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UNESCO Audiovisual Archive Day 27 Oct 2010 marked in London

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27 October 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 that future generations would still have the material to savour.

Part 1

UNESCO World Day for Audio Visual Heritage 2010

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. James Clappison MP for Hertsmere, home of the famous Elstree Film Studios and the BBC Elstree Centre hosted the event and set the agenda with his introduction.

-"it strikes me that the technology to create, to maintain and to share archive content is probably already in place. However, like any other technology it is also probably very expensive and always changing! Priorities must be set, so what guidance can this meeting provide? Another observation. If footage archives are to be "savoured" as well as "saved" then they must be accessible. That is, of course, also partly a matter of technology, but it is also an issue of education. It seems to me that much has been done to create popular interest in heritage through archived film and TV material, but what more should be done? Much has already been debated about "Digital Britain" and the "Digital Economy", but perhaps here too we stand at the crossroads between intent and reality. As MP for Hertsmere, I am actively involved in local and regional initiatives to build on our considerable strengths as centres of expertise and talent in film and TV. But I know that many of those initiatives will stand .. or fall .. by the quality of training we can provide for those expected to carry out this difficult work. I am sure that the same applies to the need to train future film archivists to use the digital technology.

Alex Stanhope from the government’s Technology Strategy Board saw plenty of commercial reasons to justify investment 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."

Part 2

UNESCO World Day for Audio Visual Heritage 2010

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, that 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. In the meantime, archives are investing in their product. 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.

Part 3

UNESCO World Day for Audio Visual Heritage 2010

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.

“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 through collaboration 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 because they can create a genuine competitive advantage." 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, 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.

Part 4

UNESCO World Day for Audio Visual Heritage 2010



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