BBC launching online archives next year

Friday, October 30 2009, 13:13 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

The BBC has said that it will start releasing its entire archive of programming online by the end of next year, but the process could take "decades" to reach competition.

Despite being a long-held aim for the corporation, no timeline has so far been attached to the creation of a web-based library for all BBC TV and radio content.

However, the organisation intends to take the first steps towards unlocking its archives by Christmas 2010, including some material dating back to the maiden broadcasts in 1922.

In a speech to the London School of Economics this week, BBC Vision director Jana Bennett said that the archive would "herald a new epoch in public service broadcasting".

However, she cautioned that the resource would take "years, if not decades" to stock with the massive library of content built up over the corporation's history.

The BBC is aiming to get as much material as possible in the archive by its 100th anniversary in 2022, although this aim could prove elusive due to the complicated rights negotiations.

"It's a gigantic piece of infrastructure that can be achieved only through a multitude of partnerships - large and small, professional and amateur," she explained.

Bennett said that the archive would most likely incorporate a mix of public service and commercial pay models, with some content carrying a charge to access.

"New commercial and non-commercial models will emerge. Micropayments, open source sharing of material, free or very cheap sampling. There won't just be the current stark alternatives: commercial or free," she said.

"The project will be democratic: everyone could be a curator or researcher, a cataloguer or inventor. The archive could turn into a giant apps store."

Last month, the corporation launched its Wildlife Finder online presence, featuring 500 on-demand clips from 30 BBC nature series from the past three decades, including Planet Earth and Trials of Life.