Promoting and leading British radio archive policy
Submitting InstitutionBournemouth University
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Journalism and Professional Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
BU research has demonstrated the benefits of radio archives. Radio
recordings are a rich source
of social, cultural and political history. Until recently archives have
been inaccessible to schools,
community organisations, scholars and other users. Research by the Centre
for Media History
(CMH) at Bournemouth University (BU) was the motivation behind a committee
being formed to
raise awareness of the problem. The committee strongly supported the
Corporation (BBC) in making their catalogue available to the public via
the British Library (BL). The
research itself informed the library's new sound archive policy. Archive
access has a wide range of
benefits to the production industry, education, culture and the economy.
The CMH has won over £1 million in grants to digitise radio collections
and, together with
published output, this has created the leading academic centre for radio
The published output of Chignell (BU 1997 to present), Street (BU
1995-2011), Turnock (BU
2003-2006) and Holland (BU 2012 to present) is based on the detailed
analysis of audio-visual
and written archives. This pioneering work has revealed the intellectual
and cultural value of
recorded twentieth century radio and television and directly facilitated
successful grant applications
to digitise selected collections.
One of the lessons learned from this output (the publications and the
funded projects) is that old
radio programming has value. It provides a revealing insight into British
culture, which has hitherto
been seriously neglected. Radio, because of its everyday and transparent
quality, is a record of
changing social values, behaviour, beliefs and every facet of social and
cultural life. This is all seen
through the lens of thousands of hours of radio dramas, magazines,
news and other radio genres.
The research itself is best illustrated and explained through specific
examples of both publications
and funded research projects.
1. Research into early commercial radio in the UK (P3)
This is the ground-breaking and definitive study by Street of pre-war
commercial radio, based on a
meticulous examination of very rare early radio located in highly
dispersed collections of audio,
documents and ephemera. Not only is the work exemplary in the use of
archives, but it has also
been intellectually and historically significant and contributed to a
revisionist pre-war broadcasting
2. London Broadcasting Company / Independent Radio News Digitisation
Project, 2007 (G1)
As the published output of the CMH revealed the extraordinary richness
and value of neglected,
archived radio, this project showed the possibility of putting large
amounts of radio online. Over
3,000 hours of radio news was transferred from reel-to-reel tape to
digital format and, crucially,
augmented by detailed meta-data, researched and input by specially
recruited and trained
researchers. This project showed the potential use of daily news output as
an historical record;
notably in the case of the Falklands War and Margaret Thatcher's
3. Professor Hugh Chignell — research into current affairs radio
This research is based largely on the BBC Radio Four Analysis
archive, which is housed at BU.
Using a combination of listening to recorded radio and reading
transcripts, Chignell has shown how
current affairs radio developed from its origins in the 1950s and how one
Analysis, influenced the public sphere by providing an early
platform for Thatcherite ideas in the
1970s and the `Third Way' in the 1990s. This initial research formed the
basis of a broader survey
of talks, news and current affairs radio (P1).
References to the research
P1. Chignell, H. (2011). Public Issue Radio: Talks, News and
Current Affairs in the Twentieth
Century. Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke. ISBN: ISBN:
P2. Holland, P. (2006). The Angry Buzz: This Week and Current
Affairs Television. London: I.B.
Tauris. ISBN: 978-1-845-11051-2.
P3. Street, S. (2006). Crossing the Ether, Pre-War Public
Service Radio and Commercial
Competition in the UK. London: John Libbey. ISBN: 978-0-861-96668-4.
P4. Chignell, H. (2007). The London Broadcasting Company (LBC) and
Independent Radio News
(IRN) Archive. Twentieth Century British History, 18(4), 514-525.
Funded archive research projects
G1. 2007: Street was awarded £759,000 by the JISC to digitise a
large part of the London
Broadcasting Company/Independent Radio News (LBC/IRN) archive housed at
G2. 2007: Holland won £91,000 from the Arts and Humanities
Research Council (AHRC) to fund
`There's no such thing as society? A study of broadcasting and the public
services under the three
Thatcher governments, 1979-1990.'
Chignell was co-investigator for both of these projects.
Details of the impact
BU research has demonstrated the social and cultural benefits of radio
archives. This information
was instrumental in the forming of a committee to raise awareness of the
lack of archive access,
but also directly informed BL's new sound archive policy.
In December 2011, BU hosted a summit attended by representatives from the
BL, Ofcom, the
BBC, Danish archives, regional archives and UK higher education
institutions. BU researchers
presented a summary of their findings to the BBC and the BL, stating why
radio archives needed to
be more readily available (R1). At the summit the UK Radio Archives
(UKRAAC) was born, with Chignell as chair (R2).
Soon after the establishment of UKRAAC, the BBC agreed to give BL's
16,000 daily users access
to their digital catalogue (the `BBC Pilot Project'). This archive had
previously been completely
inaccessible. In a speech at the British Library on 29 September 2012, the
CEO of the BL
announced that a version of the catalogue would be available in the
reading rooms. It was made
available online via BL computers in January 2013.
The importance of BU's research in this decision is confirmed by BL's
Head of Sound and Moving
Image, who said: "Research by the CMH at BU clearly demonstrates the
social and cultural
benefits of radio archives. The cultural, artistic and social importance
of BBC and commercial radio
emerges powerfully in Crossing the Ether by Street [P3] and Public
Issue Radio: Talks, News and
Current Affairs in the Twentieth Century [P1] by Chignell" (R3).
He continued: "Bournemouth University's research findings assisted our
lobbying of the BBC to
make their archive catalogue available at the Library. In addition,
research by Bournemouth
University researchers has supported and informed the development of the
Library's Radio Archive
Access to the archives now offers wide-reaching benefits to culture and
economy, as well as
applied use in education and the radio industry.
Archives are a rich primary source material for teachers. They bring the
UK's social, cultural and
political history to life in the classroom in a colourful, interactive and
memorable way. Using digital
archives also fosters digital literacy, which is an important social
benefit at a time when the UK
strives to be a leader in the creative industries.
The archives are a valuable learning tool and inspirational resource for
creative minds developing
new programming and technologies. As in any industry, past excellence
feeds and informs future
excellence. And from a purely practical point of view, the archives
facilitate the review, exchange
and licensing of production.
Orion Media own Gem 106 in the East Midlands (441,000 listeners each week
— R4) and Free
Radio in the West Midlands (nearly 700,000 listeners each week — R4). The
Director for Orion Media confirmed: "Research carried out at Bournemouth
genuinely made a significant contribution to developing a UK radio archive
The BL's `National Radio Archives' policy, actively supported by UKRAAC,
proposes to have all
commercial, community and online radio output archived in the next few
years. This would
centralise storage and would be a single cost-effective solution for the
radio industry. Archives
facilitate programme and content sharing between different industry
sectors, opening new outlets
and markets for production.
This resource offers the public a reservoir of 21st century
entertainment to enjoy.
There is also evidence to show that radio archives and their use are
important and that the role of BU in leading the dissemination and use of
archives is acknowledged
by researchers from other institutions (R6).
BU's work on archive policy has also been acknowledged by the Department
for Culture, Media
and Sport (DCMS). On 19 October 2012, Chignell and Stoller, along with
representatives from the
BL, attended a meeting with the DCMS. The aim was to put forward the case
for not only improving
access to old archives but making sure all current radio output would be
representatives agreed with the UKRAAC policy paper and a commitment was
made to support a
national radio archive.
In conclusion, the BL had aspired to be the `national radio archive' for
some time and the BU
initiative has provided the academic stamp of approval to help make that a
reality. Access to the
BBC's sound archive catalogue was a significant milestone for BU and BL
economic, cultural, industry and educational benefits already emerging.
Sources to corroborate the impact
R1. Franklin, I. and Skoog, K. (2011). Listening to Learn and
Learning to Listen. A Report on UK
Radio Archives: Policy, Practice and Potential. Bournemouth
University: Centre for Broadcasting
History. Available from: http://ukradioarchives.com/research-publications/
[accessed 21 November
R2. Minutes from a meeting at the British Library, December 2011,
when UKRAAC was
established (available on request).
R3. Letter from the British Library's Head of Sound and Moving
Image (available on request).
R4. Radio Joint Audience Research, or RAJAR; six months, ended
March 2013. Available from:
[accessed 21 November 2013].
R5. Statement from Group Programme Director for Orion Media
(available on request).
R6. Testimonials from researchers outside Bournemouth University
(available on request).