As we know by now many books, stories, TV episodes, movies, and even the Apollo moon landing footage can just somehow just get lost by the archives department of any major organization. Whether this is from mis-filing, mis-communication, oversight problems, theft, general incompetence, idiocy or other error – the missing media means it cant be rebroadcast or reprinted. This is an issue that’s come up again and again for the classic televisions series Doctor Who. Whole serials have been found around the world in the hands of fans and affiliate stations. This time this story is coming from a BBC Radio so I thought I’d share it with you. It’s also a nice thank you/shout-out to loyal BBC listeners who help “the Beeb” serve its audience all the better.
In recent years the BBC has been looking to home recordings made by BBC fans. As is done with any medium, fans make copies, either photocopying a story, recording the shows off the air, dubbing tapes for sharing or (dare I say it making torrents) so their friends and fellow fans. Of this phenomenon here’s what Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes for BBC Radio 7, wrote in the September 4, 2009 BBC7 email newsletter:
“As most of you are aware, not all of the old programmes broadcast on BBC radio have been retained by the sound archive, for various reasons, and although we do not have the resources to deal with all of the “off-air” recordings we are offered, if there is a series with perhaps one or two episodes missing, we sometimes ask listeners if they happen to have kept any home-recordings which we could try to clean up for broadcast. Recent examples have resulted in us acquiring previously “missing” episodes of The Long Hot Satsuma, and Parsley Sidings.
Only 4 episodes of Parsley Sidings had been retained by the BBC, but thanks to one of our listeners, 15 further episodes were returned to us. The writer of the series, Jim Eldridge, was of course delighted. Another of Jim’s radio comedies, currently being broadcast on Radio 7, is Tony’s, set in a hairdressers and starring Victor Spinetti. The first series of Tony’s is in 6 episodes, but unfortunately episode 5 is missing from the archive!
There was also a second series of Tony’s but, sadly, no episodes from series 2 have been retained.
So if any of you ardent radio comedy fans happen to have a copy of episode 5 of Tony’s stored in your collections, or any of series 2, please e-mail to let us know, and if possible, we will arrange to have them digitised for broadcast.”
Then in this week’s newsletter (September 11, 2009) Kalemkerian writes:
“In last week’s newsletter, I asked if any of you radio comedy fans happened to have episode 5 of the sit-com Tony’s, which is missing from the BBC Sound Archive. Only minutes after my newsletter was posted on the Radio 7 website, Kevin Askew from Northampton e-mailed us to say that he indeed had a copy of the requested episode. Kevin has now sent the CD to us, and it has been sent off to be technically checked. We also received an e-mail from listener/collector David Moore telling us that, in addition to series 1, he also has the complete series 2. So thanks to those listeners, we hope to be able to bring you both full series of Tony’s.”
I think it’s great that the BBC is acting sensibly, responding to their audience’s needs by searching out these old shows. I also think it’s terrific that the BBC is now, if only tacitly, admitting that fan recordings and sharing is something that we should be doing. Wouldn’t it be great if all such corporations acted so sensibly?
Posted by Jesse Willis
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