British Library - Save Our Sounds December 2018

I’ve just attended he advisory board meeting for the Save Our Sounds project that is being developed by the British Library. This was an update following the previous meeting I attended in June.

The Save Our Sounds project has a number of components that will be of interest to community media practitioners, including the Sound Heritage project, the Radio Archiving project, and the Digital Sounds Collection projects.

The discussion focussed on what has been achieved so far, what will be completed in the coming year, and what the challenges are in managing such complex and multi-layered tasks, in which audio content, radio programmes and sound archives are brought together in digital formats, made accessible via the web, and are logged and archived by the British Library.

A couple of areas of note are worth looking at in more detail, and identifying if community media projects might be able to contribute to the process of engaging with different audiences, such as schools, training providers and researchers; content developers and digital content distributors, as well as project co-ordinators who may wish to log the audio output of their projects with the archives of the British Library.

The Save Our Sounds project is developing a Universal Player for access to the audio content in the library archive, once it has been digitised, catalogued and the rights have been cleared for access. The expectation is that where it is possible as much content will be available under an educational licence, so it can be used in the classroom, for training or research (using an ERA licence).

The challenge of developing a player that can play content from multiple sources and with multiple origins, means that there has to be a common meta-data framework that uniformly integrates all of the different media artefacts in a way that allows them to be searched and accessed. To assist with this the project has been based on the IIIF open-source metadata platform.

This platform allows content developers to share and exchange content using a common information profile for each media artefact. This is a metadata standard that is developed through an open-source collaborative community, who are linked with the audio-visual industry and who provide an alternative to the proprietorial systems developed by the major digital content providers.

I’ve never used open-source digital standards in this way, so it would be useful to see if any community radio stations and independent media producers have experience with these systems and approaches, and how they might be used to better support content and programme management systems for community radio stations and media projects?

The second part of the project that is directly relevant is the attempt by the British Library to archive examples of radio programming and station output that is representative of the UK different programming. The aim is to sample fifty stations on a rolling basis, taking feeds from DAB and IP distribution of analogue broadcast stations.

Incorporated into the content capture process is an automated transcription process, so that programme content can also be logged in a written version for later analysis. The pilot will establish if this is operationally proficient and meets a threshold of eighty-per-cent accuracy.

The priority in the pilot phase of this project, however, will concentrate on English language programming. I noted that many community radio stations in the UK broadcast in many other languages and that this needs to be accounted for in the planning for the pilot.

Finally, the meeting finished with an update about the manual logging process that is being developed in order to facilitate the archiving of music and audio content by independent producers. There is scope for community media projects to make use of this resource, as programming output from stations and projects can be submitted into the archive of content that the British Library is charged with securing for posterity.

While the rolling-output from an individual station would not be appropriate for this part of the project, specific and special programming might be something that stations and projects might want to have lodged in the archive, thus making it accessible to other programme makers and future generations.

As I receive any more updates, links or information I will continue to post this here.


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I was interested in accessing the radio heritage project, there were some good documentaries in there. However it never came to anything, I think the content had been catalogued but not digitised. The idea was that by airing some it would inventivise local groups to haveba go at making their own documentaries.


Thanks @SamHunt Hopefully the work that’s being undertaken to digitise and make available much more content will be available soon. The plan is to launch the public-facing website during 2019 after trials and testing. We need to look at the rights that are given when the content is made available, but it will be an incredible resource for the future when it is available.

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For me I think the real value is that entertaining radio documentaries are a technique that are generally long since forgotten. I have a recording of an old one from Centre Radio in Leicester, and it was quite good.

For Community Radio, these programmes tick a huge number of boxes and are generally good anyway. Having some good quality historic ones aired sets the benchmark high and also has good modern historic educational value.

The problem could be that the right holders (Global, etc), may not want them airing otherwise people will say “Why don’t they do this now?”. When I have spoken with ILR people about these programmes it is like they would rather forget they ever existed, saying that they were incredibly time consuming to make and they also really split opinion within the stations at the time - many felt they killed listener figures as people would tune out and in to Caroline/Laser/Luxembourg instead. Perhaps is a poor reflection on the type of audience they were trying to attract.

In terms of a commercial cost/benefit analysis, there is absolutely no doubt they cost far more than they returned. Roughly 5 man-days work for 1 hour content is a huge cost.