BBC Archives

BBC Archives

The BBC Archives are collections documenting the BBC's broadcasting history.



The archives contain 1 million hours of media (audio and audio/visual) material dating back to the 1890s, with early material on wax cylinder.[1] With other materials such as photos and written documents the archive contains 11 million items.[1] The BBC is in the process of digitising the entire archive; as of summer 2010 they have spent approximately ten years digitising half of the media content and due to improving work practices expect to complete the other half in five years.[1] The BBC estimates that the 11 million items will comprise approximately 52 petabytes of information.[1] Typically, one programme minute for video requires 1.4 gigabytes of storage.[1]

The BBC uses the Material eXchange Format (MXF) which is an uncompressed, non-proprietary format which the BBC has been publicising in order to mitigate the threat of the format becoming obsolete (as digital formats can and do).[1]

Undigitised the archive takes up 66 miles of shelving on which are held at least 15 video formats, two different gauges of film and 11 formats on which radio recordings are stored.[1] The stock is managed using bar codes which help to locate material on the shelves and also track material that has been lent out.[1] The storage environment is controlled for temperature and humidity, different for audio than for video.[1]

The BBC says that the budget for managing, protecting and digitising the archive accounts for only a small part of the BBC's overall spend.[1]

The archives were relaunched online in 2008 and have released new historical material regularly since then. The BBC works in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI), The National Archives and other partners in working with and using the materials.[1]

A related project called "Genome" is expected to complete in 2011 and will make programme listings (not the media itself) dating back to 1923, sourced from The Radio Times, available to search online.[1]

In July 2008, Roly Keating was appointed Director of Archive Content[2], with responsibility for increasing public access to the BBC’s archives. In October 2008, Roly appointed Tony Ageh Controller of Archive Development with “specific responsibility for developing ways of making the archive easily understandable and accessible to users”.[3]

Written Archives Centre

The BBC Written Archives Centre is part of the BBC Archives situated in Caversham, Berkshire, a suburb of Reading in England.

The Centre holds the written records of the British Broadcasting Corporation, dating from 1922 to the present day. The current guidelines restrict access to post-1980 production files, although some later documents (such as scripts and Programme as Broadcast records) may be released. It is open to writers and academic researchers in higher education by appointment only. The Centre has also contributed documents for many major documentaries on radio and television.

Creative Archive Licence

The BBC together with the British Film Institute, the Open University, Channel 4 and Teachers' TV formed a collaboration, the Creative Archive Licence Group, to create a copyright licence for the re-release of archived material.

The Licence was a trial launched in 2005 and was notable for the re-release of part of the BBC's news archives and natural history for creative use by the public The Creative Archive Licence is a copyright licence developed by the Creative Archive Licence Group, initially a collaboration of the British Broadcasting Corporation, British Film Institute, the Open University, Channel 4 and Teachers' TV. While artists and teachers are encouraged to use the content to create works of their own, the terms of the licence are restrictive compared to other copyleft licences. Use of Creative Archive content for commercial, "endorsement, campaigning, defamatory or derogatory purposes" [4] is forbidden, any derivative works must be released under the same licence, and content may only be used within the UK.

Works released by the BBC under the licence were a part of a trial service that has now been withdrawn for review by the BBC Trust under the Public Value testing process. The Creative Archive trial ended in 2006.

Archives Treasure Hunt

The BBC launched the BBC Archive Treasure Hunt as a public appeal to recover pre-1980s lost BBC radio and television productions.[5] Material was lost due to wiping, copyright issues and technological reasons.[6][7]

Productions recovered

As of September, 2009, more than one hundred productions have been recovered including:[8]


Audio recording sessions


  • Peter Sellers received from the Peter Sellers Estate Collection.

List of BBC TV Series Affected by Wiping

Voices from the archives

Voices from the Archives is a BBC website providing free access to audio interviews with authors, artists, actors, architects, broadcasters, cartoonists, composers, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, painters, philosophers, photographers, playwrights, poets, political activists, religious thinkers, scientists, sculptors, sports, writers.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kiss, Jemima (2010-08-18). "In The BBC Archive". Tech Weekly (London: Guardian News & Media Ltd). Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Roly Keating appointed as Director of Archive Content". BBC Press Office. 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  3. ^ "Tony Ageh appointed Controller of Archive Development". BBC Press Office. 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  4. ^ BBC Creative Archive Licence pilot BBC Online
  5. ^ "BBC Online - Cult - Treasure Hunt - About the Campaign". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  6. ^ "BBC Online - Cult - Treasure Hunt - About the Campaign". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  7. ^ Stuart Douglas - (1965-07-07). "missing episodes articles". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  8. ^ "No 4 2001 - Missing Believed Wiped". Fiat/Ifta. Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  9. ^ "BBC Online - Cult - Treasure Hunt - List of Finds". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  10. ^ "'hunt' Unearths Bbc Treasures From Radio, Tv | Business solutions from". 2001-11-09. Retrieved 2010-07-30. 

External links

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