On Thursday, 29 July 2021, from 10h00 GMT, Broadcast Media Africa (BMA), in partnership with Apricity Consulting, will be hosting a virtual forum on “Realising Commercial Value And Monetisation Of Archived Content – Strategies And Options”.
Leading to the Online Forum, BMA conversed with Michel Merten, the Chief Executive Officer of Memnon. During the conversation, Merten highlighted the importance of audio-visual archiving and preservation as means of understanding the foundation of our current environment. Moreover, Merten hoped that the forthcoming online forum and the industry programme would empower the voiceless by providing information that would assist them in structure and plead with their organisations on the importance of archive preservation.
Below is the excerpt of BMA’s conversation with Michel Merten:
BMA: What influenced your decision to agree to participate in the Online Forum on “Realising Commercial Value And Monetisation Of Archived Content – Strategies And Options”?
Michel Merten: My personal experience since I founded Memnon, close to 20 years ago, has been to help preserve, digitise, and make accessible audio-visual heritage. Our efforts in developing activities for the benefit of African audio-visual archives have always been faced with significant funding issues, which made such projects impossible in most cases. Only a few countries have successfully been able to fund the large investments required. These countries, such as South Africa, hold 200 000 videotapes digitisation projects in Johannesburg.
Audio-visual preservation is a principal and hugely important challenge. However, in Africa, health, education, and infrastructure are also tremendously important challenges. This results in various sectors fighting to get governmental funds that are scarce, and archivists, primarily, don’t prioritise our AV archives. So the challenge is to find funding sources in parallel or as an addition to governmental fundings. And this is where I have always advocated for public/private partnerships, including finding access to grants, sponsorship, archives monetisation, but this is also raising substantial issues.
BMA: What aspects of “audio-visual archiving and preservation” are you passionate about?
Michel Merten: As much as “paper/documents/monuments archives” are the memory of our civilisation up to the turn of the 19th century, audio-visual has become a powerful medium of communication, dissemination of knowledge, understanding of our world during the 20th and 21st century. Think about all the influential events of these last 100 years that we think mostly about by “visual memory” of what we heard on the radio or saw on TV.
Think about the 100 d’s of languages that have disappeared around the globe in the last 50 years or traditional ceremonies, and for which we have only today oral history recordings. This heritage is hugely at risk for all the technology obsolescence, physical degradation, and lack of competence issues we all know.
BMA: What is the biggest industry challenge faced currently in relation to the commercialisation of archived content?
Michel Merten: Among other factors are unknown copyrights, the vast amounts of “cheap” archives available, and the need for sizeable curatorial work, and of course, the initial costs of digitisation.
BMA: Could you please tell us what you hope fellow participants will take away from this industry event?
Michel Merten: We need each institution, “champions” of AV preservation, to lobby internally to the highest management. With that in mind, I hope such an event will give them ideas on how to develop a “business case” for archives preservation.