also stored digitally the broadcaster no longer needs the physical tapes, AMs were told.

It will be "disposed of" if the Library turns down the offer.

Mr Davies said that was a "key difference" with a BBC-owned archive centre in Perivale, London, where material was kept for broadcast purposes only and which is not open to the public.

"The BBC isn't trying to avoid cost here," he said. "If the library doesn't need the assets then they will not be kept, we'll get rid of them."

What is the National Broadcast Archive?

  • It aims to be a "chronicle of the life of the nation" and "Wales' national memory"
  • The BBC has been broadcasting in Wales since 1923 and it has 95,000 audio tapes, 64,000 video tapes - being digitised - and thousands of cans of film
  • It would join the ITV, S4C and screen and sound archives collected at Aberystwyth
  • Digitised content would be available to view by the public and researchers at the National Library but also at new hubs in Cardiff, Carmarthen and Wrexham.

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