News: Introducing Chronicle – BBC Northern Ireland’s television news from the 60s and 70s

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The audio-visual archives of the BBC contain a wealth of material gathered since it was founded in the 1920’s but it remains largely inaccessible, held on film or videotape and indexed to serve the needs of programme-makers within the BBC.

Chronicle is a new project that explores how material from the BBC’s extensive archive of news coverage of Northern Ireland can be made available for use in further and higher education, combining digitised film and video with tools which can be used to search and tag coverage to be used in research or teaching.

Delivered through a partnership between the JISC-funded Strategic Content Alliance, the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) and the BBC, Chronicle is one of several initiatives from the Archive Development group at the BBC. Its goal is to explore ways in which researchers and teachers can be given access to material from the archive while in return delivering public value back in the form of improved data and information about its own collections for the BBC.

Chronicle will provide Authenticated Users with access to digitised copies of selected news material covering Northern Ireland and The Troubles, along with web-based tools allowing it to be searched, viewed and annotated.

Television news from the 60s and 70s

This period was chosen in part because there is very little audiovisual material covering Northern Ireland politically or culturally in depth from that time, and during preliminary discussions several organisations and individuals in the academic sector indicated a ‘significant need’ for such historically significant materials.

There is also an archival need to digitise the material from the period: between 1969 and1981 news material was recorded on 16mm film and a significant proportion of this footage is now in need of preservation while coverage from 1981 onward was recorded on Beta or Digibeta tape and at much less risk of deterioration.

Academic Engagement

The project will be shaped by an Academic Steering Group made up of scholars from participating institutions including the University of Westminster, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Ulster, St Mary’s University College and the University of London. Members will suggest material to be digitised, looking at specific events like the 1980 hunger strikes or broader themes like powersharing, as well as reviewing the academic value of the project as it runs.

It is recognised that some material may be considered historically and politically sensitive and selection will be carefully monitored and chosen according to BBC editorial guidelines, while user-generated metadata will be moderated, and provision is being made within the tools provided for material to be taken offline for review.


Material will be available from January 2012, but to give some impression of what will be available, please see the short showreel above or this longer showreel:

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2 thoughts on “News: Introducing Chronicle – BBC Northern Ireland’s television news from the 60s and 70s


    Has the BBC itself not preserved this film material? It is obviously of great historical value as it covers the “troubles”. I understand that the BBC has a preservation programme for all it’s archive material including TV news film. Does this not include Northern Ireland?

    1. Stuart Dempster

      Dear Patrick,
      YEe, the BBC does have a digitisation and preservation programme, but the scale of the task is vast so this project has enabled one of the nations/regions (NI)collections to be made available to colleges and universities in the UK for the first time.
      With kind regards,
      Stuart Dempster

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