National Radio Archive

National Radio Archive

We aim to create a digital radio archive which will preserve a representative proportion of ongoing UK radio output.

Published date:


The British Library is recognised as the home of the nation’s radio archive. The current radio collection comprises around 250,000 hours. Additionally, via a longstanding arrangement with the BBC, the Library also provides research access to the extensive radio collections of the BBC Archives.

However, of the estimated 3 million hours of radio broadcast in the UK each year from 700 stations, the Library is acquiring a mere 20,000 hours (mostly news-based content). It is estimated that 92% of current UK radio is not being properly preserved, with only 2% being made available for potential research post-transmission.

The project

To address the gaps in our recordings, we plan to create a digital radio archive, based primarily on off-air recording, which will preserve a representative proportion of ongoing UK radio output (emphasising speech-based content), and make this available for research.

The first step is to build a pilot radio archive over a period of two years (2018–2019), covering up to 50 stations from across the UK, to be developed thereafter into a long-term service.

We will be using speech recognition technology to increase the searchability of radio and to encourage its integration with other, text-based media. The selection of content for the archive will be determined as much by research need as preservation requirements, and we will be interested to learn from research projects where we might be able to collaborate as part of the pilot development.

You can follow developments via the Sound & Vision blog.

See also


Save our Sounds

Save our Sounds is our programme to preserve the nation’s sound heritage.

Directory of UK Sound Collections

The British Library has created a directory of UK sound collections

The Future of Radio

This 2016 project investigated the future of radio and radio archives.

Opening Up Speech Archives

This AHRC-funded project studied the use of speech recognition technologies

All projects

Blog posts

Women, Engineering and British Politics

Friday, June 22, 2018

To mark International Women in Engineering Day 2018 Dr Sally Horrocks explores the British Library oral history collections to see what they tell us about women whose careers involved both engineering and parliamentary politics.

Tracking down Tamás

Friday, June 22, 2018

By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Tamás Vásáry at the Hotel Gellert restaurant (photo by Jonathan Summers) Save our Sounds is the British Library’s programme to preserve the nation’s sound heritage. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, many collections...

“And we saw the thing had done a computation” - The modern computer turns 70

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's been 70 years since the first successful run of the Manchester Baby, arguably the worlds first modern computer.

Recording of the week: Dennis Brutus

Monday, June 18, 2018

This week's selection comes from Stephen Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary & Creative Recordings. In this archive recording from the African Writers Club collection, South African poet and anti-apartheid activist Dennis Brutus reads the introductory poem from his debut volume...

More blog posts