ERT’S (HELLENIC BROADCASTING CORPORATION) AUDIOVISUAL ARCHIVES: DIGITIZING AND PRESERVING GREECE’S BROADCASTING HERITAGE
Since 2008, ERT (Elliniki Radiofonia Tileorasi) known in English as the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, has been working to realize an important project concerning the documentation and the digitization of the National Greek Television archives.
Through this project ERT has made its archives available to the public. This means that people, both from within Greece and Europe and all over the world, can access rich Greek audiovisual archive material and watch online television programmes produced from the 1950’s to the present. The archives’ website (www.ert-archives.gr) offers search categories including; news, ERT television plays, documentaries and children’s programs amongst others where users can select what they want to watch.
Noteworthy is ERT’s recent innovation, launched in February 2013, under the title “ERT goes to… school.” As mentioned on the webpage, ERT’s Audiovisual Archive provides data that can be safely used by teachers and students in order to help them in the education process. The scientific staff of ERT, in close collaboration with elementary and high school teachers, has managed to match the audiovisual archive content with school books and the curriculum. Through this process, students are able to have access to useful educational tools that relate to specific educational fields.
ERT became an associate partner in the EUscreen project on June 2011 www.euscreen.eu. Together with the Hellenic National Audiovisual Archive (HeNNA), which is a consortium partner of EUscreen, the two organizations provide free access to 4200 archive items of Greek audiovisual heritage. Of these items 204 originate from ERT and the rest belong to HeNAA, a national organization which has now merged with ERT.
The digitization process
The Greek national broadcaster has the richest audiovisual archive in Greece, which comprises 70% of the country’s total audiovisual material. ERT - which operates 4 terrestrial, 1 HD and 2 satellite television channels, as well as twenty nine radio stations - was faced with the challenge of managing tape-based archives, which included rare heritage material. The foundations for a preservation and documentation project of the audiovisual archives were set in 1995. In 2004, the aforementioned project was piloted until 2008, when the full project began. In the meanwhile a 1,200 sq.m. archival space, fulfilling international standards, was created in ERT’s central facilities for the proper preservation of this audiovisual treasure,
The project fell within the general framework of creating digital Greece, by utilizing the EU Digital Convergence programme, the further development of broadband networks, digital television and the digitalization of national audiovisual material. The implementation of the project was carried through the operational programme “Information Society” and was funded with 1.950.000 €, 80% of which came from the European Regional Development Fund, and 20% from national funding. Today the project is being realized based solely on ERT’s funding.
Due to ERT’s erase policy which existed until the 1970’s, as well as relocation, bad storage conditions and misjudgements, the audiovisual archive collection has an incompleteness which will be all too familiar to archive researchers. However, the archive has been attracting some 11,500 visitors a day (viewership above the limited half an hour) and that, each month, an average of 150 new fully documented items are posted on ERT’s archives website.
Exploring ERT’s audiovisual archives
ERT’s audiovisual archives comprise the following individual archives:
the Television programmes & TV film library archive which contains 5553 videos with more than 108,000 hours of programmes; the Television news archive which contains 7130 videos including the oldest film of the Archive entitled “Bosporus” which describes life in Istanbul at the beginning of 1900 and dates from 1910. The archive collections also include the Television news broadcast archive, the Photo gallery archive of more than 300,000 images and photos from the Asia Minor military campaign, the Greek-Italian War of 1940 and Greek military triumphs. It is also filled with photos of the political, artistic and social life of Athens of the 20th century. It is noteworthy that the first 3 photos of the collection date back to 1909 and they capture the military campus in the Goudi area in Athens, from where the revolution began in 1909.
A number of other archives also contain important collections, but these are not yet available online. These include, the Sports Television and Radio Archives, the Television archive of the Greek Parliament Sessions, the Radio news broadcasts archive, the Theatre Radio Library and the Radio record library. The Music Library contains 15,000 music scores, editions and manuscripts of music scores from the 19th century until today. Part of this collection is available online and will be enriched in the future.
Significant and important events in Greek history have been preserved and included in ERT’s audiovisual archive. With just a simple browse and a “click” the audience can access online a huge amount of invaluable historical, political, cultural aspects of Greece including a documentary on the withdrawal of German troops from the city of Athens on October 12, 1944, a study of great author and diplomat, George Sefreis who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963, the trial of the ringleaders of the dictatorship (1967-1974)
Other material covers the historic proclamation of Konstantinos Karamanlis in 1974 just after the fall of the dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in Greece, as well as the signing of the Treaty of the Accession of Greece to the EEC, on May 28, 1979.
Targeting the future
In order for this amazing project to be completed, a further period of 5 to 7 years is needed due to the fact that all the procedures are being realized with special attention and the digital transcription is being realized in “real time”, i.e. a 1-hour program needs a 1-hour digital edit.
The adversities and difficulties for the completion of that ambitious project is a challenge for ERT. The principal future goal is for the archival footage to be more compatible with new forms of technology and with the greatest possible speed access. At the same time ERT is aiming at the protection, especially in the digital environment, of intellectual property and copyright of the authors and the institution that owns the material. Under these conditions, the possibilities of collaboration and creative use of existing and the ever produced archival material is endless.
Furthermore, ERT’s Audiovisual Archives future prospects focus on establishing a fruitful and fertile collaboration with all the interested actors in the project of preserving and digitizing the rare and invaluable archive footage of the recent history of Greece. Moreover, ERT’s Audiovisual Museum is establishing collaborations with the Greek universities, in order to highlight its role in the educational field. Taking advantage of the merger of the National Audiovisual Archive and the Audiovisual Institute, ERT’ Archive plans to create a library, accessible to the researchers and scholars.
As ERT is an integral part of Greek broadcasting history and the national broadcasting representative in the European Audiovisual field, remains faithful to its mission which is to provide Greek society and every citizen with an idea of what constitutes Greece’s national heritage through sound and images. The project of preservation and enhancement of this invaluable historical audiovisual evidence is a work of huge responsibility, as this archival footage is a valuable legacy for future generations, a separate 'vault' of historical knowledge, in which ERT preserves the most important events in modern history, the contemporary national historical and cultural heritage of Greece.
Dr. in Journalism and Mass Media, Press Office, Regional Local Government of Central Macedonia Greece.
Research Associate, Department of Public Relations & Communication, Technological Educational Institute of Western Macedonia, Greece.
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