Sunday April 15, 2007
The Observer Guardian Unlimited
Thousands of hours of broadcasting history are to be made available to the public online as part of a plan to open up the BBC's entire archive to licence-fee payers free of charge.
The radio and TV material, some of which has never been repeated, includes an interview with Martin Luther King filmed shortly before he was assassinated, and another with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in which the former Beatle talks candidly about the impact their relationship had on the band.
Other programmes include a 1956 episode of the nature series Zoo Quest in which a young David Attenborough captures the komodo dragon on film for the first time. The episode has never been repeated but could soon be available online as part of the ambitious project, headed by the BBC's director of future media and technology, Ashley Highfield.
The BBC wants to put nearly one million hours of material on the internet for viewers to watch, listen to and download and has already begun the long process of retrieving and transferring programmes. A trial involving 20,000 users will begin next month, and the service could be available nationally in a year's time. Highfield will announce details of the scheme in a speech this week.