The BBC collection at the NWFA
Programmes made by the BBC for broadcast in the North West region richly illustrate the interests and preoccupations of their intended local audiences. But much more than that, they provide a window into a period of great interest to historians of society, culture, and media. The North West Film Archive has had this unique collection in its safe custodianship for almost 30 years - the successful completion of a 3-year project (completed in 2008) has opened up unprecedented access to the material through preservation, on-line catalogues and transfer to digital videotape.
From this collection totalling 12,620 cans of 16mm film and magnetic track, 9,763 cans relate to the daily regional news magazine programme, containing the filmed stories inserted into live studio shows. These date from August 1973 - May 1986, with complete runs for 1975 to 1984. They span 3,004 dates and include 15,380 separate news and feature stories covering everything from industrial action, economic development, health and welfare, policing and vandalism, environmental issues, to fads, fashions, tourism and inventions. The NWFA also has access to the daily Programme-as-Broadcast sheets which detail the contents of each day's show - these form the basis of the catalogue. The remaining 2,858 cans are examples of documentary series and one-off programmes, broadcast from 1966 to 1983, totalling 687 separate titles.
These films were made in Manchester, broadcast regionally between 1966 and 1986, and transferred permanently to the NWFA by the BBC when they moved to videotape formats. The Archive's ability to accept this volume of material in 1986 most certainly prevented its destruction. Its historical value as a unique window upon the NW is likely to grow since broadcasting companies often regarded such film as ephemeral, disposing of it after broadcast. The collection covers years of significant social, economic, political and cultural change which saw a considerable political shift in the national culture, from the radicalism of the 1960s to the conservatism of the 1980s. These transitional decades were marked by economic restructuring, industrial militancy and Thatcherite ascendancy. Old ways of seeing the world were vanishing. Social and cultural attitudes were transformed. Gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexuality assumed different meanings; communities, and identities based on region and nation, were disrupted. This resource is consequently an invaluable opportunity to analyse how ways of presenting and representing such issues changed; how the cultural format within which the news was put over altered and was influenced by developing technologies.
This enhanced resource will appeal to researchers across several disciplines: social/economic/political history, cultural geography, cultural studies, the history of art/design/architecture, as well as film, television, communications and media studies. It will contribute to a wider visual history of the regions and provide an important regional alternative to broader narratives of British TV history.