4. Selection for Digitisation in Broadcasting Sound Archives

4.1 Considerations and constraints

Many broadcasting organisations are embarking on projects to digitise parts or all of their audio collections. The extent and scale of projects varies a great deal depending on available resources. However, even in cases whereby there are plans to digitise the whole collection, priority to digitise is given to selected parts of the collection. The following seeks to identify considerations and constraints and to propose guidelines for the setting of priorities.

Cost is the most obvious constraint. Funding for digitisation may be limited to a project comprising a small percentage of the whole collection. Public funding and co-operation with national or cultural institutions should be considered. Some broadcast archives are part of a national archive and some are not, and the role of the archive will influence selection criteria.

Broadcasting organisations need access to archive material for re-use in transmission and increasingly for re-use and re-purposing in other digital projects (DAB, Internet, etc.). An example of re-purposing would be using audio underneath a still image on a web page. Unique material and more broadly material which is of value from a heritage perspective needs consideration. Other considerations are the management of Metadata and copyright restrictions. There will, of course, always be a case for making exceptions when selecting.

4.2 Cultural, scientific, or academic significance of content

Most radio archives hold material that represents historical, social, political and cultural aspects of life in this century and the last. Material unique to an organisation is of particular interest. Other recordings may be available elsewhere, commercially or in international collections. Co-operation on the digitising of overlapping holdings is recommended. Priority should be given to digitising holdings unavailable anywhere else.

4.3 Primary Institutional Responsibilities

Responsibilities and roles depend on whether the broadcast archive is part of a national archive or not. Apart from a broader national role most broadcast archives serve to provide material for re-use in transmission and other means of output. It is recommended that selections from current output are as inclusive as possible. Some material receives more frequent use while other parts of a collection remain dormant. It is recommended that an analysis of current requests be undertaken to determine what material is in high demand. Once identified, frequently used material can be given priority for digitising. While it makes sense to identify a body of material and to then systematically digitise, consideration should also be given to the possibility of digitising on demand.

Output to other media such as DAB and Internet may now be as important as conventional re-transmission. Re-purposing increases the opportunities for re-use of material. Whereas in the past a radio play may have had to wait for a re-schedule, an audio clip may now be associated with another digital object (an image, for example) and used to illustrate the voice of a well-known actor on the Internet. New Media may be more or less of a priority depending on the organisation.

4.4 Technical Considerations

Many broadcast archives have stock on carriers now degrading and unstable. IASA document ref. IASA–TC 03 provides a list of unstable analogue and digital carriers and this issue is dealt with in some detail in chapter 3 of this paper.

4.5 Metadata

In the digital domain there is a heavy dependence on correct labelling for the purpose of future retrieval. Serious consideration must be given to descriptive metadata. The textual description (if it exists in the first place), may need to be enhanced and must be associated with the digitised audio. Records Management, while an essential part of any digitising project, is a labour intensive and therefore costly process. Even the most basic description is better that nothing. However, in exceptional cases carriers in danger may have to be transferred without Metadata.

4.6 Copyright

Digitising facilitates easier and quicker access and the exchange of material. Many broadcasting organisations have legacy contracts drawn up for the purpose of transmission only. These restrictions may severely limit the potential to exploit material via new media. Organisations may wish to digitise material for which they have rights, sooner than material with copyright restrictions attached. Consideration needs to be given to devising new and more inclusive contracts.

Differences in national copyright laws are likely to cause hindrance to the exploitation of exchange material. Co-operation in this field and the introduction of international legislation aimed at facilitating access should be encouraged.

4.7 Representative Selection

Harald v. Hielmcrone (Selection criteria for archiving radio and television programmes: The Danish Experience, State and University Library, Aarhus, Denmark, 2002) outlined the use of Formal, Structural and Content based criteria in order to achieve representative selection. Periods of time (e.g. by decade) are an example of a formal criterion. The programme unit is an example of a structural criterion. Genre is an important content-based criterion that needs consideration in representative selection. Von Hielmcrone suggests eight main genres: Fact; Fiction; Entertainment; Public Access; Juvenile programmes; Local and regional programmes; Presentation; Advertisements.