Selection in radio sound archives: a problem of documentation (Ulf Scharlau)

The main purpose of sound archives is the collection, recording and documentation of archive material. In opposition to this, the demands of radio archives are defined by the more extensive commission of a broadcasting station. This is formulated in general terms in the broadcasting act of Süddeutscher Rundfunk: the proposition of broadcasting is “the arrangement and transmission of performances of all kinds by using electric vibrations in word, sound and picture as far as they address the public”. Two essential aspects of radio archives’ work are highlighted in this proposition. Firstly the variety of the collecting field which includes the variety of archive material, and secondly the audience - millions of broadcast listeners who originate from very different social levels and who have various interests and expectations from radio programmes. The Süddeutscher Rundfunk has, therefore, established four types of programme which differ considerably from each other. A broadcasting archive must cater for all these different requirements with its material.

The sound archives are mainly archives for production and have to provide the material, which is necessary for everyday broadcasting use. Hence for many years the policy was to keep only those sound carriers of music or spoken word which would be repeated in other programmes. The main criterion for keeping a record was the possibility of repetition; in other words, its repertoire value. Only when the archive material grew old, an increasing sense of historical phenomena caused a slow change in the evaluation of archive material, especially when after one or two decades from the production day of a record, a more objective view of form and subject became possible.