Skip to main content

The TVTimes Digitisation Project 1955 - 1985.

Holland, M., 2003. The TVTimes Digitisation Project 1955 - 1985. In: DRH 2003: Digital Resources in the Humanities Conference, 31 August - 3 September 2003, University of Gloucester, Cheltenham. (Unpublished)

This is the latest version of this eprint.

Full text available as:




INTRODUCTION: The TV Times Digitisation Project aims to microfilm the TV Times London and Regional Editions, digitise the microfilm for the London Edition and create a database of the schedules of the London Edition for the period from 1956 - 1985. The project is one of a number of Arts and Humanities Research Board [AHRB] funded projects in the area of radio and television. It is now in a final, but lengthy phase of data inputting into the schedule database. This paper reports on the project and its benefits to scholarship. It shares areas of good practice that would of benefit to those proposing or undertaking digitisation projects on this scale. ACCESS TO PRIMARY MATERIAL: Access to primary material underpins research and teaching. In the study of radio and television, access to material, or the lack of it, is both a limiting and distorting factor. John Corner (1996) identifies poor access to primary material as the most significant barrier to developing teaching in television documentary. The recent DfES White Paper (2003) 'The future of higher education' questions the link between teaching and research stating "In reality, the connection between an institutions research activities and its teaching is indirect" (DfES, 2003, para 2.7). Taking the opposite view, a recent LTSN sponsored project, Technology Enhanced Learning in Research Lead Institutions [TELRI] has developed pedagogy for 'research-based-learning' which is predicated on access to primary materials in electronic form. This paper does not intend to advance a pedagogical basis for the project. However, the project does enable a student analysis of the schedules that adds depth to discussions about quality, advertising, programming and the impact on BBC programming which followed the creation of independent television. Many commentators, especially in the early 1960s following the publication of the Pilkington Report - critical of independent television and the Independent Television Authority - support arguments about programming by comparing the TV Times and the Radio Times. Lack of access creates distrition because so much material is in public broadcasting making this area more attractive to scholars than the more problematic independent broadcasting. However, the situation is changing. The TV Times Digitisation Project is one of four AHRB funded projects looking at the independent broadcasting. These include a Major Award 'Did ITV Revolutionise British Television?', a Small Research Grant looking at 'This Week', an independent television current affairs programme, and a Research Enhancement Award to digitise the Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Archive. The British Universities Film and Video Council [BUFVC] is currently undertaking a pilot study for a major digitisation project with the archive of ITN. On a smaller scale Professor John Corner at the University of Liverpool has completed research into another independent current affairs programme, 'World in Action'. ROLE OF THE TV TIMES: Data from the schedules, times, dates, descriptions, lists of production staff and cast are an obvious starting point for any researcher. Schedules are the programme "metadata", recording what has been broadcast even where programmes do not survive. They are now largely hidden from view because of the inaccessibility of the printed copies of the TV Times. Here again independent broadcasting has not been well served. The higher sounding ideal of public service encouraged public libraries to keep The Radio Times, establishing it as the schedule of record. As far as we are aware, only one print set of the TV Times in both Regional and London Editions survives at the British Library. Other sets survive in various forms in the BFI, in private collections and in the Manchester Public Library. The BUFVC has recently launched TRILT: Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching a schedules service for academic users based on Broadcasting Dataservices data feed. This is supplemented by their Television Index which includes some coverage from 1995 - . The aim of the TV Times Schedule Database is to complement TRILT and to make available historic schedule information to scholars over networks. Limited access to schedules makes some forms of research impracticable. Such as quantitative research into trends in programming and scheduling to complement other documentary sources and eyewitness accounts of decision making about programmes within the industry. Embedded in the schedules too are personal histories of presenters, and actors. The TV Times records briefly the more significant production staff such as directors and producers whose history is largely unwritten, but whose careers can be tracked through the schedules. The TV Times Schedules Database will record this information. The study of individual programmes and series is greatly aided by knowing what was broadcast. For example, how many episodes were shown of Dragnet, an early police drama? What time were they broadcast and on what date? What were the episode titles and who was in the cast, what was the weekly plot line? The schedules provide a natural framework on which to base programme research. Creating schedule databases is an established methodology (Chignell, Holland and McCain 2000) used by the BBC Radio 4 Analysis, This Week and World in Action projects. While the schedule data sets created by these projects are complex, designed to serve the needs of a specific project, electronic links between them over networks give a rich and extensible picture. Together with TRILT, there is a basis for a complete UK schedules resource. Careful management of the TV Times project resources should enable all these data sets to migrate to the BUFVC web site forming the core of a new Television and Radio Research Portal. The programme journals themselves have their own largely unwritten history. The history of the TV Times mirrors many of the issues that arise across the sector. The early vigour of Independent Television, its embrace of commercialism at the expense, its critics claimed, of quality. The TV Times is the only record of the regional diversity and regional identity of the early independent television companies [ITCs] expressed through their programming. The TV Times, published by Associated Newspapers, and owned by Associated-Redifussion dominated the home region of London and in all but four regions published regional editions, leading it to dominate the market. For this reason, the project plans to microfilm the regional editions of the TV Times from 1956-1968. In 1968 the Independent Television Authority [ITA] forced the independent television companies to create a single magazine published by Independent Television Publications [IPC] wholly owned by the ITCs. The first editor, Nigel Jackson, now a lecturer in journalism at Bournemouth Media School, was brought in from women's magazine publishing in a deliberate effort to raise the quality of the TV Times, then one of the highest circulation magazines in the UK. The ITCs represented by the Independent Television Companies Association [ITCA] fought off a sustained attack from publishers and government, in the form of the Estimates Committee and the Annan Committee, to surrender their copyright and make schedules freely available. In this they found common cause with the BBC's publication, the Radio Times. Programme journals were very profitable. In submissions to various committees their value was expressed in terms of communicating to viewers both as a marketing tool, serving as a mechanism for viewers to express their own opinions through the letters pages. The Annan Committee did not appear overly impressed by these arguments but did not force the issue. Instead, following the Annan Committee Report, the Home Office required both the BBC and ITCs to account separately for the revenues from programme journals. The battle was lost in the 1990 Broadcasting Act when the ITCs and the BBC were forced to surrender their duopoly. The schedules for ITV and Channel 4 were published in the Radio Times and BBC 1 and 2 in the TV Times. At that point the market widened to include newspapers and new listings magazines. The history of programme journals is not part of the current TV Times Project but is an area for future research. It is important in contextualising the TV Times and the future schedules database, especially in directing students and researchers to areas of interest. To complete the picture, there is a bid currently with the AHRB to capture in electronic form and analyse audience research data recently unearthed after the move of the ITC Library to the BFI. Linking this data to the TV Times data will provide a rich picture of independent television in the United Kingdom and its reception by the public. PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Writing from experience gained from other projects the project team for the TV Times brought together a strong mix of project management skills and experience. One of the key challenges has been placing work with third party providers. This has included using a consultant from the Higher Education Digitisation Service [HEDS], Simon Tanner, to write a technical specification for the digitisation process. The work itself was placed with a commercial company, DocuMangement, selected after a lengthy tendering process managed by the Bournemouth University Purchasing Department. The key document, the invitation to tender, included the technical specification as well as a significant portion of legal and financial information. This process did extend the time it took to select the final company but proved very rewarding, delivering a competitively priced bid to our chosen standards. The data management of the project, including the design of the database, harvesting the data and eventually making it available on the web has been contracted to the BUFVC. By placing work and resources with the BUFVC, we hope to underwrite access to other broadcasting projects to create a framework for a television and radio portal hosted by the BUFVC. In addition the BUFVC and Bournemouth University now have extensive experience in database design using our chosen software for the project FileMaker. Copies of all the outputs of the project are deposited with Arts and Humanities Data Service/Performing Arts Data Service [AHDS/PADS] for long term storage and preservation. Working with third parties and professional intermediaries has made a significant contribution to the project's success. Taking a broader view the recent white paper "The Future of Higher Education" encourages researchers to work with partners and as consortia. This project, essentially a resource or tool building exercise, using skills and knowledge of six different institutions (Bournemouth University, Royal Holloway, AHDS/PADS, HEDS, DocuManagement and the British Library) would seem to be a good model on which to build. Note: The TV Times was two words until 1968 when the title was adopted by ITP but became one word TVTimes.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:TV Times
Group:Academic Services
ID Code:496
Deposited On:30 Jan 2007
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 13:06

Available Versions of this Item


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -