British Library outlines ambitions to preserve the UK’s radio heritage

The British Library outlined its ambitions today to work with the radio industry to explore how to preserve a representative sample of the UK’s vast radio output.

The British Library already has a valuable archive of some 200,000 hours of radio going back to the 1920s, from pre-war Radio Luxembourg to commercial stations such as Capital Radio, and a full decade’s output by the radical London arts station Resonance FM. This resource is used by historians, academics and the creative industries to offer a unique, living portrait of what the nation is talking about – and what they listened to – at any given point in time. 

However, this represents only a tiny fraction of the extensive output of the more than 600 public service, commercial and community stations currently broadcasting across the country. Sound archivists at the British Library estimate that 92% of UK radio is currently not subject to long term preservation or access, and thus will be lost to future generations of researchers.

This gap in the national collections has been identified as a key part of the British Library’s major preservation programme, Save our Sounds, which sets out to protect both the Library’s existing historic collection of more than 6.5 million recordings, and to safeguard the acquisition of future sound production in the UK, including the national collection of radio and published music.

Speaking at the 2015 Radio Festival, Roly Keating, Chief Executive at the British Library, said:

‘Unlike television, newspapers or the UK web domain, there is currently no institutional support to ensure that the nation’s vibrant radio output is fully preserved for future generations.

As outlined in our Living Knowledge vision published earlier this year, a key goal for the British Library is to preserve as much as possible of the UK’s sound heritage. We want to work with the radio industry to explore ways in which radio can be captured permanently in the future, and be made available for research, enjoyment and inspiration.”

Organisations from across the radio industry including the BBC, Radioplayer, Community Media Association, Radio Academy and Radio Independents Group have all  expressed support for a radio archive, and will join a working group led by the British Library to explore possible models for the radio archive proposal.  

Notes to Editors

You can listen to highlights from the British Library’s radio archive online at

Follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and @BLsoundheritage and tag with #SaveOurSounds

Save our Sounds is a major British Library campaign to preserve the UK’s sound heritage. 

For more information:

Sophie McIvor
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7790

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts

The British Library is home to the UK’s Sound Archive, a treasure trove of living history containing more than 6.5 million sounds including music, spoken word, oral history, wildlife and the environment dating back to the birth of recorded sound in the 19th century. Discover more and listen at