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Focal UNESCO A-V Day 2010

5 November 2010

Focal UNESCO A-V Day 2010


The UK’s contribution to the UNESCO World Day for Audio Visual Heritage saw Focal International, BAFTA and Elstree Screen Heritage host an afternoon seminar at the House of Commons, where several invited speakers gave their views on how we should go about saving our a-v heritage, so future generations would still have the material to savour.

To open the day Sue Malden, Chair of FOCAL International read the greeting from Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

Alex Stanhope and the TSB

Alex Stanhope from the government’s Technology Strategy Board saw plenty of commercial reasons to invest in archives, for the extra revenue they could bring in, and it was the digital economy in its various forms that offered the greatest opportunities.
However, the dangers of unauthorised re-distribution of material over the internet had to be tackled, in a way that would safeguard the rights of the owners of content.

The TSB were investing in strategies that involved the use of metadata and network infrastructure that would help solve some of the problems, but Stanhope warned that proper archive strategies were essential for internet use, especially since the amount of archive that would become available over networks would expand dramatically over the next few years.

Claire Harvey on the global trade in A-V material

This global trade in A-V archive material was addressed by Claire Harvey, a senior analyst at Screen Digest. She referred to research done for FIAT and Focal International, which suggested although archive sales had grown five per cent over the past year, only one per cent of archived content is monetised at all, and the value of what’s been sold has actually fallen 15 per cent in recent years. Archive holdings had grown 45 per cent over the past five years, and now 70 per cent of holdings were made up of content under 20 years old.

“However, only 21 per cent of these are rights ready – and that’s a major problem” she said. The biggest threat to progress in the A-V archive market, she believed, was the slow and expensive procedures required to clear rights.

She noted that the clip sales market was declining fast, and a better model for the future might be the idea of collaboration between archives and production partners, citing the INA model in France. Technology was driving innovation in the use of archive material, and the rights clearance model would have to keep up to leverage what benefits such innovation could bring.

The Digital Economy Bill

Rights expert Hubert Best explained how complex the rights scene could be, and suggested that the recent Digital Economy Bill, proposed by the last government, but lost when the election was called, contained proposals for orphan rights that would have conflicted with some provisions of the Berne Convention. A better route, he believed, would be to work with the Berne rules to achieve what the UK wanted.

Andrew Bud on innovation

“Innovation through collaboration” was the theme of Andrew Bud, director of The Media Institute, a new body that involved a number of London media universities, with potential interest from the BBC, Reuters, Pearson, BSkyB and others.

The intention of the Media Institute is to back research into the best ways to increase the international competitiveness of the UK’s already substantial media industry.

“We want to accelerate innovation in both the technology and cultural/behavioural areas relating to media. The media industries already make up ten per cent of the UK’s GDP, which is greater than any other country, and they are a huge potential driver for exports” he said.

He also pointed out that the digital revolution had presented problems as well as substantial benefits:“The whole industry has been disrupted by digital, but the opportunities, in creating, delivering and valuing content, far outweigh the problems, and we have to ensure we de-risk these opportunities as much as we can”.

Adrian Wootton on the 2012 opportunities

Adrian Wootton, director of Film London, said there were substantial opportunities coming in 2012. Not just the Olympics in London, but the bi-centenary of the birth of Charles Dickens also fell in 2012, and that offered a huge opportunity for the use of all kinds of A-V archive material.

“The reason this is so important for audio visual content, is that most people’s understanding of the works of Dickens, and his influence on British culture, has been mediated entirely through audio visual representation of his work, not through reading the books themselves. Around 80 organisations, including the BFI, will be working to provide a “virtual” archive about London, which will be web-based," he said.

At the opening of the seminar, in homage to the surroundings today, a glimpse of the restored feature film The 39 Steps which in one of the versions features the houses of Parliament was shown. ITV Studios Global Entertainment owns distribution rights for four different versions right from the 1935 feature through to the most recent production for Television and the reel shows examples of all versions of the film.