Irish Examiner View: Digitising RTÉ archives is a public service

Irish Examiner View: Digitising RTÉ archives is a public service

Mick Lally and Emmet Bergin in Glenroe, one of the programmes being digitised. 

Public service broadcasters have a huge, ever-expanding responsibility to the present but they also have a great responsibility to the past. 

RTÉ have recognised this by, despite huge financial difficulties, committing more than €3m to digitise programmes from the 1950s to 2003 to make them available online. Not all of these programmes are priceless nuggets waiting to be rediscovered but they are important time capsules and reminders of what Ireland was and how very far we have come. 

This project can provide Irish people and others who are interested with a contemporary Rosetta Stone, parsing and offering reliable context to life in this country 70 years ago. This will complement the project, already well underway, to digitise great swathes of Ireland's newspapers' archives.    

The broadcaster plans to digitise about 300,000 hours of television programmes and production recordings dating from 1985. It also wants to transcribe about 65,000 quarter-inch audio tapes dating from 1950 to the early 2000s. TV footage will include sport back to the mid-1980s, including thousands of hours of GAA, soccer, rugby and Olympics coverage. There is an urgency about this as various tapes and the devices needed to play them are obsolete and edging towards being unusable.

Someone once said that nostalgia is close enough to self-pity but this process should be one almost of celebration; celebration that we have become a relatively modern, progressive society despite the inaccurate scaremongering of those who resisted change so very vehemently. If this project does nothing other than remind us of how fear was and is used to avert change it will be worthwhile but it promises to do so much more. Roll it there Colette indeed. 



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