The BBC is embarking on a pilot project to post every radio and television program the corporation has ever broadcast online. The searchable database will include millions of hours worth of broadcast material.
This would probably be one of the largest, if not the largest library of broadcast news available on the internet. Odds are the BBC would make the service available for free to users in the UK and charge customers living in other countries for the service.
The BBC is also looking at a video-on-demand style service that allows users to download programs broadcast over the last week onto a set-top-box. The archive could eventually be incorporated into that service, allowing users to access a massive library of historic material right from their television screen.
It would be great to see some American broadcasters try something similar. Of course, the BBC is public service driven, while most American news institutions are driven by profit. So while it might make sense to archive every video produced starting today, or even a few years ago, going back to old tapes that were broadcast a dozen years ago before anyone even thought about putting video online seems like more of a headache than it’s worth. Odds are the audience for old video would be fairly low in most cases.
That said, NPR, which also happens to be non-commercial, has archives going back to 1996 or so. While that’s hardly a complete archive, it’s a pretty good searchable index of news in RealAudio format from the last decade.