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T
he BBC has one of the biggest audio-visual
archives in the world, analogue mountains of
archival material to which on an increasing
scale of digital material is added, because for about
four years, everything created in the BBC has been
on a digital format.
As Paul Fiander, Head of BBC Information &
Archives, described the situation in the Forum in
Barcelona:`If you look at the BBC, we started seventy-
five years ago collecting material. In the modern era the
BBC has traditionally transmitted from two television
channels and five radio channels.The BBC now has
seven television channels and will soon have over twenty
radio channels, in addition to a new media site that creates
thousands of new pages every month.We are also just
about to start permanently broadcasting in interactive
where for every traditional stream of linear content,
lets take a sport, we now have six streams, such as
camera position, information, etc. So, whatever prin-
ciples we agree on retention and archiving, suddenly
our job is expanded by factors of ten, twenty or even
100.We employ at the moment within the BBC 250
people solely related to the archive. If you multiply
the content without finding some automatic way of
doing it, you can see that the number of people we
require will get beyond any number reasonable to
employ.Think for a minute, we are just talking about
new content being created today. I have not even
mentioned or proposed a method to deal with the
analogue mountains created in the past.'
According to Fiander, they have spent about 35
million Euro so far in preserving analogue material.
The BBC will probably spend up to 90 million euro
on the whole preservation process, and a lot more
than that in managing these assets.
BBC Information & Archives is a business unit that
not only has to demonstrate to UK licence fee payers
and professional archivists the quality and standards of
how it looks after the BBC's broadcast material. It also
has to demonstrate to the management and stakeholders
that it is supportive in providing value for money in the
arena of public service TV. In doing so, bringing analogue
archival material into the digital world is essentially about
facilitating better accessibility, reuse, and valorisation.
In the light of volumes of digital material that are
nearly on an exponential scale of growth, Fiander calls
for clarification of principles and pragmatic solutions.
For example,`authenticity in an audio-visual world,
does that say we should not compress, what do we lose
by MPEG-1-2-21?' Some national archives do not
accept material that has been compressed (because
they cannot guarantee that it can be rendered to its
original state). But, if you are the BBC and facing
such an enormous growth of material, how do you
accommodate to that? Can you still keep everything
that is deemed valuable, or do you have to adapt your
selection and retention policy, to match your funding?
Actually, the BBC does not keep everything,
because `lack of space, lack of funds whatever criteria
you want to apply, is forcing us to change our selection
and retention policy. If I give you an example from
television, we will keep all of the landmark series, all
the good programmes, but , we won't keep all the
cookery programmes, and we certainty will not keep
all the quiz shows, we will keep examples of those.
The content volumes are rising, so we will inevitably
be more selective unless we can find technological
solutions that enables us to reduce the unit cost of
selection, retention and storage.Without these tech-
nological solutions you may be tempted to leave it to
the market alone, such as those items that have the
highest short term re-use value in which case we
will focus highly on sports, the wealthiest user group.'
In the Forum discussion, Nils Brübach stated that
`the appraisal policy should not be simply based on
economic matters', but be defined beforehand
instead of `seeing it as a budgetary reflex'. Ken
Thibodeau added, that the digital environment might
well lead to the beneficial situation that players like,
for example, the Universal Studios `keep a lot more
material than they ever did before, because they can
slightly repurpose it and create new markets. So the
archives become a revenue generator.' Fiander
affirmed, that representatives of such companies see
`a new exploitation track, but who wins again, I am
sorry but we are back with sport again.' (-gg)
26
DigiCULT
Photo:
Beeld en Geluid
THE DIGITAL