The UK General Election of 2015 was decided by television. Despite the ardent advocacy of some newspapers, and for all the claims being made about it being a social media election, television dominated perceptions, debates and the presentation of policies. A Panelbase survey of the UK audience said that 62% found TV coverage had been the most influential in informing them about the general election and the policies of the political parties, far more than newspapers at 25%, websites at 17% (mostly the BBC news website), radio at 14%, speaking to family and friends at 14%, and only 11% social media (primarily Facebook). 38% of the audience said they were influenced by the broadcast debates, 23% by TV news coverage and 10% by party political broadcasts.
James Grahamâs The Vote, broadcast on More4 on election night 7 May 2015, with Judi Dench, Catherine Tate, Timothy West and Mark Gatiss
It is important therefore that to have an archive of what was broadcast on television over the general election period. The British Library's Broadcast News service usually takes in around 30 hours of TV news and 18 hours of radio news each day, from 22 channels. We expanded this significantly to capture every debate, party political broadcast, manifesto launch, campaign event, press conference, interview, leader profile and documentary that we could, plus the full election night broadcasts of each of the main broadcasters (including those from BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Wales and STV), as well as coverage given to the election from CNN, France 24, Al Jazeera English and RT (Russia Today). We also recorded the relevant TV dramas (Coalition, The Vote) and comedies (Ballot Monkeys, Newzoids, Have I Got News for You etc).
From RT's general election night coverage
Overall, between 26 March (the date of the first of the TV debates) and 8 May 2015, we recorded 1,775 television and radio news programmes. Not all touched on the election, but most did, and it makes for compelling evidence for how much energy and calculation went into using television as the forum for a national debate.
All of these recordings are available via the British Library's Broadcast News service, accessible at our St Pancras (London) and Boston Spa (Yorkshire) sites. We're also making available here a spreadsheet listing every programme we recorded between 26 March and 8 May. They are listed by date, medium, channel, type of programme, title, description and duration, and the data can be sorted by anyone interested to undertake some preliminary analysis or simply to see in one list which party political broadcasts were recorded.
The programmes are also listed on a new Special Collections page on the Broadcast News site, with links to all the main recordings. Please note that these general election recordings do not as yet appear on the British Library's main Explore catalogue (but will do eventually).
We would be interested to hear from any researchers using this archive. Do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five years ago to this day, at 21:55, we threw on the switches for the first official television and radio news recordings for our Broadcast news service. It was, of course, the day of the General Election, and we decided to kick off our service the moment the polls closed - or five minutes beforehand, to be precise, as that it when the all-night news programmes began.
BBC1's election night broadcast, 6 May 2010
Things were simpler then. We had only just acquired the system for recording TV and radio programmes off-air, and there were a few teething troubles. So we started cautiously, and recorded just four programmes on that first day - the BBC 1, BBc Radio 4 and ITV election broadcasts, and Channel 4's Alternative Election. the following day we boldly upped the ante to record 15 programmes, adding broadcasts from the channels BBC News, World Service, Al Jazeera English and CNN.
ITV's election night broadcast, 6 May 2010
Five years on, and things have grown. For 6 May 2015 we will be recording some fifty programmes from twenty-two channels: BBc1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, BBC 4, BBC News, BBC Parliament, Al Jazeera English, RT, CNN, Bloomberg, CCTV, Sky News, France 24, talkSport, BBc Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, LBC, BBcCRadio 1, BBC London, BBC 1 Scotland and STV. We won't know until a day or two later how many programmes we've recorded, because we catch up on some unscheduled programmes after broadcast (such as the many General Election interviews and campaign events currently popping up on BBC Parliament), but it will amount to some 50 hours of TV and radio recorded for that day.
Channel 4's Alternative Election, 6 May 2010
Over the five years we have recorded some 45,700 television programmes and 12,100 radio programmes. We record mainly news programmes, though we interpret news quite broadly and include current affairs, interviews, documentaries, live broadcasts and so on. The top 10 most recorded channels are BBc 1 (6,410 programmes), BBC Radio 4 (6,144), ITV1 (5.604), BBC News (4,865), Sky News (3,457), Russia Today/RT (3,153), NHK world (2,995), CCTV [China] (2,918), BBC World Service (2,647) and Al Jazeera English (2,552).
All of the programmes are available on any Library terminal at our St Pancras and Boston Spa sites. For reasons of copyright we cannot make the programmes available online. You can find records of what we have on Broadcast News on the Explore catalogue, but for the most up-to-date records and the fullest service - including word-searchability of programme subtitles - it is best to go to the Broadcast News site, which you can find under the Sound and Moving Image services page on any Library terminal, or just look for https://videoserver.bl.uk (please note, this link only works if you are located at one of our sites and working from a British Library terminal).
Our television and radio news recording service, Broadcast News, has been busy over the past two months recording extra programmes on the Scottish independence referendum. Usually Broadcast News takes in some 60 hours of programmes per day (40 TV, 20 radio) from across 22 channels available via Freeview or Freesat. We record the same programmes at the same times each day, to provide a consistent research service. But when there are news specials, breaking news programmes or major news stories that spill over the schedules, then we record more.
The Big, Big Debate, BBC1 tx 11 September 2014
For the Scottish referendum we added recordings from two further channels, BBC One Scotland and STV, for most of August through to the end of September. So, as well as the standard TV and radio news programmes from BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, CNN, LBC and others, we recorded BBC one Scotland's Reporting Scotland and Kevin Bridges: Live at the Referendum, STV's STV News at Six and Scotland Tonight, BBC Parliament's Scotland 2014 and Reporting Scotland, special programmes such as the Salmond/Darling dates, referendum broadcasts from the Yes and No campaigns, Radio's 1's Big Conversation: Scotland Decides (16 Sep), STV's Scotland Decides - The Facebook Debate (12 Sep), BBC 1's The Big Big Debate (11 Sep), and several more.
The heaviest extra recording activity was inevitably over 18 September (the day of the referendum) and the the results and aftermath the following day. BBC TV broadcast two through-the-night programmes entitled Scotland Decides: one hosted by Hugh Edwards for BBC1 and one for BBC Scotland hosted by Glenn Campbell. Bernard Ponsonby and Aasmah Mir hosted ITV/STV's coverage, also named Scotland Decides. Sky News went with Decision Time Scotland, hosted by Adam Boulton, Kay Burley and Niall Paterson. For radio, BBC Radio 4 went through the night with Scotland Decides, hosted by James Naughtie and Rachel Burden, while BBC World Service had a special edition of its The Newsroom programme.
Not watched by so many people in the UK, but fascinating for their different perspectives, were the special programmes produced by France 24, RT (Russia Today) and CNN, the latter two broadcasting coverage throughout the night and early morning, evidence of the huge interest the referendum generated worldwide. Steering clear of value judgments, it was nevertheless most intriguing to see how international opinion ranged from disbelief that Scotland would ever consider breaking away from the United Kingdom, to incredulity that it would ever consider not doing so having been given the opportunity. They are among the most interesting programmes from referendum night, and likely to be of particular value to future researchers.
The result itself brought about a mixture of triumph, disappointment, and even a sense of anticlimax, as we know. Sally Magnusson hosted BBC One Scotland programmes which analysed the results overthe morning and afternoon of September 19th, STV had John MacKay and Andrea Brymer hosting Scotland This Morning: How the Nation Voted. And then gradually the dust settled, the story dropped from the news agenda, and we returned to the regular round of news recordings, carrying on with our BBC One Scotland and STV recordings to the end of September. Now normality reigns, until the next drama unfolds.
All of the Scottish referendum programmes that we recorded are available to view (or listen to) at the British Library's St Pancras and Boston Spa sites via the instant access Broadcast News service.
Jeremy Paxman, who recently hosted the BBC's Newsnight for the last time, has cited the words attributed to Times foreign correspondent Louis Heren that make up the title of this post as inspiration for his method as an interviewer. It says a great deal about the news interview as it is now understood, and the function of the news producer. News may in part be about holding those in power to account, but should its starting point be the belief that its subjects are liars? How did the news interview become so inquisitorial, and will it remain so?
Jeremy Paxman interviewing Michael Howard, Newsnight, tx. 13 May 1997
It is interesting that in the same week Paxman stood down, with many commentators discussing his contribution to the art of interviewing, some of the first ever filmed interviews were honoured with an inscription on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register. The Hepworth Cinema Interviews are a series of 36 filmed interviews with UK public figures (Lloyd George, Herbert Asquith, Bonar Law and others) made by film producer Cecil Hepworth in 1916. The subjects were invited to give comments on the war and what would follow after it. This was the era of silent films, so the subjects mouth their answers to the camera, with their words being reproduced through intertitles. There is no onscreen interviewer - these are just statements made to the camera. Rather than being any sort of radical development, they are interviews in the tradition of nineteenth century newspaper interviews - pronouncements from the elite, with the media serving as the willing vehicles for such pronouncements.
Lloyd George's words as intertitles from the Hepworth Cinema Interviews, courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales
Interviews in newspapers are generally accepted to have appeared in the USA in the 1860s and in the UK in the 1880s, where they were often viewed - often with suspicion - as an American innovation. The American journalist James Gordon Bennett is credited in some quarters with having 'invented' the newspaper interview in 1836 with his verbatim transcript of a conversation he allegedly had with Rosina Townsend, a witness in the trial of the murderer of a New York prostitute Helen Jewett, which was published in the New York Herald. Other cite the interview conducted by Horace Greeley with Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon religion, and published in the New York Daily Tribune of 20 August 1859 as being the first interview as we would now recognise it.
Part of Horace Greeley's interview with Brigham Young, New York Daily Tribune, 20 August 1859, p. 5, from Chronicling America
But newspaper interviews were not 'invented' - they grew out particular changes to the medium. The process of interviewing is as old as journalism itself, so one can trace it back to the 17th century at least. Journalists find the information they require often by asking someone questions, and then using the replies they receive as the substance of their report. That is interviewing, and Daniel Defoe employed it as a news reporter for his Weekly Review much as today's journalists do 400 years later. Interviewing is integral to how news is understood - see how often news readers on TV and radio ask questions of reporters, experts and other interviewees, extracting what we need to know through that dialogue.
The interview as a formal newspaper feature emerged in the mid-19th century, as newspapers turned from being vehicles for partisan standpoints to broadly factual reporting. This included the use of direct quotation. The evidence became all the more important, and what better evidence could there be than the words spoken by the subjects themselves, in answer to the questions put by trustworthy journalists? Of course, it was also part of that process by which "news gathering turned into news making", as Daniel Boorstin writes in The Image, where he labels the interview as one of his 'pseudo-events' - events artificially created in order that they may be reported. The interview is not what happened but rather what the media has caused to happen.
However, the nineteenth century newspaper interview was a far cry from the investigative and combative interviews of today. The interviews that British journalists such as William Howard Russell (The Times), George Augustus Sala (Daily Telegraph) and W.T. Stead (Pall Mall Gazette) produced were the pronouncements of the great and the celebrated who had reason to use the press for self-promotion. Stead undoubtedly helped establish the interview as a standard newspaper device by his enthusiastic adoption of the form, part of the 'New Journalism' revolution of the 1880s which placed great emphasis on the personal, through devices such as the interview. As well as his own interviews with figures such as Tsar Alexander III and Pope Leo XIII, Stead employed Hulda Friederichs as 'chief interviewer' at the Pall Mall Gazette from 1882 (women journalists were considered to have a particular aptitude for interviewing). Unfortunately interviewers are seldom named in newspapers from this period, making it difficult to trace the work of particular reporters.
Interviews in newspapers in the late 19th century tended towards celebrities from the world of entertainment. Politicians were wary of the practice, and saw little advantage in indulging requests to give interviews, when what they had to say could be heard on public platforms or read in Hansard. As A.J. Balfour says in the quote above, "this channel of communication must be rarely required by English politicians considering the great increase in platform speaking which has taken place during the last twenty years." Instead the interview became primarily the feature of journals such as the 'Illustrated Interviews' in George Newnes' Strand Magazine - light reading for those who wanted some personal insights into the lives of the famous. Interviews in newspapers were to become more searching as the new century began, particularly in America, but it would be new technologies that would help transform them.
A startlingly early intimation of how thing could change occured in July 1888 when the UK agent for Thomas Edison's Phonograph sound recording machine was 'interviewed' by the Pall Mall Gazette, boasting of how a sound recording would provide a 'faithful report of the conversation' (intimating that not all newspaper interviews were so faithful to the words spoken).This was in all probablity the first sound interview, but although the Phonograph and later technologies such as the Dictaphone were used to record famous voices and as dictation devices in the early 1900s, it would be decades before they were adopted for news reporting.
Colonel Gouraud (left) being interviewed by an unidentified journalist from the Pall Mall Gazette, with the Phonograph recording the meeting, July 1888. From British Library Sound Archive collection.
Projected film appeared in 1896, but it proved a medium ill-suited to interviews. Attempts were rare and seldom successful, even after films gained sound in the late 1920s, with the few efforts from the cinema newsreels being short statements delivered in stilted fashion that offered little advance on the Hepworth interviews of 1916. What gave the news interview new life was radio, which began in the early 1920s. This gave the interview greater credibility, through the chance it gave the public to hear the subject's voice, through the live nature of radio, and because the interviewer's questions gave the sense of a process of interrogation, a driving towards the truth. BBC radio interviews of the 1920s-50s were seldom adversarial, being more in the way of civilised conversations, but the greater power had now been offered to the public to judge what was delivered to them, be it the words spoken or the ways in which those words were spoken.
It took live television to make the news interview come into its own, a process not for delivering statements but instead a contest for the truth.
Leslie Mitchell interviewing Anthony Eden for a Conservative party political broadcast, BBC tx. 16 October 1951. From University of Sheffield's Department of Journalism Studies' YouTube channel
Television's first news-related interviews were a disappointment. The BBC's Leslie Mitchell's pre-planned interview with prime minister Anthony Eden for a Conservative party election broadcast in 1951 has become notorious for its stilted obsequiousness, even if it was viewed as a technical success at the time. Mitchell asks:
Good evening. I would just like to say that, as an interviewer, and as I what I hope you will believe to be an unbiased member of the electorate, I'm most grateful to Mr Anthony Eden for inviting me to cross-question him on the present political issues ... Well now, Mr Eden, with your very considerable experience of foreign affairs, it's quite obvious that I should start by asking you something about the international situation today, or perhaps you would prefer to talk about home. Which is it to be?
Supine as this was, it did show at least an understanding of how television was ideally suited to the question-and-answer format, counterbalancing formality with informality. The first step on the road from here to Paxman came in 1955, when Robin Day brought a new forthrightness to television interviewing at ITN, two notable highlights being his sharp questioning of President Nasser in 1955 and his interview with prime minister Harold Macmillan in 1958, where what might now seem a fairly tame question asking about criticism that had been made of the foreign secretary Selwyn Lloyd was seen by some as shockingly intrusive, not least because you could see Macmillan thinking about his answer before delivering it. The interview was letting the viewer be the judge, exposing what might be the truth between the lines.
The adversarial quality of the television news interview grew throughout the 60s and 70s, in tandem with the emergence of a less deferential, more determinedly democratic society. Television was becoming the forum for public debate. The medium delighted in getting the upper hand, as demonstrated by David Frost's interrogation of the fraudster Emil Savundra and the revelations that he coaxed out of Richard Nixon. The goal of the interview came to be the revelation of the truth, hoping by a process of seeking out weak points to lead the subject into revealing something they would rather not have made public. The interviewee was no longer someone who had deigned to share some selected information with us all. They were now lying bastards, and their lies had to be exposed.
Interviews on radio likewise became less polite and increasingly forensic. BBC programmes launched in late 1960s/early 70s such as The World at One, Analysis and It's Your Line (a programme hosted by Robin Day, in which the public phoned in questions to ask of the interviewee) made the interview central to a process of burrowing beneath the headlines to uncover what was really happening. The Today programme moved away from its cosy beginnings to become the programme opinion makers had to listen to and had to appear on. This was particularly on account of presenter Brian Redhead's refusal to doff his hat to anyone in power, as in his famous response (in a 1987 interview) to Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson accusing him of bias through being a supporter of the Labour party:
Do you think we should have a one-minute silence now in this interview, one for you to apologise for daring to suggest that you know how I vote, and secondly perhaps in memory of monetarism, which you've now discarded?
Politicians accountable to an electorate had little choice but to appear before the cameras and microphones, but as television became bolder so they responded through increasingly sophisticated media training. The art of not answering, or of turning the interview to your advantage arose. Margaret Thatcher was well trained in interviewing techniques and image management, through the guidance of former TV producer Gordon Reece, but it was the Labour government of 1997 that turned control of message into an artform (guided by another former TV producer, Peter Mandelson).
A power game arose between politicians and the news media over the communication and interpretation of the message, with the interview as the battleground. There was an increased desire on the part of the media to use the interview to extract revelations, matched by an increased determination from their subjects to reveal no more than they had been instructed to reveal. Sharp interviewers such as Paxman for Newsnight and John Humphrys for Today gained praise for their tough questioning and refusal to be hoodwinked, but the praise was sometimes more for the stance than any illumination obtained about the subject discussed. Paxman's celebrated 1997 interview with Michael Howard in which the interviewer asked the same question twelve times did little to inform its audience, for whom the point that the subject was not going to answer the question could have been made after two or three attempts.
Jon Snow and Alastair Campbell, Channel 4 News tx. 27 June 2003
Interviews turned into theatre, perhaps most famously when Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's Director of Communications, turned up unannounced at Channel 4 News on 27 June 2003 and was interviewed by Jon Snow on the Iraq 'dodgy dossier'. The result was a tour de force on both sides, a great interview of sorts but primarily a startling display of political passion. Politicians understandably prefer softer rides - Margaret Thatcher's interviewer of choice was Radio 2's Jimmy Young, for example. Equally, one of the marks of a successful politician has come to be how well they can deal with the toughest interviews. It is a trial of strength, as much as anything.
Interviews on television and radio flourish on non-news programmes of course. From Face to Face to Parkinson, to Piers Morgan's Life Stories there has been a consistent focus on celebrity and the personal revelation, teased out through a bonding between interviewer and subject. Interviews continue to be a mainstay of newspapers, or their associated magazines, where some of the dangers inherent in a live interview are lost and both sides have greater control over what is said. The interviewee will have their press adviser by their side, determining what can or cannot be covered; the interviewer can fill out the verbal testimony with background impressions, barbed or otherwise. Both sides have control, though it is still a battlefield, a game of attack and defence.
A good example of the news interview programme of today is the BBC World series HARDtalk, first broadcast in 1997 with Tim Sebastian as the interviewer and now Stephen Sackur asking the questions, is a model of how two intelligent minds, with good preparation, can discuss issues of the day in a form that is a genuine questing for the truth. This is not news manufactured as pseudo-event - it is rational and vital extension of what is news. Nor is it a question of exposing liars (usually) - it is using the time-honoured process of question and answer to come to an understanding.
Where next for the news interview? HARDtalk is a good programme, but quite traditional in format. Newspaper interviews continue, but seem more about drawing out character than setting the news agenda. The online world is developing new ways in which subjects can be interviewed, which involved the general public much more, such as Twitter discussions, while BuzzFeed's interview of 29 May 2014 with Ed Miliband (the one in which he said it was a good idea not to read the newspapers) transfers the magazine-style interview with illustrations to a web format in a way that resfreshes the interview form. Al Jazeera's web/TV programme hybrid The Stream is an example of how engagement through interviews is being adapted for a multi-platform world, and television interviews can feature questions posted by social media (see, for example, Glenn Greenwald's interview for NBC on 18 May 2014). The growth of citizen journalism may make anyone into a potential interviewer, with all of the hazards as well as the advantages that suggests.
In such a world, the traditional confrontation between interviewer and interviewee begins to look like it belongs to another age, an age when current affairs television (and radio) served as the forum for public engagement with the issues of the hour. That forum is increasingly located elsewhere, and the interview will have to adapt accordingly if it is to continue to be meaningful. It may not be so combative or theatrical as it has been in the past; it will undoubtedly be more social. It will be less constrained by space (as is the case with newspapers) or time (as is the case with television and radio). Consequently it may either be freer in form or hampered by a lack of discipline. The questions demanding answers remain the same; just who will be asking them looks certain to change.
The Hepworth Cinema Interviews are held by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - a press release on the UNESCO recognition is here, and a catalogue record for the films is here
Michael Cockerell's Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television (1988) is insightful and full of great anecdotes and quotations (such as the Eden-Mitchell interview quoted above)
On interviewing in Victorian newspapers, see Lucy Brown, Victorian News and Newspapers (1985) and Laurel Brake, Marysa Demoor (eds.), Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism (Gent/London: Academia Press, British Library, 2009)
On Hulda Friedrichs and other women journalists of the nineteenth century, see F. Elizabeth Grey (ed.), Women in Journalism at the Fin de SiĂšcle: 'Making a Name for Herself' (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
On the technique of modern interviews, see Steven Clayman and John Heritage, The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
Newspapers form the greater part of the British Library's news collections, by far, but they are not all that we have. Since May 2010 we have been recording television and radio news programmes broadcast in the UK, and now take in 60 hours of programmes per day, every day, from 22 channels, made available through our onsite Broadcast News service. We're just about to record our 50,000th news programme. This post is a guide to finding and using television and radio news programmes at the British Library.
What we record
The first official Broadcast News recording was made at 10pm, 6 May 2010. It was the day of the UK General Election, and as soon as the polls closed we flicked on the switches and started recording the election night coverage of BBC1, ITV1, Channel 4 and BBC Radio 4. After a cautious start, we raised the number of recordings we made per day in 2011, and today we record from 22 television and radio channels which are free-to-air in the UK (via Freeview or Freesat), approxumately 40 hours of television and 20 hours of radio.
We don't record every news programme broadcast in the UK, partly because of the large amount of repetition that is inevitable with 24-hours news channels. Instead we record roughly 13% of what is broadcast. These are the channels from which we record, with some of the key news programmes from each channel that we always cover.
Al Jazeera English - News Hour, The Stream, Listening Post
BBC One - Breakfast, News at Six, News at Ten, Andrew Marr Show
BBC News - HARDtalk, morning and afternoon news programmes, The Papers
BBC Parliament - ... in Parliament late night summary programme
BBC Two - Daily Politics, Sunday Politics, Newsnight
BBC Four - World News Today
Bloomberg - The Pulse, Asia Edge, Charlie Rose
CCTV News - China 24, News Hour, Africa Live
Channel 4 - Channel 4 News
CNN - CNN Newsroom, International Desk
France 24 - News & Magazines
ITV1 - Good Morning Britain, ITV News at Six, ITV News at Ten
NHK World - Newsline, Asia This Week
RT - Headline News, The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, Keiser Report, Sputnik with George Galloway
Sky News - Sunrise, Sky News at 6, Sky News at 10, Press Review, Murnaghan
BBC London - The Breakfast Show, Dotun Adebayo
BBC Radio 1 - Newsbeat
BBC Radio 4 - Today, PM, the World Tonight, News and Weather, The World This Weekend, Westminster Hour, Broadcasting House, Any Questions?/Any Answers?
BBC 5 Live - 5 Live Breakfast, 5 Live Drive
BBC World Service - Newshour, The Newsroom, From Our Own Correspondent
LBC 97.3 - The Morning News, Nick Ferrari, Ken Livingstone & David Mellor, Kay Burley With Stig Abell
talkSport - Drive Time - Adrian Durham & Darren Gough
We try to record the same news programmes each day, as researchers often want to follow how a story was reported through the one outlet over a period of time. But programmes come and go, and we keep our eye out for new news series as they emerge. We can't capture everything, but we hope to achieve a good mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Where there major news stories which break through the usual news schedules, we record these usually for a 24-hour period, and across at least two channels. So we have thorough, multi-channel records of such news stories as the UK riots of 2011, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the Japanese tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the death of Nelson Mandela.
How to use Broadcast News
The Broadcast News service can only be used in the British Library's reading rooms, including the Newsroom. This is because we have to respect the copyright held in these programmes, so we do not make them available online. Within a reading room environment, we can offer the entire collection on an instant access basis, with most programmes being there to view within a few hours of broadcast. So if you come to the Newsroom to do some research say around 11:00am, the news programmes from that morning will be there waiting for you.
Basic catalogue records for our TV and radio news programmes can be found on Explore (type in the name of a news programme and refine the searching by Material type / Moving Image) or the Sound and Moving Image catalogue, though such records are not fully up-to-date as yet.
To access Broadcast News, all you need to do is to go to any British Library terminal (at our St Pancras or Boston Spa sites), and click on the Sound and Moving image link on the welcome page. This will take you to the page illustrated below, with links to Broadcast News and other sound and moving image services that we provide onsite.
Sound and Moving Image page
Click on Broadcast News, and this will take you to the front page shown at the top of this post. There are then three ways of searching the collection. You can click on one of the images on the front page and that will take you to the latest programmes from nine of the most popular channels. You can use the search box at the top of the screen to search under any word or programme title. Or you can use Advanced Search to narrow searches down by channel or date.
The search results page looks like this:
Broadcast News search results page
Click on any one of these records and this will take you to the full programme playback page, or use the filter options on the left-hand side to refine the results by date, channel or medium (i.e. TV or radio).
Broadcast News is dependent on the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) for its catalogue data. EPG data gives you the channel, date, title and time of a programme, but for news programmes it usually only gives a generic description (e.g. "A round-up of the main news stories of the morning..."). This isn't too useful for someone looking for a particular subject, but happily we are able to capture the subtitles for 50% of the television programmes that we record - for BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News (other news channels such as CNN and Al Jazeera English do not come with subtitles). This makes many of our programmes fully word-searchable, greatly increasing their value to researchers.
Sky News coverage of the UK riots, 9 August 2011, with subtitles on the right-hand side
The subtitles play alongside the video, rather than as part of it. It is possible to search for a word within the subtitles (use the 'filter' option) or to scroll through the subtitles while the video is playing. If you click on any subtitle, you will be taken to that place in the video. We also capture still images from the broadcasts, one every five seconds. If you go to the Frames option on the playback page, you will see them all, which therefore enable you to browse through a programme by its imagery. Click on any such image, and again you will be taken to that place in the video.
There is much more that we want to do to improve Broadcast News, by making those programmes without subtitles (and radio programmes of course) word-searchable as well, for which we have been investigating speech-to-text technologies. We also want to improve discovery by pointing researchers to individual stories within a news programme. Such developments will take time, however.
Why broadcast news?
And why is the British Library recording television news programmes? Because they are uniquely informative about the world today. Because television news has the highest use and greatest influence of all the news media in the UK, as many polls have demonstrated. Because newspapers can no longer be considered in isolation as a news publication. Because researchers have had huge difficulties in the past gaining access to television news programmes en masse. And because television news affects how we see the world in a profound way, one that commands respect but also demands the sort of intelligent analysis that scholarly research exists to provide.
Finding out more
There is a more detailed guide to finding and using our television and radio news holdings on this Help page
A short collection guide to our television and radio news holdings is here
The Recording Mandela post on this blog explains how we went about recording the many news programmes on the death of Nelson Mandela
The URL for Broadcast News is https://videoserver.bluk - but please note this will only work if you are on British Library premises and using a British Library terminal
We welcome any feedback on the Broadcast News service - just email us at email@example.com
Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library.
Stop sharing this photograph of antisocial newspaper readers: This much retweeted and shared photograph of a train carriage full of newspaper readers has been viewed by many as a comment on an anti-social past age. Medium makes a strong argument why this is a complete misunderstanding of how a newspaper is consumed.
... what you are seeing in that picture of âantisocialâ people reading newspapers is actually an eminently social activity: citizens keeping themselves informed so they can participate in the civic discourse of their community.
Enabling access to digitised historic newspapers: We held a Europeana Newspapers event here at the British Library, on assorted issues relating to the digitisation of newspapers, with interesting contrasts between traditional browsing and big data analytical approaches, and between free and paid access services. The link is to a Storify collection of tweets, links and slideshows from the day (fun to put together - will be doing more of these).
Broadcasting D-Day: The BBC's recreation of radio broadcasts from D-Day by using digitised scripts and actors (Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Patrick Stewart) made a powerful impact and was a fitting tribute on the 70th anniversary of the landings. The BBC radio scripts come from the British Library, and this post gives the background.
Digital News Report 2014: Eagerly devoured and much commented upon has been the latest annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report, the result of a survey of digital news consumption in UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Denmark and Finland. Among the key findings are:
The use of smartphones and tablets has jumped significantly in the past year, with fewer people using their computers for news
More than a third of online news users across all countries (39%) use two or more digital devices each week for news and a fifth (20%) now say their mobile phone is their primary access point
US social sharing news sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are beginning to make inroads around the world, with new formats and a fresh tone of voice aimed at younger people
Even so, traditional brands remain strong in most markets, with cross-platform newspaper reach averaging 75% in most countries
The number of people paying for digital news (11% average) has remained stable over the past 12 months, although there is a significant switch to more valuable ongoing digital subscription in most countries
Of those paying for news in all countries, 59% are paying for an ongoing subscription (43% 2013). Of those who are not paying, 15% say they are likely to pay in the future
Facebook is by far the most important network for news everywhere
Although Twitter is widely used in the US, Spain, and the UK, it is far less influential in many other European countries. Google+ is emerging as increasingly important for news, along with messaging application WhatsApp
Robert Pestonâs speech: Hotly discussed all week has been Robert Peston's British Journalism Review Charles Wheeler lecture, where he queries James Harding's statement (given in his WT Stead lecture at the British Library), "I think this is the most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television". Peston is not so sanguine, seeing threats in online culture, reader power, and the power of the public relations industry. He concludes:
...we donât yet have what you might call a stable ecosystem in news. The poll-tax funded BBC is one kind of news-media model. The loss-making Guardian, funded by vast private-equity capital gains, is another. The Daily Mail another still. And Quartz, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed something different again. There is diversity â which all ecologists would tell you is vital to long-term survival. But there is also pollution, from a dangerous elision between news that pays and news that matters.
Why would anyone want to be a journalist?: But then there's Sarah Hartley at Contributoria, who speaks to several journalists about the hazards and frustrations of their occupation, and finds the answer to her question in these words from photographer Giles Duley (a triple-amputee after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan):
Itâs about storytelling for me. There are these incredible stories out there and I think I follow a tradition that started around camp fires, in caves around ten thousands of years ago and thereâs an innate need for people to tell stories and to hear stories and I just love being part of that tradition and so Iâll carry on doing it.
The Sun Launches A ÂŁ4.2 Billion Marketing Campaign?: The Sun is delivering a free special World Cup issue to 22 million UK homes over a 48-hour period (avoiding Hillsborough). Chris Brace at the Brown Moses blog notes that the giveway lacks the imprint that identifies the publication as a newspaper. The fine for breaching this legal requirement can be up to ÂŁ200 per copy. 200 x 22M = ÂŁ4.4Bn. That's a quite fine...
Internet not responsible for dying newspapers, new study finds: Riding against the general trend of argument is a paper by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Matthew Gentzkow, which says that comparisons between the internet and newspaper are based on some false assumptions. ScienceDaily summarises these.
Victorian Meme Machine: Bob Nicholson of Edge Hill University is one of two winners of our BL Labs competition for innovative ideas to use digital collections. His Victorian Meme Machine will create an extensive database of Victorian jokes, drawn from newspapers etc, and pair them with an appropriate image drawn from BL and other digital collections.
Annotating the news: Intriguing piece by Jihii Jolly for Columbia Journalism Review on student news literacy and annotation tools.
Why banish words from the front page?: The sharply opinionated Grey Cardigan on The Spin Alley blog is critical of sloppy front page design in some UK regional newspapers, and thoughtful on the reasons why.
Newspaper printed with ink that repels mosquitoes: This is such a heartening story - a Sri Lankan newspaper has come up with Mawbima Mosquito Repellent Paper, printed using bug-repelling ink, as part of campaign to help prevent the spread of Dengue fever. Probably a bit of a preservation challenge though...
The 70th anniversary of D-Day was widely commemorated across the news media. One of the most striking ways in which the history was made real was the BBC's use of contemporary radio broadcasts and readings from original radio news scripts to bring the past back into the present. Broadcast at their correct times and dates, seventy years on, the scripts are part of the British Library's collection, and we were delighted to be able to work with the BBC to make a small selection of them available, as broadcasts, and to be read online.
The broadcasts went out on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service news programmes, and on iPlayer, with the scripts being read out by Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones and Patrick Stewart. They were read by actors because for many of these news programmes the original broadcast no longer survives, though happily two original recordings for 1944 delivered by John Snagge and Richard Dimbleby were also made available. Digitised copies of the scripts have been published online alongside the sound recordings.
The British Library's collection of BBC radio scripts runs from 1937 to 1972 (a set held on microfilm extend the collection to 1983). There are some gaps, particularly for the 1930s, but from the war years onwards the collection is a reasonably comprehensive record of what was broadcast by the BBC at different times of the day to UK audiences (the collection does not include scripts for broadcasts aimed at overseas audiences). For the latter years there are television news scripts as well.
This is a huge collection - there can be up to 200 pages of script for one day - and at present it remains uncatalogued. This D-Day collaboration with the BBC is a first effort at making the collection successful, and we hope to work with them in the future (including the near future) on opening up the collection to a general audience and to research.
The Second World War was when the BBC fully established itself as a service speaking to the UK nation as a whole, establishing its reputation and the expectations that have been subsequently placed upon it. It became the vital information source, as the people of the United Kingdom followed each step of war (military censorship notwithstanding) by listening to their radios, particularly the daily nine o'clock evening broadcast.
The effect created by the D-Day scripts and their re-readings shows what power lies in the contemporary account, particularly when we see it in the form of a typescript, with pencilled amendments, and that red stamp that says that the text has been 'Passed for Security'. The unemotional, almost matter-of-fact tone of the scripts contrasts vividly the enormity of the events that they are describing, as history was made by the hour. News turns into history then turns into news again. If we do not quite feel that we were there, we do feel that much closer a bond with those who were.
The Newsroom is the British Library's new dedicated reading room for researching its news collections. It is located on the second floor of the Library's site at St Pancras in London. This post is an overall guide to what researchers can expect to find in the Newsroom.
The Newsroom is in two sections: the main reading room, which delivers access to the news collections and is open to anyone with a British Library reader's pass; and the networking area, a research space open to anyone which displays live news on screens from a variety of sources.
You can find most of our news collections through the British Library's main catalogue, https://explore.bl.uk. News items can be searched for by title, any word from a title, place name, or word in the catalogue record. Some of our television and radio news records can be found on Explore, but we are still adding records. The full collection can be found via Broadcast News (see below). Our web news collection needs to be searched separately (see below).
To access anything from our news collections you will need a free Reader Pass - guidelines on how to obtain a pass are available here.
The main room has 110 desks, of which 58 are clear Reader desks, 40 have microfilm viewers plus access to electronic resources, and 8 have dedicated electronic resources terminals.
We offer self-service facilities for making copies from print, microfilm and digital newspapers, subject to preservation and copyright restrictions. There are 3 printers in the Newsroom, and 1 print release station. We have a wide range of news media reference works available on open access, including such titles as Willing's Press Guide and the TimesIndex.
We collect nearly all newspapers published in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with some 60 million issues going back to the early 1600s. We currently receive around 1,500 newspaper titles on a daily or weekly basis, and nearly 100 titles from overseas. Because the main print newspaper collection is currently in transit from its former home in Colindale to our Newspaper Storage Building in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, the newspapers will not become available in the Newsroom until autumn 2014.
There are 15 microfilmed newspaper titles available immediately via open access, while anything from our main collection of 625,000 reels of microfilmed newspapers is available for delivery within 70 minutes, or can be ordered in advance by using https://explore.bl.uk. Appropxiately one third of our newspaper collection is available on microfilm. The 15 titles available for immediate access are:
Daily Mail 1896-2009
Daily Telegraph 1855-2009
Daily Worker 1930-1960
Evening Standard 1860-June 2010
Financial Times 1888 onwards
Guardian 1821 onwards
Independent 1986 onwards
Independent on Sunday 1989 onwards
Mail on Sunday 1982-2009
Morning Star 1966-2009
News of the World 1843-2011
Observer 1791 onwards
Sunday Telegraph 1961-2009
The Times 1785 onwards
Our specialist microfilm readers enable the microfilmed images to be viewed on a digital screen, and can be rotated to suit the shape on a newspaper if required. They offer the ability to zoom in and out, crop, adjust focus, brightness, contrast, and de-skew the image.
We provide access to a wide range of digitised newspapers and other electronic news collections, both those derived from our own holdings and the digital collections of third parties. This includes:
We have almost 50,000 television and radio news programmes recorded since May 2010 available onsite via the Broadcast News service. This can be accessed by using the link to Sound and Moving Image collections given on the home page of the Library terminals. There are recordings taken from 22 channels:
Al Jazeera English
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 4
BBC 5 Live
BBC World Service
Most programmes are available in the Newsroom from the day of broadcast. We only record news and news-related programmes.
Separately we provide access to BBC programmes via the BBC Catalogue service. This has some 2 million BBC catalogue records from the 1950s to 2012, with around 200,000 playable television and radio programmes broadcast 2007-2012. This can be accessed by using the link to Sound and Moving Image collections given on the home page of the Library terminals.
We provide access to over 4.8 million UK websites archived since 2013 as part of the Legal Deposit Web Archive. This archive can be accessed by using the link to Web Archives collections given on the home page of the Library terminals. The collection includes over 500 news-based websites archived on a frequent basis, including most UK national newspaper sites and many regional sites, which can be searched as a discrete collection.
The networking area is open to anyone. It has seating for over 30, with cubicles, and many charging points. The area's Video Wall features live television news, a rotating display of live news websites (all sites archived by the Library) and the Newsmap news aggregator site. We refresh the content on the Video Wall periodically.
Above the cubicles we project live tweets from around 100 news websites that we archive, including international, national and regional titles.
9.30-17.00 Fri - Sat
We are organising a series of regular workshops on using the news collections, both general guides and introductions to particular parts of the collection. See https://www.bl.uk/reader-workshops.
Finding out more
The Newsroom has leaflets aavailable on the news collections and their use.
Our newspaper reference team can give help on using the Newsroom and finding items, though we cannot undertaken in-depth research requests. You can contact us online via https://www.bl.uk/reference-contacts.
'The Concept of News' was the title of a symposium organised by The Newsreel Network and held over 20-21 May at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen. The Newsreel Network is a collection of scholars interested in newsreel research, convened by the University of Lund in Sweden, newsreels being a common feature of cinema programmes in many countries between the 1910s and the 1960s. I was there
because I have a particular interest in newsreels
because the theme touched on all news media and I am interested in how newspapers, television news, radio news, newsreels and other media have interoperated
because it was a gathering of some fine scholars from several countries
because I was giving a talk on archiving news at the British Library
because they paid me to go
The purposes of research networks such as these is to bring together scholars with interest in a common theme, to learn from one anotherâs research through the presentation of short papers, and to discover through discussion practical ways in which to further research in the field. Despite all the social interaction that goes on online, it still helps hugely to meet actual humans face-to-face, and a two-day symposium for fifteen or so people can be more productive in helping to shape an agenda and construct practical plans than a formal conference.
The full title of the symposium was âThe Concept of News: Scandinavian and Global Perspectivesâ, and there were several short papers on newsreel research in the Scandanavian countries, as well as Belgium and East and West Germany, focussing on the subjects of the Cold War and the Suez Crisis. The latter was chosen as a useful example for cross-comparing how different national newsreels treated the same topic, often with the same footage â there were few camera teams on the spot during Suez and what was filmed was pooled to other news organisations â but with dramatically different interpretations of that footage in the respective commentaries.
A paper I particularly liked was given by Tore Helseth of Lillehammer University College. He has found paper records of what international newsreels were shown in one small Norwegian town during the 1950s, and contents lists for those newsreels. This is a precious discovery, because for many countries barely any records survive that document what the contents were of the newsreels and when they were issued. In the UK we are fortunate that a huge amount of newsreel documentation survives. In America, by contrast, a vast amount of documentation has been lost, and the survival rate of the films themselves is sadly poor.
Most of the remainder of the symposium was given over to broader issues about news archives and the definition of news itself. These issues matter for us at the British Library, not simple because we what is probably the worldâs largest news archive, but because we are looking to move from being a newspaper archive to becoming an archive for news in all its forms. This raises interesting issues of definition. How far does the idea of news stretch? Does it include any kind of information delivered to an audience at a particular time, or does it lie specifically in those media which identify themselves as being carriers of news, such as newspapers?
Professor Brian Winston of the University of Lincoln, talked about news vs information in his paper, which was a response to the recent book by Andrew Pettegree, The Invention of News, a history of the production of news 1400-1800(previously covered by this blog). For Winston, Pettegree has failed to distinguish between a history of the delivery of plain information and a history of news, which is something mediated, always biased in one way or another, propagandist in the broadest sense, and never â in an absolute sense â true. He called on many early examples of news as an emerging form, starting with Galbert of Bruges, a lawyer driven to write a report on the assassination of Charles the Good, Count of Flanders on 2 March 1127, to a 1499 woodcut of Vlad the Impaler to show how news is a political tool, to Ben Jonsonâs 1625 play The Staple of News, a satire on the proto-newspapers (corantos) being published in London, which includes these striking words:
We not forbid that any News be made, But that't be printed; for when News is printed, It leaves, Sir, to be News...
Act 1 Scene V
Winston concluded with the eternal truth, attributed to New York Sun editor John B. Bogart, âWhen a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is newsâ.
I enjoyed Winstonâs provocative analysis, but for me the definition of news lies not in its producers but in its consumers. News is something that we seek out when we want to understand what is happening in our world, and plays a vital role in how we understand our place in that world. We seek it out from multiple newsforms, be that newspapers, TV, radio, web, pr mobile apps, and in past times from a medium such as the newsreels. Newsreels are important to this multimedia sense of the news, because they were the first news medium that consciously positioned itself as one link in the chain of news provision. Newsreels were issued once or twice a week, so they were always late with the news, but they understood from when they first emerged in the 1910s that their audience already knew what the news was â be that from newspapers or later radio. They added more to the understanding people had of what was news to them by providing it in motion pictures. They were built on choice. They played a key part in what it is to be modern: we the audience being given the tools with which to pick and choose how we build up the picture of our world. This applies many times over today, with the multifarious news (and information) outlets available that threaten at times to overwhelm us. The news is made by us.
The symposium included some papers on radio news, which provided useful comparisons across the two news media. There was an interesting tension throughout the two days, between viewing the newsreels as a news medium (one which often fell short when it came to reporting âhardâ news) and viewing them for their own sake, as a distinctive product of the cinema entertainment industry rather than the news industry, as Sara Levavy of the Cortauld Institute argued. In truth, both definitions apply. Newsreels entertained, and they informed. That they informed best by their dependence on other news media, notably newspapers, to set the agenda, makes them interesting for news history itself, and helps illuminate how newspapers themselves worked for their public throughout much of the twentieth century.
Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library.
Robert Peston speaking at the launch of the Newsroom
Open for business: Well, we've been busy this week. The British Library's Newsroom was officially launched by the Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid, on Monday 28 April, with a star turn from the BBC's Robert Peston, before a gathering of journalists, media commentators, educationalists, British Library staff and ordinary users of our newspaper collection and other news services. There was a promotional video, a TV news package that appeared on many regional newspaper sites, and widespread media coverage (I think my favourite was Us vs Th3m's breathless 'The British Library is now improved with ARCHIVE ROBOTS'). The Newsroom's own blog post looks behind the scenes at the manufacutring of our own news event.
A strategy for news: On the day of the Newsroom launch we published a summary of our news content strategy for 2014-2017. It points the way for turning a world-class newspaper service into a world-class news service, by collecting (or connecting to) not only newspapers, but television news, radio news and web news.
Announcing FB Newswire, Powered by Storyful: Facebook and social news agency Storyful (owned by News Corp) have launched FB Newswire, which describes itself as "a resource for journalists that aggregates newsworthy social content shared publicly on Facebook by individuals and organizations" and could be a significant development in (social) news gathering. Facebook's Newsroom explains the background.
Local TV plan on the rocks as funding frozen, while London Live head quits: Oh dear. Plans for a network of local TV stations appear to have hit the rocks, while the chief programmer of London Live (which shares an owner with the Evening Standard, which has liberally promoted the channel) quit following terrible viewing figures, including near zero for some news programmes.
Ofcom should be looking again at Putin's TV news channel: Steve Bloomfield at The Guardian is appalled by the news coverage from RT (formerly Russia Today), which is readily available to UK viewers (and programmes from which are recorded daily for the British Library's Broadcast News service).
Anyone who has tired of Sky News's endless reporting of the Oscar Pistorius trial or CNN's down-the-rabbit-hole coverage of the hunt for Flight MH370 would accept that the world of 24-hour TV news could do with an alternative voice. But propaganda for an autocratic government and conspiracy theories linked to antisemitism are not an alternative anyone should be comfortable with.
Paying for online news: Dominic Ponsford at Press Gazette considers the mixed lessons to be learned from the Telegraph's metered paywall, one year on from its introduction.
ITVâs new breakfast show divides opinion: Four presenters at a single desk (plus weather reporter standing awkwardly by), fast pace, US feel, and star acquisition in Susanna Reid: ITV's Good Morning Britain launched on Monday and has had mixed reviews so far, as in this Metro report. But no one is saying bring back Daybreak.
Revealed: The top 10 regional papers on Twitter: interesting list from Hold the Front Page of the top ten UK regional newspapers with the largest number of followers on Twitter. The Liverpool Echo's @LivEchonews comes out top with 136K followers. But what do they mean by saying that 77 newspapers in the UK are using Twitter? Our figures here suggest well over 350 do so...
Once the BBC was un-ignorable, whatever age you might be. Today, half of under-25s and two thirds of under-20s ignore it completely. And even online, apathy reigns: the corporation's digital share has increased from only 24 per cent of adults in 2012 to 26 per cent today.