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