OT: why were BBC archives deleted or destroyed?

Chris Woods christopher at custommade.org.uk
Thu Aug 4 07:52:35 PDT 2016

> Plus nobody thought they were of any value. Before VHS, DVDs, selling radio 
> series on cassette or whatever, and iPlayer, once something had been 
> broadcast the only value it had was if the BBC wanted to repeat broadcast 
> it. They couldn't see the future, and didn't have a "library" mindset.
>> On 4 Aug 2016, at 14:20, Colin Law <clanlaw at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> On 4 August 2016 at 14:06, artisticforge . <artisticforge at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Hello
>>> This is off-topic but it is of importance to the people who listen to the BBC.
>>> Why were BBC archives deleted or destroyed?
>> Incompetence and cock-up mostly I imagine.
>> Colin

As people realised its historical significance, people did begin to 
archive. Sometimes departments and teams did this somewhat unofficially But 
economics prevailed in some cases - tapes being wiped for reuse, etc. 
Physical recording medium is expensive and difficult to drive - so you'd 
struggle to justify fresh tape for every single episode of every show. Some 
stuff was just lost through admin cock-up.

Yet for all this, the BBC probably has one of the richest archives of any 
organisation (outside of the niche media archival organisations), not 
including the international content they hoover up as part of Monitoring's 

In sharp contrast to the analogue era, very little is erased now. 
Information & Archives has the never-ending task of categorising, sorting 
and finding footage, audio and text from decades past alongside handling 
the stream of new content created daily. Sport has a team of Media Managers 
dedicated to ingest and organisation (and supply) of content simply because 
there's so much of it.

The problem (and temptation) is that it's easy to record every single 
second of everything as it's 'just 0s and 1s', even if it doesn't really 
merit archiving. As a result, terabytes of broadcast video and audio is 
archived in multiple places on multiple systems for various reasons every day.

So is the BBC paying more than it strictly needs to in order to archive 
every single waking moment, when really if it just archives things like 
news reports and related raw footage, isolated cameras for important live 
events and the usual gamut of feeds for sport... Does it need anything 
else? I don't think the future will really see any cultural benefit from 
twenty years of Pointless or Gardeners Question Time.

It is a lot simpler from a technological and financial standpoint to 
archive audio, so perhaps more of a case to keep blanket archiving that stuff.

Digitisation of things like the old Radio Times collections (now basically 
complete, though being constantly refined) and other old publications is 
probably as or more important, so the research and sleuthing being done to 
find old stuff is important to continue.

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