Mapping Archive Access

In the beginning of 2015 Jacob Kreutzfeldt and Heidi Svømmekjær embarked on a project to uncover and benefit from the accumulated experience among researchers in and affiliates of the Transnational Radio Encounters research project (TRE). The main objective was to reach an understanding of some of the general issues connected to (trans)national radio archive research in the European research area. Based on that, we aim to ”map the local situations concerning research access to written material as well as to archived sound and [..] further experiment with these in a transnational setting.” as it was stated in the TRE HERA proposal (p. 31). Furthermore we intend to feed the results back to researchers in the shape of practical advice, links, a list of relevant archives etc. 

The project has so far involved these steps:

  1. Literature overview and reviews. See below.
  2. An on-line survey directed to researchers in the extended TRE-community. We asked respondents to consider seven questions focusing mainly on the individual researchers’ academic disciplines combined with the kind of material they requested in the archives and the different challenges they experienced (access, dissemination and more general issues). Here is a link to the Survey.
  3. Preliminary analysis of results. A brief summary can be read below.
  4. Discussion of summary conclusions at panel “National archives and transnational agendas” at the 3rd TRE workshop with representatives from British Broadcasting Corporation, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, The British Library, State Media Archive Denmark and European Broadcasting Union.
  5. Production of a Transnational Archival Access Manual based on the survey inputs. The manual identifies relevant archives, and relates researchers experience in using them. It may be extended with inputs from the archives themselves, and could then become a dynamic resource for transnational archive based radio research. The manual is avalible here: /database#Asset/1f3e559e-bf0d-4ed0-b6ca...

Heidi Svømmekjær will be on maternity leave from July '15 to May '16. After that the project will be expanded further to hopefully be published in form of an article. 

TRE Archive Access Survey

In order to map the local situations concerning radio researchers’ access to written material as well as to archived sound, TRE has issued a small-scale survey of radio researchers’ experience with archives. 34 researchers in the extended TRE-network were invited to answer a web-based questionnaire.  17 responses were received before 29/4. The data from the survey gives some indications of the variety of archives and material relevant for radio researchers, and points to some of the major limitations involved. Below are the first observations from the survey. They will form the basis of further investigation in TRE of how, in a transnational research agenda, to support and enhance both the knowledge base and the archive. 

Archives & types of material requested

The respondents had experience with a total of 48 different archives of which the BBC Written Archives (7/17), Danish Broadcasting Archives (6/17), (5/17) were the most frequently mentioned. Archive use spanned from national institutions to smaller online resources like and Only 5 (29 %) respondents had experience using archives from more than one country, of which only 3 (18%) had used on-site archives in several countries. This is quite remarkable considering the respondents’ affiliation with a transnational project such as TRE. 
The respondents used the archives as access points to different kinds of textual and auditory material. The vast majority (16/17) requested Programmes (audio, sound, recordings), while the other three most common requests were Minutes (11/17), Correspondences/internal reports (11/17) and Manuscripts (9/17). In total we identified 16 different categories of material requested including: listeners’ letters (1/17), listener accounts (2/17), newspaper clippings (4/17), policy papers (5/17), programme info/schedules (7/17), radio magazines (5/17), memos (2/17), listener research (2/17), (year-)books (3/17), personnel files (3/17), photos (1/17), technical documents (1/17).

Limitations experienced

The survey identifies limitations to access and to the use of archive material in dissemination. We realized during our data observations, that when sorted relative to the archive used, the list of requirements and limitations provide useful information for other radio researchers.  The limitations mentioned naturally varied respective to the kind of archive and its policies. Frequently mentioned limitations to archival access were: costs (6/17), on-site access only (5/17), clearing access (5/17), limited search options (5/17), waiting time (4/17), unavailability due to storage media (2/17) and geographical limitation (1/17). Several respondents suggested that online catalogues would be very helpful to researchers. 
When it comes to dissemination, limitations in the case of audio generally have to do with copyright, and in the case of the BBC Written Archive - with data protection. Concerning copyright, the respondents mention that copies are not allowed, that copies are costly, that clearing rights is difficult, and that there are no clear guidelines. There seem to be different policies in this field, and the survey illustrates a degree of uncertainty among researchers.

These are the very first observations from the data. We hope that the TRE-partners and the panellists will be interested in further dialogue on the issues involved and future perspectives.

Heidi Svømmekjær & Jacob Kreutzfeldt 

Literature reviews

Ieuan Franklin and Kristin Skoog: Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen:

In a (unpublished?) report from 2012 (?), Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen, Ieuan Franklin and Kristin Skoog (Centre for Broadcasting History, Bournemouth University) relates the findings of a survey on research and teaching use of radio material in the UK. The purpose of the survey is: 1) to find evidence of the use of radio in research and teaching, 2) to assess the degree of accessibility to broadcast radio and 3) to suggest how such access can be facilitated and radically expanded. The study builds on 3 surveys: one targeting educators (20 respondents), one targeting researchers (60 respondents) and one targeting archivists (29 respondents) . Questionnaires were distributed to relevant e-mail lists (MECCSA, Radio Studies, BBC History and in the case of archivists Archives-NRA). Some questions were closed and others open, and the study relies on both quantitative and qualitative analyses. The study also draws on extended interviews and e-mail conversations with relevant people from the British radio research & archive community. The thorough report (56 pages) gives a very good introduction to the situation in UK, and many of the questions raised and recommendations given seem relevant also outside UK. 

The basic presumption is that historical radio is a valuable resource for research and academic teaching. This is underlined by the existing use and demand for radio by the educators (55% of the educators use radio recordings or scripts frequently, 30 % use it infrequently), and by the level of engagement, frustration and encouragement from the respondents. The study gives a number of examples on how the material comes into use in teaching, and underlines the criticality of further access to quotidian radio rather than canonical pieces. It also shows that researchers mainly rely on “word-of-mouth”and archival assistance in selecting relevant research material, and point at the lack of on-line accessible catalogues. Furthermore it emphasizes the under-used and deteriorating state of many local or unofficial archives. While researchers interests are focussed in BBCs Written Archives and British Library National Sound Archive, many archivists in smaller archives seem frustrated with the lack of attention both from researchers and from funders. The report finally suggests a number of initiatives to put further focus on the state and use of radio archives in academia.

Richard Hewett: Academic requirements for pre-1989 BBC archive content

In 2014 a further report was written by Richard Hewett as part of a collaboration between Jisc, the BBC, and the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC): Academic requirements for pre-1989 BBC archive content. Though perhaps less thorough (comprising “only”37 pages incl. all appendices), the Hewett study has a wider scope than Franklin & Skoog, looking into research- and teaching uses of all audio-visual as well as non-broadcast BBC material. As the title states, Hewett focuses on material from before 1989, which is not covered by the Educational Recording Agency (ERA), and hence less accessible for research and teaching purposes. The main objectives of the study are listed below. For each objective the report offers valuable insights and recommendations:

  1. to determine accessibility of pre-1989-material 
  2. to gather specific requests for such material 
  3. to discuss barriers to access/possible solutions. 

The study, which took place over a period of four months, invited librarians, lecturers, researchers, and students to participate in an online survey, and received 315 responses, of which 175 were full (i.e. also included requests for material). Furthermore, specific research projects (individuals as well as groups) using archives have been examined and included alongside the survey. Based on this material, the report identifies a “demonstrable academic need/desire […] for increased online access to pre-1989 material” (Hewett, p. 4) as well as a widespread use in teaching and research of material already available online or in DVD/other commercial formats. While not gathered on one collective platform, much BBC material is in fact already available on various online portals:

  • BBC Archive
  • BBC Creative Archive
  • Desert Island Disks Archive
  • BBC4 Collections
  • The Space
  • The BBC Genome Project
  • [BBC World Service – my addition, not mentioned in the report – probably post-dates it] 

This leads to the three main reasons for not using archive materials:

  • accessibility (online or commercial) 
  • discoverability (researcher awareness of digital collections)
  • cost of rights

As for the first objective of determining current accessibility of pre-1989-material, the study concludes that in relation to both television and radio material, factual programming is most sought after (while less copyright-restricted it is also less likely to have been published commercially, but more present online) and drama/comedy the second most sought after (often much more difficult to access due to performer/artist rights) (Hewett, p. 8). A thought-provoking insight in this relation is that “22,5% of the items specifically requested are in fact already available, either in commercial formats or online.” (Hewett, p. 13) However, the study does not list the percentage of commercial vs. online access, which does make a substantial difference to researchers on a budget. Either way, this insight points to the need for more collaboration between the BBC, the BL, and BFI in order to increase researcher awareness of already accessible material.

Regarding the second objective of gathering requests, the report lists a demand across all genres in television and radio, documentary and arts programmes ranking highest in both media. The report therefore recommends that already digitised material be made available in collections gathering photos, excerpts, documents etc. under one theme, e.g. “the work of Dennis Potter”.

The final objective of discussing ways to remove barriers to access leads Hewett to suggest, among other things,  extending the ERA legislation backwards to also cover pre-1989-material. Another option is inspired by the collective rights management system in the Nordic countries, which has recently been made possible in the UK by a new provision known as “Extended Collective Licensing”.  This would ease rights management considerably compared to the current system.



Franklin, Ieuan & Kristin Skoog (2012): Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen. A Report in UK Radio Archives: Policy Practise and Potential. Centre for Broadcasting History, Bournemouth University.

Hewet, Richard (2014): Academic requirements for pre-1989 BBC archive content (31 January) (

Lewis, Peter M. (1996): Raiding the Lost Archives: early BBC programs and the role of myth in BBC radio history. Peter for Hearing is Believing, Sutherland, 2. March 1996 (unpublished?).

Lewis, Peter M. (2001): Burried treasure: the case of radio archives in Ballantyne, J: (2001) (ed.)  The researchers Guide Online: Britush Film, Television, Radio and Related Documentation Collections in the UK, 6th Edition. London: British Universities Film & Video Council.

Skov, Mette & Marianne Lykke (2012): Unlocking Radio Broadcasts: User Needs in Sound Retrieval (?)