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Radio: research resources

The British Library provides access to a number of resources that are valuable for radio broadcast research, ranging from catalogues and periodicals to online material.

General research

Many collections of radio recordings can be explored through the Sound Archive's online catalogue; others currently require the use of separate finding aids:

The British Library is unable to provide copies of copyrighted recordings or broadcasts without the permission of the various rights owners. For this reason it will not normally be possible for the British Library to provide copies of broadcasts. However, BBC programme contributors may wish to contact the BBC's Contributor Access facility, which may be able to assist.

General enquiries concerning the BBC may be addressed to the BBC Homepage. Information pertaining to the BBC radio and television archives can be found at the BBC Archive pages, with frequently asked questions concerning the various archives provided within the section Meet the Experts.

Regional network productions are usually held at the originating regional centres.

Students researching non-extant programming or aspects of broadcasting history which are undocumented elsewhere, may wish to investigate the collections of the BBC Written Archive, which includes performer contract files, programme scripts, internal papers and correspondence extending back to the establishment of the BBC in 1922.

Many recently transmitted radio and television programmes, from both national and regional stations, are made temporarily available for streaming or downloading via the BBC iPlayer, while BBC Worldwide provides access to a collection of selected television clips via the BBC Worldwide channel at YouTube.

Educational and commercial

An arrangement between the BBC and Pearson Education makes a range of specially cleared television programmes available for sale to bona fide educational institutions and teaching personnel via BBC Active, while the BBC's commercial wing, BBC Worldwide, also gives commercial users online access to a portfolio of copyright-cleared television footage (selected from the archives of the BBC, CBS News and other international television archives), via its BBC Motion Gallery. BBC Worldwide subsidiary BBC Radio International syndicates selected programming, particularly music and drama, to subscribing radio stations around the world.

Selected electronic resources

A number of onsite electronic resources provide access to reference material, journal indexing/abstracts and translated international news transcriptions. The following can be accessed from terminals within the Humanities - floor 2 reading room:

  • Credo Reference
    Online reference library providing access to a large number of encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri and other reference books, including material pertaining to radio, media and the social sciences.
  • Oxford Music Online
    The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians online includes material on music programming and broadcasting.
  • ISI Web of Knowledge
    A multidisciplinary index to the journal literature of the arts and humanities and social sciences, including radio, film and television. It includes over 3,000 of the world's leading arts and humanities and social sciences journals.
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports (1974-1996)
    A United States government service translating the text of daily broadcasts, government statements, and select news stories from non-English sources around the world. One report with translations is issued for each of eight world regions for each day.
  • Global Newsbank (1996-current)
    Articles in English from translated broadcasts, news agency transmissions, wire services, newspapers, magazines, and government documents from Africa, Asia, Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Pacific Rim, Central and South America, and the Middle East.

Useful links

Accessing the collection

To access sound and moving image material:

  • Use the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue to search for recordings.
  • The Listening and Viewing Service provides free public access to the Sound Archive's collections of recorded sound and video in St Pancras. Sound recordings can be accessed in Boston Spa also.
  • The Sound Archive Information Service is based in Humanities - floor 2 in St Pancras where books, discographies, periodicals and magazines are available on open access.
  • Many sound recordings have been digitised and are presented on the British Library Sounds website. A large number of the recordings are freely available for listening online though some are restricted to users in accredited Higher Education establishments.
  • The Transcription Service can provide copies of recordings once the appropriate copyright has been cleared.

Further information

Paul Wilson
Curator, Radio
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7446
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441