Rethinking Broadcast Archives: Dig, Deconstruct, Display

Photo credit:  Steenbeck Muzeul Cineastului Amator 01.jpg" by Claudiu Ceia, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo credit: “Steenbeck Muzeul Cineastului Amator 01.jpg” by Claudiu Ceia, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

8 December, 2023

London, United Kingdom

Media Studies Seminar 2023 on December 8th in London, United Kingdom – BFI Southbank.

Rethinking Broadcast Archives: Dig, Deconstruct, Display

The FIAT/IFTA Media Studies Commission invites you to join the international seminar ‘Rethinking Broadcast Archives: Dig, Deconstruct, Display’ hosted at the BFI Southbank in London on December 8th.

The seminar brings together researchers and media professionals in a dialogue about present-day archival opportunities and challenges and how these inform new understandings of the archives and new ways of engaging with the past.

The programme features individual papers presenting research done at broadcast archives and beyond, screenings showcasing research-based investigations of broadcast archives, and round-table discussions on collaboration and access.






Harvested From Bin Cuts

by Paul Mulraney & Dr Kingsley Marshall

Falmouth University

Harvested From Bin Cuts

The culch is the bed on which oysters grow. Composed of discarded shells, stones and grit – thrown overboard once the dredge has been sifted for marketable oysters – the culch is the fertile ground on which future harvests rely.

Bin cuts are the bed on which this film has grown. Composed of discarded shots, retakes and tails – thrown on the cutting room floor once the edit has been sifted for marketable material – bin cuts are the fertile ground on which archival documentaries can flourish.

Following a technique deployed by Adam Curtis (Hypernormalisation, Bitter Lake), From the Culch finds authenticity, honesty and emotional truth in the unwanted, unplanned and unguarded moments left behind by history.

Harvested from Bin Cuts proposes that these once discarded moments of aesthetically and narratively undesirable footage are, in fact, a more fitting container for emotion and memory than the carefully staged and framed footage more common to broadcast documentaries.

This paper will detail a production process that in itself was cathartic and deeply moving and consider how film is impacted by a desire to remain true to the memory of people, language and place.

The filmmakers – in their editing decisions, in sound design and score, in interview technique and writing – sought to honour the material, retaining the sense of discovery that comes from opening a can of film whose contents are deemed valueless to some yet are priceless to others.

This essentially humanist intent finds a kinship in the films of Tim Plester and Rob Curry (The Way of Morris, upcoming documentary The Island of Doc Rowe), whose archival films will be considered as a model for this approach.

Paul Mulraney & Dr Kingsley Marshall

Paul Mulraney lectures at Falmouth University’s School of Film and Television, teaching film practice with specialisms in production design, screenwriting and documentary. His research interests lie in vernacular filmmaking – the use of existent people and places in the writing and production of independent, low-budget cinema. This practical research is related to a thematic interest in the examination of inequality through storytelling, in the telling of stories about peripheral places and the people who live there.

Dr Kingsley Marshall is based in Cornwall and specialises in film production. He is Head of Film & Television at Falmouth University and, as the development producer of the Sound/Image Cinema Lab – a unit within the university that develops short and feature film projects connects national partners with crew drawn from staff, students, graduates, and the local community. His research focuses on film and television development and production, sound and music in cinema and television, and the representation of real events in screen media. He has published widely and speaks regularly at international conferences, including events at the University of Oxford and New York University, and as an invited speaker at the ScreenSkills Congress, Birmingham University & the School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

Considering Context: The Partisan Roots of the Vanderbilt Television News Archive

by Naomi Smith

Birkbeck, University of London

Considering Context: The Partisan Roots of the Vanderbilt Television News Archive

Founded in August 1968, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive holds over 40,000 hours of news broadcasts from national television networks across the United States of America and continues to be one of the most extensive and complete archives of television news in the world. Containing over fifty years’ worth of broadcasts, the archive has grown into a vital resource for television news media researchers and anyone else who might be interested in seeing the first draft of the last fifty years of American history.

The story of the archive’s founding is narrative as equally compelling and – perhaps – surprising as some of the stories contained within its servers. The archive’s founder, initial financial backer and chief fundraiser, Paul Simpson, was a deeply conservative businessman and was convinced that network news broadcasts were contributing to social turmoil and unrest across America. He created the archive not necessarily with the needs of future media and journalism researchers in mind but with the express purpose of demonstrating that the networks were, as he alleged, deeply biased against the conservative right in America.

This paper considers how we might “read” the archive’s collection in the context of its founding and whether the intent behind its creation has – or should have – any bearing on the way that researchers interact with the archive and its contents today. Furthermore, it looks at similarities between the rhetoric surrounding the creation of the archive and similar sentiments concerning television journalism expressed by politicians and other social actors today and discusses the potential impacts of this rhetoric on the use of the archive now and in the future.

Naomi Smith

Naomi Smith is a final year PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London. Her current research interests include intersectionality and decolonisation, news story selection, and broadcast journalism, particularly in the context of the United States of America. She is a published journalist and freelance writer and completed an Investigative Reporting MA at Birkbeck in September 2018.

“Through Television You’ve Lied to the People”: In Defence of an Inclusive Engagement with the TV Archives of the Romanian Revolution

by Victor Morozov

Trinity College Dublin

"Through Television You've Lied to the People": In Defence of an Inclusive Engagement with the TV Archives of the Romanian Revolution

It is now widely acknowledged among scholars that television as a medium played a pivotal role in the unfolding of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 (Petrovszky, Tichindeleanu, Romanian Revolution Televised, 2018). This assertion is commonly understood to highlight the significance of the Romanian Revolution as a historical event that was broadcast in real-time, thus marking the inauguration of a new era in the history of media. It also implies the gradual change of status of Romanian Television as an institution during those intense days, from a catalyst of popular discontent to becoming the main agent of large-scale manipulation.

However, this paper posits that such arguments predominantly rely on an imperfect and incomplete engagement with, as well as a truncated analysis of, the available archival corpus of televisual footage amassed during the days of the revolution. It argues that a vast majority of theoretical and practical contributions to this topic, spanning from Jean Baudrillard’s essay on the mass graves of Timisoara and the more general proliferation of simulacra to the seminal found footage film Videograms of a Revolution (1992) by Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, have culminated in the creation of what film critic Serge Daney referred to as “trademark images” (images de marque) – convenient clichés which block the acquisition of critical knowledge.

By methodically tracing a recent personal involvement with the existing archival material through a selection of illuminating case studies that contradict or prolong previous interpretations, this article advocates for an extension of the mass of images deserving consideration when addressing the subject of the Romanian Revolution. Furthermore, it aims to show that a comprehensive examination of this body of footage could generate updated perspectives on this particular matter, allowing for contradictory and enriching evaluations that could effectively challenge ossified interpretations which have pervaded both academic and popular discourse for decades.

Victor Morozov

Victor Morozov was born in Romania in 1998. Bachelor’s degree in Film and Drama Studies at Université Grenoble-Alpes in Grenoble, France, and at Trinity College Dublin (1 year Erasmus academic exchange). Master’s degree in Film Studies at Université Paris VIII Vincennes–Saint-Denis in Paris. Currently working as a postgraduate researcher (2nd Year) within the Film Department of Trinity College Dublin, focusing on a comparative analysis between the televisual footage of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and that of the Irish “Troubles”. Extensive writings on film, both in academic journals (Revista Transilvania) and in the French and Romanian general press (Cahiers du cinémaRevue DébordementsRevista VATRAObservator CulturalZiarul MetropolisAcoperisul de Sticla, etc.). Participated in the Talents Sarajevo and Rotterdam Film Festival Young Critics Academy workshops dedicated to young film critics. Participant in the MECCSA 2023 with a paper on the televisual footage of the War in Ukraine. Participant in the ISSS 2023 (Irish Screen Studies Seminar) with a paper on the film The Image You Missed by Dónal Foreman.


A Patchwork of Archival Sources

by Dr Vanessa Jackson

Birmingham City University

A Patchwork of Archival Sources

Sherry Katz emphasises the need for feminist historians to ‘research around our subjects’, finding fragments and traces in different places to construct as full a picture as possible of the women we are studying. I have found this the best approach in my research on women working in costume and make-up in television production in the UK from the 1950s to the present day, which will be illustrated in this paper.

Archives are not neutral repositories of historical documents; rather, they reflect the culture of the organisations that preserve them, and archival absences tell us much about the curating institution. On a recent visit to the BBC’s Written Archives, none of the women I was researching had archived personal files, despite some being Heads of Departments. However, I was able to find fascinating documents which illustrated how they, and their work, were viewed, and of course, that work is visible in the archived productions they worked on.

To build the picture of women’s production careers, we need to look beyond institutional repositories and create new archival sources. With living subjects, oral histories are a mainstay, and organisations like the BECTU History Project undertake commendable work in sharing such recordings. I’ve recorded many video, audio and online oral history interviews. Through each, I’ve learnt more about the often-underappreciated creative work that women in costume and make-up performed.

Personal collections must also be searched out. With the women I’ve studied, several have kept detailed scrapbooks, albums, and folders which document their careers. An important task is the future preservation of these collections, finding them a safe home when their original curators can no longer store them. One digital possibility is an online community archive, like the one that I run:, a collection which documents and celebrates the history of BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham.

Katz, S. J. (2010) ‘Excavating Radical Women in Progressive-Era California’, in Nupur Chauduri, Sherry J. Katz and Mary Elizabeth Perry (eds), Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010).

Dr Vanessa Jackson

Dr Vanessa Jackson is a former BBC series producer and now an associate professor in the College of English and Media at Birmingham City University. She teaches television production to undergraduates as well as working on employability and enterprise activities. She completed her PhD in television historiography under the supervision of Professor John Ellis at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2018. Her research interests include the history of television, women’s roles in the television industry, as well as the uses of social media in community history projects. She has also published on the use of social media in enhancing student employability and engagement.

On Digital and Analogue Fractures: Reflections on a Feminist Research in the BFI National Television Archive

by Dalila Missero

Lancaster University

On Digital and Analogue Fractures: Reflections on a Feminist Research in the BFI National Television Archive

In this presentation, I will make some methodological considerations stemming from the research project Broadcasting UK Feminist Video: Mapping Local Histories and Transnational Networks of the 1980s in the BFI Archive, which employs digital tools to reconstruct the collaborations of feminist and women filmmakers and producers with UK broadcasters (Channel 4; ITV) in the context of the United Nations Decade for Women (1975-1985). The investigation, funded by the FIAT/IFTA Media Studies Grant, analyses a selection of 23 programmes – mostly current events shows and documentaries, from the BFI National Television Archive to produce data visualisations, such as maps and network analysis. These visual aids combine data from the analysis of the programmes with information on their production and circulation to recuperate spatial and relational patterns of representation and collaboration.

The liminal status of these productions, which circulated beyond television, particularly in educational and activist circuits, challenges the possibility to trace back and harmonise the data about broadcasting with those concerning other modes of – alternative and non-theatrical – consumption. Moreover, the digital methodologies employed by the project often struggled to convey the historical complexity retrieved from ‘analogue’ materials in non-audiovisual archives. Drawing from this empirical challenge, this paper will reflect on the continuities and conflicts arising from the combined use of digital and analogue infrastructures in archival research. These reflections will also focus on the epistemological and political contradictions that digital methods impose on a feminist research project, whose starting point is the questioning of hegemonic modes of historical reconstruction based on the objectivity and transparency of archives. By putting into dialogue feminist scholarship in the fields of data science, digital humanities and media history, the paper will ultimately call for a broader integration of reflexive practices in archival research.

Dalila Missero

Dalila Missero (Lancaster University, UK) is a lecturer in Film Studies. Her research interests include feminist filmmaking, critical archival studies, digital humanities, and transnational cinema. She was awarded the 2022 Media Studies Grant by the International Federation of Television Archives to explore the feminist productions during the UN Decade of Women preserved in the BFI Television archives. In 2022, she published her first monograph, Women, Feminism, and Italian Cinema. Archives from a Film Culture (Edinburgh University Press), which won the runner-up award of the BAFTSS 2023 Publication Awards.

Towards Decanonisation: Reorganising and Rethinking the Play for Today (1970-1984) Archive

by Katie Crosson

Royal Holloway, University of London

Towards Decanonisation: Reorganising and Rethinking the Play for Today (1970-1984) Archive

This paper will explore the Play for Today ‘canon’ and how a process of reckoning with it has begun via institutions like the BFI and the BBC, though remains incomplete. The BBC1 single-play strand had its 50th birthday in 2020, and since this time, work by writers of colour, women writers, and queer writers, as well as work belonging to maligned aesthetic modes and undervalued themes, has re-emerged as significant and worthy of critical attention. Despite these positive changes, the Play for Today archive is still to be fully opened out and expanded.

Central to this opening out and expanding is the acknowledgement that access to archives, in many cases, remains a classed issue: this paper calls for a re-energised conversation about the remit of public service broadcasters and the gatekeeping of publicly produced mass art from past eras as artefacts for select scholarly interest or as points of interest for those belonging to strict categories pertaining to identity. I will argue that only ‘decanonising’ will serve the marginalised creators and themes that re-canonisation can only tokenise, while serving the large and varied audiences such works were intended for. As such, this paper calls for a radical reimagining of the broadcast archive’s uses and its potential to dismantle the stranglehold of the canon.

Katie Crosson

Katie Crosson is finishing a PhD on Play for Today with Royal Holloway and
the British Film Institute. She has published on women’s work on Play for Today; Edna the Inebriate Woman (1971); Sorry (1981); and Your Man From Six Counties (1976); curated a BBC-BFI collaborative exhibition of Play for Today’s 50th anniversary, and co-programmed the Southbank season of the same name.

Politics of Intellectualism and Archival Policies: Studies About “Women’s Genres” in Kerala

by Benita Acca Benjamin

Kerala University

Politics of Intellectualism and Archival Policies: Studies About "Women's Genres" in Kerala

While studying the myth of the ‘empowered’ Malayali woman who becomes the exemplar of literacy and socio-cultural values in the state of Kerala in India, one becomes acutely aware of the noetic and affective ‘culturing’ of the Malayali woman and her sensibilities. As a researcher working on Malayalam soap operas, it is pertinent to access various archival resources that would shed light on what constitutes ‘women’s genres’ in the region and the ideology of taste and refinement that undergird the easy association of certain genres with women. Given this, the proposed paper attempts to define the politics of intellectualism that determines what is archivable and what is not. This will provide vital insights into the link between ideations pertaining to the ‘ideal’ Malayali woman, the pedagogical functions attributed to ‘women’s genres’ and the politics of archiving. The paper argues that certain class-ed and gendered impulses mediate the process of archiving, as is evident from the absence of certain women’s magazines like Manorama and Mangalam from the public archives in the state. This will be instrumental in identifying what qualifies as knowledge worth revisiting. To this end, the paper will use as primary materials not only the interviews with librarians on the driving motives behind archiving but also the entries published in various Malayalam magazines, periodicals and newspapers to tease out the cultural value attributed to ‘women’s genres’ in Keralam and how it influences the archival worth of these genres.

Benita Acca Benjamin

Benita Acca Benjamin is a PhD Research Scholar (UGC-JRF) at the Institute of English, University of Kerala, India. Her research focuses on the mediation of gender identities in Malayalam Soap Operas. She completed her Undergraduate course in English Language and Literature from Mahatma Gandhi University and pursued her Postgraduate course in English from Hyderabad Central University, India. She has an MPhil in English from the Institute of English, Kerala University. She has presented papers at various National and International Conferences, and her research papers have been published in Scopus-indexed and UGC-CARE-listed journals. Her paper titled “Mira Nair and the Cinema of Postcolonial Spectacle”, co-written with Dr Meena T. Pillai, for the edited volume Women Filmmakers in Contemporary Hindi Cinema is published by Palgrave Macmillan. Another chapter titled “Screening Violence: Reading the Cinematic Spaces Mediated by Mr. and Mrs. Iyer for A Handbook of Indian Indie Cinema will be published by Routledge. Her areas of interest are Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Gender Studies, and Kerala Modernity.


“Preserving Atrocity”: Trauma and the Broadcast Media Archivist

by Michael Marlatt

York University

"Preserving Atrocity": Trauma and the Broadcast Media Archivist

Many recent studies have been done on the impact that working in journalism has on journalist’s mental health. This includes heightened rates of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. According to a salary and demographics survey conducted by the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), archivists also experience higher rates of mental health struggles than the general public.

Unfortunately, little to no data currently exists that examines archivist mental health in relation to the type of archive they work for. There is, however, certainly a correlation to be made between journalists and archivists who work in broadcast media archives. Much of this is due to the traumatic nature of the material within the broadcast media collection. Material in these archives often includes, but is not limited to, local tragedies, problematic histories, global conflict, and human rights violations.

So, what happens to the mental health of the archivist when needing to constantly inspect, catalog, and make accessible this horrific material? Using concepts such as lived experience, archival bias, the person-centered archive, and trauma-informed archival practise, this presentation examines the current archival media landscape as it relates to archivist mental health for those who work in broadcast media archives.

The panel concludes by offering strategies on how to best support archivists working with this problematic and important material. Proper support networks and open conversation are a necessity if we are to care for archivists who work with broadcast media collections.

Michael Marlatt

Michael Marlatt is a Canadian disabled film archivist, archival accessibility consultant/workshop host, and PhD candidate. His dissertation examines accessibility in archival film education from the lived experience of students and alumni who identify as disabled, neurodivergent, or have a chronic illness. He has presented at various industry-leading archival conferences. Michael co-founded AMIA’s Accessibility Committee in 2022. Michael’s writing on archival disability advocacy has been published in Archival Outlook, Journal of Film Preservation, and The Moving Image, with an upcoming chapter in the book Preserving Disability: Disability and the Archival Profession.

Opencast Broadcast: Digging Up Other Coal Stories

by María A. Vélez-Serna

University of Sterling

Opencast Broadcast: Digging Up Other Coal Stories

Heroic images of coal miners crouching in darkness or holding the picket line are amply represented in the visual repertoire of documentary filmmaking. In the UK, the National Coal Board produced the Mining Review newsreel for over three decades, distributing it to cinemas in colliery towns across the land. The end of the newsreel, the year before the miners’ strike, was symptomatic of the broader shift afoot. But on the margins of this story, there was another coal industry, that of opencast mining – a newly globalised industry. In this paper, I will discuss two projects that involved researching and screening sponsored television content about opencast coal mining in Scotland and Colombia, where the largest mine in South America started operating in 1985. The projects used audiovisual archives to engage with local memories of landscape and with current discussions of energy transitions and land restoration. The comparative strategy highlighted the different ways in which mining can intersect with communities’ relationships to territory and how questions of socioenvironmental impact are negotiated in formal and narrative terms.

María A. Vélez-Serna

María A. Vélez-Serna teaches film and media at the University of Stirling. She is the author of Ephemeral Cinema Spaces (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), and co-author of Early Cinema in Scotland (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). She has also published on archive film reuse, early film distribution and showmanship, and Colombian films and audiences of the 1940s. She studied at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and the University of Glasgow.

“Not to be Missed”: TV Reviews for Just Seventeen and a Different Kind of Broadcast Archive

by Joanne Knowles

Liverpool John Moores University

"Not to be Missed": TV Reviews for Just Seventeen and a Different Kind of Broadcast Archive

This paper will examine TV reviews from the girls’ magazine Just Seventeen between 1985 and 1987 drawn from the Femorabilia archive of twentieth-century girls’ and women’s magazines, held at Liverpool John Moores University. Popular girls’ magazines established a wide readership during the 1970s and commanded considerable influence in how their readers engaged with other forms of media, leisure and entertainment. In the 1980s, TV reviews and previews became a regular feature, and teenagers were being more widely acknowledged as also being television viewers with an increasing agency with regard to family viewing choices, to examine what was offered to its readership as ‘not to be missed’.

Historically girls’ comics and magazines have been undervalued both financially and culturally (Gibson, 2015), meaning that although they were hugely popular and widely consumed, their preservation has been precarious. Little attention has been paid to existing research on these magazines’ representation of screen media and their framing of how their audience might engage with popular film and television. Just Seventeen’s TV section offers an alternative to traditional broadcast archives, which can yield insights into how the sought-after young audience has historically been addressed and how girls’ own responses to viewing appear in reader-focused spaces of the magazine, such as letter pages. This range of views and voices enables an exploration of how viewing is framed in relation to the social dynamics of the family and the changing sense of authority and autonomy in this process that can be discerned during the mid-1980s. The paper addresses questions about the benefits of such archival research on TV viewing discussions for young viewers and the ability of such magazines to embody a different kind of ‘broadcast archive’.

Joanne Knowles

Joanne Knowles is a Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture, and Communication at Liverpool John Moores University. She is interested in popular media and culture from the 19th century to the present day, particularly in relation to gender and narrative. She has published on seasonality and television in the Journal of Popular Television and for Viewfinder, and her latest article on girls’ magazines, fashion and public space, appears in the current issue of Film, Fashion and Consumption.


ATLas Chronicles. Designing an Italian Archive of Past Local TV Channels

by Luca Barra, Diego Cavallotti & Emiliano Rossi

University of Bologna & University of Cagliari

ATLas Chronicles. Designing an Italian Archive of Past Local TV Channels

Establishing a first pilot inventory of privately-owned local TV channels operating in Italy between 1976 and 1990 is the core aim of the ATLas – Atlas of Local Televisions project, nationally-funded research currently encompassing four Italian universities, with the intent of driving attention on an often neglected area of both academic investigation and archival practice. The research focuses on a sample of five networks which operated in contrast to the national public service monopoly, with vibrant creative innovations and a distinct connection with territories and local economies. After an overview of the inquiry’s scientific layout, this contribution will delve into the methodological challenges implied in the design of an open-access repository called to host a selection of audiovisual fragments drawn from the channels’ native archives, now difficult or impossible to access, or archived following random or commercial criteria. The video platform is also conceived as the entry point of a dedicated digital exhibition with additional materials (photographs, documents and unpublished interviews). With an account of the analysis currently being conducted on three case studies (Antenna 3, Sardegna 1 and TeleSanterno), this contribution seeks to tackle the following questions: i., how should the renegotiation of collective memories and nostalgic self-perceptions of the past be dealt with, and problematized? ii. which archival infrastructure(s) best suit the need of addressing both industry-oriented issues and oral, social and local histories? iii. by what means is this process complying with standards of cultural heritage valorisation, and how could this pave the path for a prospective permanent atlas of Italian local broadcasting? The aim is to share and discuss some lessons learnt, as well as the main struggles encountered through the study, in a fruitful exchange with similar and more advanced experiences.

Luca Barra, Diego Cavallotti & Emiliano Rossi

Luca Barra is an associate professor at the Department of the Arts, University of Bologna, where he teaches Television and Digital Media. His main research interests include the television production and distribution cultures, the international circulation of media content (and its national mediations), the history of Italian, European and U.S. television, seriality, comedy and humour genres, and the evolutions of contemporary media scenarios. His latest book is La programmazione televisiva. Palinsesto e on demand (Laterza, Roma-Bari 2022). He co-edited the volume A European Television Fiction Renaissance (Routledge, London 2021). He is the principal investigator of the ATLas research project.

Diego Cavallotti is an associate professor at the University of Cagliari, where he teaches Media Education, Postcinema and Digital Storytelling, and Theory and Technique of Film Language. His research interests revolve around film historiography, amateur film and video, media and social movements, film and audiovisual archive theory, Italian cinema history, Italian television history, and media archaeology. He is the author of several papers published in national and international journals and of three books – Cultura video. Le riviste specializzate in ItaliaLabili tracce. Per una teoria della pratica videoamatoriale and Transarchivi. Media radicali, archeologie, ecologie. He is one of the unit leaders of the ATLas project.

Emiliano Rossi, PhD in Cinema, Photography and Television at the Department of the Arts, University of Bologna, is a post-doc researcher in ATLas – Atlas of Local Televisions project. His main area of interest is television, framed on a historical, social and productive level. He is responsible of the Television and Web TV laboratory at the University of Bologna, and he also works as an adjunct professor at Padova and Bari University. He collaborates with the research project and took part in several national and international conferences; his writings have been published in volumes and journals, including Cinéma & Cie, Cinergie. Il cinema e le altre arti, Imago. Studi di cinema e mediaLa Valle dell’Eden. 

Songs for the Falling Angel – A Case Study Examining One Example of ‘Digging’ in a Closed Archive to Uncover an Interdisciplinary Research Topic

by Alistair Scott

Edinburgh Napier University

Songs for the Falling Angel – A Case Study Examining One Example of 'Digging' in a Closed Archive to Uncover an Interdisciplinary Research Topic

This paper will examine a case study of how one programme produced over thirty years ago, forgotten in the archive of a local television company, has the potential to contribute research that critically reflects on artistic commemorations of the victims of terrorism. The paper will argue that it is vital that broadcast archives actively explore links with the academic community to open their catalogues to re-discover programmes that can contribute to contemporary research on a range of cultural themes.

Songs for the Falling Angel – Requiem for Lockerbie (1991) is a 60 mins documentary produced for ITV. The programme documents the collaboration of visual artist Keith McIntyre RSA, composer Karen Wimhurst, and poet Douglas Lipton. With a commission from the Edinburgh International Festival, they developed a multi-disciplinary artistic performance responding to the horrifying events of the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie that had taken place three years earlier on 21 December 1988, causing the deaths of 270 people. This commission was inspired by McIntyre’s vivid drawings and paintings of the motif of an Angel’s winged head; this led to a sequence of poems from Lipton drawing on a 7th-century myth of a fiery cross falling through the sky; working in McIntyre’s studio, Wimhurst sketched out a new polyphonic choral composition, involving two female soloists and a sixteen-voice choir accompanied by saxophone and harp. The first performance took place in Edinburgh in August 1991 and was described by The Washington Post as a “complex, symbolic work…created by an artist, a writer, and a composer as a response to the unspeakable terror of Scotland’s worst peacetime disaster”. The performance was recorded by an STV crew directed by Alistair Scott. He went on to create a one-hour programme intercutting the performance with news footage from Lockerbie and documentary sequences with the collaborators. The completed programme sought to combine music, a poetic libretto and visual imagery to bring a sense of catharsis and healing was shown on ITV on Sunday, 22 December 1991.

Tracking down the programme from Scottish Television’s private archive – the presenter’s research has brought together the original collaborators to (re)view the programme and reflect on the importance of finding creative expression to respond to the horror of the Pan Am 103 bombing. They consider the legacy of the project and, in the context of other artistic responses to acts of terrorism, investigate questions about ways artists can collaborate to respond to acts of atrocity. It’s just one example of how there is a need to facilitate greater engagement with broadcast archives for research purposes.

Alistair Scott

Alistair Scott is an Associate Professor of Film and Television at Edinburgh Napier University. After working in community video, he was a postgraduate student at the UK National Film and Television School in the 1980s and then worked as a Producer/Director for the BBC, Channel 4 and Scottish Television. He has made broadcast documentaries for over thirty years, from Two Painters Amazed (BBC Arena 1987) to Raploch Stories: Where are they now? (BBC 2017). In 2005, he began teaching in higher education. His research includes Representing Scottish Communities on-screen (2017), STV at 60 (2017) and the paper Activism in the Archive at the 2022 FIAT/IFTA World Conference.

Whose Voice? Whose Story? BBC Radio News and the Language of Race in Post-WWII Britain

by Dr Eleni Liarou & Sylvie Carlos

Birkbeck, University of London

Whose Voice? Whose Story? BBC Radio News and the Language of Race in Post-WWII Britain

This paper sketches out the initial research findings of a British Academy-funded project that explores the evolution of language used to report on postwar Black and Black-British migration and experience in news produced for the BBC Home Service and its successor, Radio Four.

The project also invites different generations of the public from African and Caribbean backgrounds to speak back to the BBC’s reporting and to reflect on the BBC’s impact on ideas of identity and belonging.

Research for this project has been facilitated by access to the recently digitised collection of 165,000 radio news scripts for the BBC Home Service/Radio Four. The talk will discuss methodological questions relating to the use of such a vast digital archive and its potential for public engagement and access.

Dr Eleni Liarou & Sylvie Carlos

Dr. Eleni Liarou is a film and media historian specialising in questions of race, gender and equality on and off the screen in the UK. She’s a lecturer and the programme director of the BA Film and Media at Birkbeck, University of London. Eleni is the PI of the BBC radio news project.

Sylvie Carlos is a multi-award-winning audio producer, media consultant, and PhD researcher. Diversity, inclusion, and decolonisation are at the heart of Sylvie’s values, which naturally ties into her consultancy work. Across the podcasting and radio sector, Sylvie has unapologetically focused on amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities, with a particular focus on Black-British stories.

Researching the Journalism of Alistair Cooke: The BBC Broadcast Archive and Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre

by Dr Glenda Cooper & Howard Tumber

City, University of London

Researching the Journalism of Alistair Cooke: The BBC Broadcast Archive and Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre

This paper examines the way in which two archives in two different countries, the BBC’s broadcast archive at Caversham and the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre, instituted in 1963 and named for its founder and housing many of Boston University Libraries’ distinctive collections, were exploited for the purposes of exploring the work of a well-known journalist, Alistair Cooke who presented the world’s longest-running speech radio programme. This paper looks at how we interrogated these two archives to establish a definitive list of Cooke’s body of radio broadcast work and also how the correspondence and documents kept there relate to how Cooke’s journalism was produced.

The paper explores the relationship between the two archives, in both of which the authors have spent significant time. For example, the BBC partnered with Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center to create a unique linked archive – so it is possible to see how Cooke crafted his scripts while at the same time listening to the programmes (Watson 2014).

Through interviews with the BBC, a Cooke family member, and Cooke’s literary agent, we also investigate the history of the relationship between the journalist and the archives and how both the BBC and Boston University secured Cooke’s professional and personal documents. In the case of Cooke’s relationship with Boston University, this followed a long period of courtship by Howard Gotlieb, who had met Cooke at Yale many years before (Clarke 1999:513). Meanwhile, the BBC houses a significant number of original broadcasts and scripts and correspondence between Cooke and BBC executives.

Dr Glenda Cooper & Howard Tumber

Dr Glenda Cooper is a Reader in Journalism at City, University of London, the author of Reporting Humanitarian Disasters in a Social Media Age (Routledge, 2018) and co-editor of Humanitarianism, Communications and Change (Peter Lang, 2015). In 2020, she and Professor Howard Tumber were awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant to research the work of Alistair Cooke, having gained the first permission to access both the Cooke family archives and the BBC archives into his work.

Prior to City, she worked as a journalist and was the Guardian Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford.

Howard Tumber is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Journalism at City, University of London, where he was previously Dean of the School of Arts & Social Sciences. He has published widely in the field of the sociology of news and journalism and is the author, co-author/editor of 11 books, including the recently co-edited Media Disinformation & Populism (2021). He is a founder and co-editor of the journal Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism.


Rethinking Broadcast Archives: Closing Round Table

by Helen Wheatley, John Ellis & John Hill

University of Warwick & Royal Holloway, University of London

Rethinking Broadcast Archives: Closing Round Table

We will conclude the day with a round table that will serve to reflect on and provide commentary on discussions that emerged during the day. Speakers will draw upon their own research and experiences of working with broadcast archives to discuss various issues related to archival research, access to broadcast archives and collaborations between scholars, archivists and other stakeholders.