Thursday, 19 February 2015

footage availability - the opening and shutting doors

It's always a bit of a surprise at a time when there's a tendency especially among producers to regard everything as almost instantly available, that there are moments when it most definitely isn't. The current BBC wrangle with the British royal family about access to coverage of Prince Charles' life in previous documentaries on the grounds of copyright - for which read "control" - is a good example of archive only apparently being accessible. If you can get to it - in the name of the common good and fair comment - you might not always be able to broadcast it, especially if you're a "state" institution like the BBC open to having the levers of power applied. And if you're not, there are still ways to try to stop you even getting access to it because the footage might reside in the BBC archive. It's an arbitrary and very contentious restriction, even though here the issue appears to have been resolved through "channels". It's a cautionary tale nonetheless.
   This is especially interesting now not just because the row has pushed archive into the media limelight, even if only as a stalking horse for darker editorial concerns at the Palace, but because the argument has come at a time when an up and coming supplier of stock footage like Stockeon has gone out of business altogether. Part of the movement of enterprises offering all kinds of content - music, stills, graphics and sound effects as well as footage - this adventurous supplier seems to have lost out through lack of investment in its development. Its material has gone offline - I hope not for ever because it had some very promising contemporary coverage of diverse locations and activities - but as a private enterprise not easily controlled by any state, it is subject to the same vagaries of the market as any other commercial venture. Its demise waves a warning flag at the all too easy Google-driven assumption that everything is available everywhere.

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