Print  RSS 
Feb 13

Paul McLane
2/13/2013 3:20:00 PM 

“There has been no systematic effort to collect American commercial radio programming at the national and local levels.”

So states the Library of Congress in a new report. It calls on its preservation board to set up a subcommittee “to develop strategies and tools to collect and preserve radio broadcast content.” And the report calls for a symposium to discuss the challenges of preserving American radio broadcasts.

This development will hearten anyone in radio who has ever worked at a station with a deep history, only to learn that a new owner or a new format was coming in and that all the station audio recordings had been tossed in a dumpster.

The recommendation about radio preservation is part of a much larger “blueprint” set out by the Library of Congress. Its overall goal: Saving sound. Congress has charged the library with implementing a national sound recording preservation program; this new report is a big step in that effort, and contains a list of 32 recommendations.

Librarian of Congress James Billington described the need: “Radio broadcasts, music, interviews, historic speeches, field recordings, comedy records, author readings and other recordings have already been forever lost to the American people. ... [The plan] is America’s first significant step toward effective national collaboration to save our recorded-sound heritage for future generations.”

The report is long and raises many interesting angles dealing with audio technology, legislative reform and best practices for both analog and digital audio preservation. I imagine it will launch a new set of discussions and debate.

On the need to save commercial radio audio, the authors wrote: “Radio programs make up a significant portion of the nation’s recorded cultural history and encompass an array of genres, including news, music, drama, variety, soap operas, sports, quiz shows, public affairs, presidential addresses, community affairs, religious programming, propaganda, and educational shows.”

While some libraries and archives have collections of historical radio recordings, the report continued, “there have been few systematic efforts to collect contemporary commercial radio broadcast recordings, and to document and preserve the entire range of extant broadcasts in private and public collections.” It added that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting American Archive project seeks to preserve and manage public radio and TV materials; “however, there has been no systematic effort to collect American commercial radio programming at the national and local levels.”

Among broader recommendations, the plan calls for a national, publicly accessible directory of “institutional, corporate and private recorded-sound collections” as well as a national discography that details production of recordings and the location of preservation copies in public institutions.

It recommends creation of a national collections policy for sound recordings, “including a strategy to collect, catalog and preserve locally produced recordings, radio broadcast content and neglected and emerging audio formats and genres.”

It encourages the creation of university degree programs in audio archiving and preservation, as well as continuing education programs for audio engineers, archivists, curators and librarians.

Also on the list: More storage facilities for preservation; an Audio-Preservation Resource Directory website, including preservation guidelines; “best practices” for creating and preserving audio files that are “born digital”; and a basic licensing agreement to cover on-demand streaming by libraries and archives of recordings that are out of print.

The report notes that ownership is inadequately documented for many types of recordings, including radio broadcast recordings. It said the preservation board should encourage statewide and regional programs to collect and preserve “locally produced recorded sound, including radio broadcasts,” and that collections from radio stations should be part of those efforts.

There is much more here, of interest not only to radio people but audio and history enthusiasts in general. The plan also calls for copyright legislation reform that could be contentious. I’ll explore that and other details of this report in future posts. But for now: Yay Library of Congress for starting to tackle the question of how the U.S. can better preserve our radio heritage.


Thank you for your comment. Please note that posts are reviewed for suitability and may not appear until the next business day.


July 2016 (5)
June 2016 (3)
May 2016 (4)
April 2016 (3)
March 2016 (6)
February 2016 (4)
January 2016 (6)
December 2015 (7)
November 2015 (6)
October 2015 (11)
September 2015 (7)
August 2015 (8)
July 2015 (10)
June 2015 (14)
May 2015 (5)
April 2015 (6)
March 2015 (6)
February 2015 (4)
January 2015 (5)
December 2014 (7)
November 2014 (6)
October 2014 (10)
September 2014 (11)
August 2014 (14)
July 2014 (4)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (5)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (6)
February 2014 (7)
January 2014 (8)
December 2013 (9)
November 2013 (11)
October 2013 (9)
September 2013 (6)
August 2013 (5)
July 2013 (1)
June 2013 (4)
May 2013 (3)
April 2013 (2)
March 2013 (8)
February 2013 (8)
January 2013 (7)
December 2012 (3)
November 2012 (4)
October 2012 (7)
September 2012 (10)
August 2012 (4)
July 2012 (7)
June 2012 (4)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (10)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (6)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (5)
October 2011 (8)
September 2011 (9)
August 2011 (10)
July 2011 (6)
June 2011 (5)
May 2011 (7)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (9)
February 2011 (6)
January 2011 (7)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (3)
October 2010 (6)
September 2010 (10)
August 2010 (8)
July 2010 (7)
June 2010 (5)
May 2010 (5)
April 2010 (11)
March 2010 (7)
February 2010 (5)
January 2010 (4)
December 2009 (2)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (5)
September 2009 (6)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (3)
June 2009 (15)
May 2009 (8)
April 2009 (6)
March 2009 (2)
February 2009 (2)
January 2009 (1)
December 2008 (5)