Mr Richard Wright of the Preservation Guide recently had a conversation with Broadcast Media Africa (BMA) ahead of our Online Forum on “Realising Commercial Value And Monetisation Of Archived Content – Strategies And Options“. He highlighted the priceless value of archived content as a measure of the number of existing broadcast archives vis-a-vis footage up for sale.
In the interview with BMA, Richard accentuated a whole range of current programming that can be utilised to enrich audiences by creating new archive-based programming. Richard hopes that the participants will be inspired to save their archives.
Below is an excerpt of the conversation Richard had with the BMA on the forthcoming Forum where he is a moderator:
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“?
Richard Wright: Since I heard about these sessions for saving and using African Broadcast archives, I have been interested in contributing. My wife is African; I have visited South Africa many times. I’ve visited several Southern African broadcasters and several African archives, so I have developed a deep interest in ‘creating access’ to all this material.
Moreover, the value issue particularly interests me because I see commercial value as set within a larger picture of public value. I think that appreciation of the larger picture is essential to see all the possibilities for commercial value. For example, there is a lot more to broadcast archives than footage for sale. A whole range of current programming can be enriched, and new archive-based programming can be created. All commercial value is based on people being interested in the content, and their interest is centred on the immense value: understanding and reliving their personal histories.
BMA: What aspects of “audiovisual archiving and preservation” are you passionate about?
Richard Wright: For 20 years, I have worked with major archives on reducing the cost of digitisation. The ‘preservation factory’ was the name I introduced. The factory approach looks at a collection as a whole, makes a map (a rapid, simple inventory) of what needs to be done, creates a business case for funding, and then uses industrial techniques to cut the digitisation cost by 50% or even 75%.
We want to preserve archives because of their value, but it isn’t just preserving heritage or history. Broadcast archives hold the audiovisual record of the 20th century, and these sounds and images add value to day to day broadcast productions. Every news programme, every interview, every documentary can be deepened and made more immediate by creative use of archive materials.
BMA: What is the biggest industry challenge faced currently in relation to the commercialisation of archived content?
Richard Wright: I don’t think that rights are the main problem or that digitisation for re-use is the main problem. The biggest challenge is to develop a culture across the broadcast production process. A culture that values archive content and thinks of using it. A culture that automatically turns to the archive as the first port of call for background, detail, and added interest across a wide range of programmes, including sport, music and current events as well as documentaries and news.
BMA: In your opinion, what do you think can be done to improve the process of digitisation and monetisation of archived content across the African continent?
Richard Wright: One immediate step is to have a preservation plan for existing archives. This plan sums up what needs to be done (to get content off shelves and into files) and includes detailed cost estimates. Such a plan is essential for obtaining funding because nobody hands over blank cheques. Regarding monetisation, again, a key issue is developing a culture of archive use. Companies that use their archives will value their libraries and have good business reasons for digitising their archives.
BMA: Could you please tell us what you hope fellow participants will take away from this industry event?
Richard Wright: I hope participants will be inspired to re-think how they use their archives. Making programmes richer, deeper and more interesting, and making new kinds of programmes in ways that have never been thought of, are crucial to inspiring people to save their archives.