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Creating an Online Television Archive, 1987–2013


DOI: 10.2218/ijdc.v9i1.288

Browning, Robert. “Creating an Online Television Archive, 1987–2013.” International Journal of Digital Curation 9.1 (2014): 2-11.

p.1: The growth of television, and in particular television news, has created a challenge in preserving and providing access to the resulting material. At the same time, technology has opened many opportunities to capture this information and make it more widely available. In some ways, it is a race of technology against the speed of content creation. In this paper, we describe a very successful archival project that records, indexes, archives and makes available the totality of the programming of the U.S. based C-SPAN television network, a nonprofit network that telecasts the entirety of the U.S. congressional proceedings, hearings, presidential speeches and other public policy events. As such, it is an archive of unedited primary source events. The use of evolving technology over 25 years has made this archive possible and it exists free on the Internet for world-wide access. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.2: In 1987, Purdue University created an off-satellite archive to record, index and archive all programming telecast by the C-SPAN television networks. This was a large undertaking. Vanderbilt University had pioneered the idea of a university creating an off-air archive when it started recording the three network evening news programs in 1968. That amounts to only 1,100 hours per year and Purdue would record two networks, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, or 17,520 hours per year. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.2: As a small television network, C-SPAN maintained a limited production library of tapes, but recycled many tapes to reuse them. The Purdue goal was to preserve and to provide access to this material for educators and researchers who wanted to review the video record of important political events. The archive would be independent of CSPAN and Purdue would decide how the archive should be organized and indexed. CSPAN granted to Purdue a license to distribute the content to educators for a fee. Over time, as Purdue demonstrated the efficiency of its systems for retrieving and duplicating content quickly, C-SPAN also contracted with Purdue to provide all of its duplication services. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.3: In this paper, we will discuss the technical issues that the archive confronted and how it solved them in its 25 year history. The archive today holds over 200,000 hours of digital content and won a Peabody Award in 2010 for its creation of the C-SPAN Video Library -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.3: In 1998, management of the archive was transferred from Purdue University to C-SPAN and the archive operates as a unit of C-SPAN independent of the university, but is still located in the Purdue Research Park. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.3: Each morning, we would retrieve 24 tapes that were recorded over the previous day. We would play each tape at high speeds, stopping when we saw a program beginning. The software would allow us to enter the begin date, time and network, and then the end date, time and network, and would calculate the length of the program. Then it would display the last programs entered by category so we could scan to see if this program had already been entered. If it had, we would select the program and add an airing to the selected program. If the airing was longer or shorter that the previously selected program, the software would issue a warning. The logic was that there could be no gaps in a 24 hour schedule and an airing longer than the master would indicate that the program being entered was not a duplicate or it was a longer version of the original content. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.8: Since 1994 the Archive has been capturing the closed captioning text transmitted with the video. This text is time-stamped by word and stored in separate files. Captions are captured for the three C-SPAN networks, plus five other broadcast and cable news networks. For the C-SPAN networks, the text is matched with the video and displayed online as a searching tool into the the video record. Matched with the speaker index cited above, it adds a powerful search tool for finding where a statement was made within hours of video. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.8: For presidential events we went a step forward and linked the White House transcript to the video. This created the same level of word linkage, but it used the actual transcript rather than only the captioned text. The index, audio, video, transcript entry we created for presidential events provides an important historical record. We have thus pioneered in the development of a modern historical record of presidential activities. This feature also exists for significant congressional hearings where the committee has released a transcript. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014