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"Wipe Out: When the BBC kept erasing its own history" Topic

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walkabout Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2020 3:58 p.m. PST

This is a very informative article about the effort that went into trying to find and save old BBC programming. If anyone is from or knows of someone from Nigeria (maybe a Nigerian prince or princess) please look for more lost Doctor Who episodes. They seem to have really loved the series over there.


Legion 426 Jul 2020 4:07 p.m. PST

How very "Orwellian"/1984 !

"Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future." ― George Orwell

Covert Walrus26 Jul 2020 5:06 p.m. PST

Legion 4, actually more the other sinister saying – "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"

The BBC has always reused its tapes as a cost saving measure unless specifically archiving them; Some items have supposed to have been archived and accidenatally erased. It's rather strange as I know from my interest in aviation projects that the British companies involved saved every little detail of even the hush-hush projects so it's easy to find references to the most obscure English projects; American companies destroy files had over fist, so they are *much* harder to research.

The Beast Rampant26 Jul 2020 5:24 p.m. PST

Because shows weren't often repeated, there was no long-term need to retain them.

If you're so poor as to have to go to those lengths, why wouldn't it be more cost effective to re-run shows to save having to make as many new ones?

If viewers really liked something, then it would be "repeated" by reassembling the actors and performing it for a second time.

Oh-kay, then. Everything about how British televison works has always struck me as the the most backwards system of doing things imaginable.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2020 5:28 p.m. PST

Everything about how British televison works has always struck me as the the most backwards system of doing things imaginable.

I have heard the same from British people.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2020 7:02 p.m. PST

The Brits are fascinating people – unlike many other people, they either do things absolutely great (like pomp and circumstance, discovery science, etc) or not at all (like retail service)

That's one of the reasons I like them so much!

rmaker26 Jul 2020 7:03 p.m. PST

As an example, the Poldark series has been remade at least twice.

Syrinx026 Jul 2020 8:29 p.m. PST

American studios remake movies and series even when the original is still available to view or download. Like Magnum PI. Could be due to lack of creativity and/or fear of failure by trying something new. Could also be related to control of rights.

HMS Exeter27 Jul 2020 2:47 a.m. PST

I vaguely remember Mike Douglas, a 60s-70s talk show host, lamenting that he had taped a full week's worth of shows with an up and coming singer as his co-host for the week.

The show's production company, Westinghouse, as was routine for the time, held the videotapes for a while, then taped over them.

It was a then largely little known Barbra Streisand.


Covert Walrus27 Jul 2020 3:27 a.m. PST

Syrinx0, very good point. But it only started recently on a large scale.

The Beast Rampant, it wasn't money primarily; It was employemnet. By makign new shows constantly it kept a small industy of television technicians and staff in paid employment year round all the time, and was both a proving ground and source of income for actors when stage and movie work dried up The days when US filmamkers didn't go to Britain for location and studio shoots like they did in the 1930s, then in the 19650s, and finally back in the 1970s where very influential.

HMS Exeter, the American TV landscape prior to 1960 is also lost for the same reason ALL 175 series made by the Dupont Network ( 1946-1956 ) are either gone or exist only in single episodes or small numbers as Telecine/Kinescope recordings in the Library of Congress, one of the lost ones being "Captain Video and His Video Rangers"; ALL of jack parr's and the first tebn years of Johnny Carsons' "The Tonight Show" are beleived to have been taped over; NBC used all the videotapes of "The SHari Lewis Show" to record the action at the 1964 National Conventions; ABC accidentlaly wiped the appearance of John lennonm at teh announcers booth in a "MOnday Night Football" segment ( A private collecter had a VCR recording, so it turns up in documentaries now and again ); And the list goes on. ( See link for a list )
Oh and the first appearance on TV of Dean martina and Jerry Lewis on teh Ed Sullivan show? Gone when someone didn't recgnise the first name of the program "Toast Of The Town". Same thing with the "Lousisiana Hayride" show, including the episode when a young guy name Elvis presely made his firsat Local TV performance.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2020 6:04 a.m. PST

Pretty much agree with Covert Walrus, but the US seems to have snapped out of it faster. One problem not mentioned was that film was a serious fire hazard, and the older it got the more flamable it became.

On the US side, there are huge gaps in our silent film archives--dumped off piers as a fire hazard or recycled for the silver content. The talkies aren't always in decent shape, but they were mostly kept.

On TV, Walrus exaggerates from my point of view. Dumont was a special case, and often there was no film to preserve, But that "American TV landscape prior to 1960" is by no means lost. The Phil Silvers Show (1955 on), the Life of Riley (1953 on), Our Miss Brooks (1952 on) and many others are still out there.

Radio drama is spotty, but largely preserved from about 1940. (I'm a particular fan of "The Fat Man" with J. Scott Smart, which is largely lost. Most of the episodes fell victim to a studio fire.) The Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes is preserved only in the later years, but more has been found and is now available than was true even five years ago, so I may yet listen to the lost radio version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

One lives on hope.

newarch27 Jul 2020 6:38 a.m. PST

Quoting from Wikipedia;

Early on in the history of British television, agreements with the actors' union Equity and other trade bodies limited the number of times a single program could be broadcast, usually only twice, and these showings were limited to within a set time period such as five years. This was due to the unions' fear that the channels filling their schedules with repeats could put actors and other production staff out of work as fewer new shows would be made. It also had the unintentional side effect of causing many programs to be junked after their repeat rights had expired, as they were considered to be of no further use by the broadcasters. Although these agreements changed during the 1980s and beyond, it is still expensive to repeat archive television series on British terrestrial television, as new contracts have to be drawn up and payments made to the artists concerned.

Legion 427 Jul 2020 9:12 a.m. PST

"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"
Yeah … But I like to quote Orwell ! 😁

Yes the US "entertainment" industry has redone many movies and TV series. A lot of the younger viewers may not have seen the original, the SFX is better[e.g. the first Godzilla vs the CGI versions, etc.],etc.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART27 Jul 2020 11:20 a.m. PST

Back then the storage media was video tape. It was VERY expensive, so it was much more cost effective to record over old tapes. Unless properly stored and archived, lots of things disintegrate over time.

Geoffrey Sponge27 Jul 2020 12:30 p.m. PST

I worked at the BBC Film & TV Library in the mid – late 80's on the periphery of the archiving, which was very new then. It was surprising how much programming, especially news magazine programmes, that went out live and was never recorded at all until the mid 80's. Wiping VT and re-using it was a big part of the Library's day to day work.

Later, at BBC Scotland, I shared an office with the Archivist and the Archive was only set up around 1990. I was never quite sure the Archivist was quite on the ball after some of the questions I got – "John, would you say East Germany is a Communist country?" "Err …Yes".

I do remember that New Zealand was a happy hunting ground for lost Doctor Who episodes at the time.

The H Man Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2020 2:13 a.m. PST

Usually, at least for America, once you option an IP you have only so long to make it, repeat. If you lose it someone else can snap it up, an they have the same issue. I have heard of studios making crappy $1 USD movies just to retain rights.

Old Wolfman31 Jul 2020 10:47 a.m. PST

Like "Broadcasting The Barricades",inspiring Orson Welles 10 years after.

Zephyr101 Aug 2020 2:42 p.m. PST

I'm surprised they haven't dug up the old scripts and re-worked them for the current series…

The H Man Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2020 1:27 a.m. PST

Ever heard of Peter Cushing??

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