January 24, 2022

The British Library Outlines Plan to Create a National Radio Archive

From the BL:

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 Radio 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.

Direct to British Library Sounds Database
Over 60,000 audio recordings including some radio content can be found here.  Note: Some content is not licensed for a global audience. An option to limit search results to recordings available worldwide (“available for all”) is available. 

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.