BBC opening digital archive for formal education

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Next year, the entire digitised BBC broadcast archive is being made available to students in formal education in the UK.

It includes millions of TV and Radio programmes, including interviews and features with almost every major cultural, artistic, political and sporting figure of the last 100 years, as well as iconic dramas and landmark comedy programmes.

All students and educators will be able to access the rich digital archive including programmes from Planet Earth and Tomorrow’s World, to Radio Four’s The History of the World in 100 Objects and the latest dramas to aid their studies and fuel their passions – whether that’s natural history, history, the arts or sciences.

In addition, BBC stars and staff are to visit 250,000 students in schools across the UK during 2022 to inspire the next generation of storytellers, in a project called Share Your Story.

Both projects meet the second public purpose in the BBC’s Royal Charter, by supporting learning for children and teenagers across the UK.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie says: “The BBC has played a vital role in education throughout the last century – from Children’s Hour broadcasts in 1922, introducing the microcomputer to schools in the eighties, to supporting an entire nation of home learners during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2022 – our centenary year – we will harness the unique power of the BBC to provide educational support to inspire millions of children and students across the UK. Hundreds of thousands of school children will be visited by BBC stars and staff, and all educators and students will gain access to cultural treasures in our digitised archive to aid their studies.”

From January 2022, universities and schools across the UK will have access to millions of television and radio programmes under the ERA licensing scheme.

Just a small sample of what will be available includes: the entire Sir David Attenborough archive, including Life On Earth, Planet Earth and Blue Planet; hundreds of episodes of the landmark science series Horizon; dramas including the Play For Today collection from the 1970s and 80s, and the entire BBC Shakespeare collection which was opened up to students earlier this year. For students studying history and world events there is Panorama – investigative journalism from 1950s to the present day and thousands of radio documentaries. For those studying comedy, there is everything from Monty Python to People Just Do Nothing.

Any institution with an ERA licence (the vast majority of schools and universities in the UK) will be able to request through their established education service providers any programme they want. The BBC will then make it available to the provider through a new Archive search system.

This content can be used in many different ways, including multimedia essays, screenings, and for primary research and citation in universities. University students will also be able to access the content on personal devices, on and off campus in the UK.

The partners enabling access are Learning on Screen’s Box of Broadcasts, Planet E-Stream, Clickview and ERA through their new free clip streaming service for schools.


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