Earlier today the BBC trust (the corporations overlords who represent the license fee payers) gave the go ahead for Radio 3, Radio 4 and BBC Four to offer programmes on-demand for an unlimited time after broadcast - unleashing this wealth of content to the license-fee payers in perpetuity. That means no more 7 day black-outs on iPlayer content, no need for illegal bitorrent downloads and all in all a more widely accessible BBC...well, for some of the 'brainy' networks anyway. Its not about unleashing all content from all channels. Many of the BBC's most popular titles from BBC1 and BBC2 - such as the big Natural History series, Dr Who and Top Gear - will continue to be available on DVD, via pay-TV channels or paid downloads, and there's no plans to change that anytime soon.
Unleashing the Brainy Content
So Why Radio 3, 4 and BBC4? According to Roly Keating, Director of Archive Content, its because...
'All three are well-known to their audiences for their intelligent use of material from the archives, whether it's Radio 4's Archive Hour linking past and present with topical acuity, or BBC Four, with its smart scheduling of archive rarities alongside its highest-profile new shows."
"Today's announcement confirms that in the online age the task of making more of the wealth of its fantastic archives easily accessible to audiences is an inseparable part of the BBC's mission as a public service broadcaster. That's why the new vision for BBC Online which we announced last week put archive discovery at the heart of its design."
A Utopian Future?
Lets jump forward a few years. We'll be living in a utopian future where the once separate entities of iPlayer, TV channel pages, programme pages and archive, will all be united in a single environment - a place that's simple to explore and enjoy. Programmes will live online without fear of termination or fading into oblivion, part of a rich community of content at the heart of BBC services. These will be discoverable through open search and linkable to by sites inside and outside of the BBC. As media becomes ever more social, individuals will find their own personal treasures in the collection, breathing new life into old content and popularising it among their friends and networks. I can't wait!
- Paul Williams
The BBC Archives in London (Photo: Ecospace)