New York Public Hearing: Volume 3
Report of the Librarian of Congress
Table of Contents
- James Billington
- Librarian of Congress
- Erik Barnouw
- Professor Emeritus, Columbia University
- David Francis
- Chief, Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress
- Mona Jimenez
- Executive Director, Media Alliance
- James Lindner
- President, Vidipax, Inc.
Panel Moderator: William Murphy, Coordinator, Current State of American Television and Video Preservation Report
MR. MURPHY: Good morning, everyone. Please take your seats, we're about to begin the day's proceedings.
I want to first begin the day by turning the microphone over to Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress.
DR. BILLINGTON: Thank you. We're pleased to welcome everyone here to the Library of Congress Hearing on the Current State of American Television and Video Preservation.
Two weeks ago I presented the Library of Congress to our Congressional Appropriations Hearing and this morning I'm happy to be on the other side of the room facing witnesses. Today's hearing doesn't have the legal and physical implications of a Congressional hearing, but it's a very important event for the Library of Congress and for the archival community generally, and indeed, for everyone who shares concern about preservation of our television legacy.
Our first public hearing on this subject was held in Los Angeles on March 6th. The panel heard statements from archives, major studios and educators and others who share this concern over preservation. We heard encouraging reports from the major products of prime time programming because as commercial enterprises they have sufficient economic incentives to maintain their materials under reasonably good conditions, and thus insure availability for future use. On the other hand, we heard from smaller organizations with little or almost no resources to safeguard and preserve the valuable television video materials in their care.
This is the second of three public hearings that the Library of Congress is conducting this month and they're intended to develop a report on the current state of American television and video preservation and a plan listing recommendations. Both the report and the plan will be published later in the year as a single document. This activity is authorized under the American Television and Radio Act of 1976--20 years later; it takes a little while to get around to these things in Washington, as you may have heard. But it's being pursued in response to a recommendation more recently from the National Film Preservation Board, which is another Congressionally created body for which we have a responsibility at the Library of Congress, and also from the many groups and individuals who helped draft Redefining Film Preservation, A National Plan, which the Library of Congress published in 1994.
Now the American Television and Radio Act of 1976 authorized the Library of Congress to establish and maintain archives whose purpose is to preserve a permanent record of the broadcast programs which are the heritage of the people of the United States and to provide access to such programs to historians and scholars without encouraging or causing copyright infringement. These hearings and the report to follow will help the Library develop and refine ATRA'S policies--that's the acronym for American Television and Radio Archive--to insure that we carry out our work in concert with the other archives and libraries, and with production and broadcast organizations.
These hearings and the report then parallel our earlier film preservation study in several important ways. First, we seek the same goals; that is, to preserve the American heritage. In this case, television and video, and make it more accessible for educational use. Second, to obtain a wide range of views and opinions representative of the diverse interest that exists in the creation, preservation and research use of moving images in all its aspects, including arts and entertainment, news and documentary, public affairs, video art, community video, just to name some of the largest categories. Thirdly, we wish to encourage other archives and libraries to work with the Library of Congress to accomplish the very difficult task of preserving television video and making them available. Fourth, we wish to address the problem of funding, television and video preservations programs, both in public archives and industry, no easy task at a time when resources are scarce, relative to the preservation workload ahead. Public and private partnerships are essential and during the course of these hearings we hope to receive your recommendations on how these kinds of partnerships can be established.
There are other parallels with the film preservation report worth mentioning. Like American film, much of the early history of television, as I am sure most of you aware has already been lost, broadcasts were live and kinescope or film recordings were used selectively, Ampex introduced a videotape recording technology in 1956, and since then the industry has manufactured or adopted numerous incompatible video formats making technological obsolence a major archival issue. Like nitrocellulose, the staple of the film industry until 1951, videotape has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. We've entrusted our historical and cultural images to videotape and yet it's vulnerable to degradation and destruction. Like film, everything associated with video preservation is expensive, including specialized storage facilities, electronic equipment, a skilled technical staff, and reformatting costs. The very notion of reformatting large collections of videotape is a daunting one because their volume already exceeds the means of most organizations.
Yet the rewards for safeguarding and preserving our television and video heritage are immeasurable, no one can fully understand who we are as a people and what we've become as a society without having access to the recordings created by television and video production during the last 50 years. Historians, sociologists and other scholars, even politicians and parents, debate the causal relationship of television to the society-at-large and the future of such debates will be fruitless if the historical evidence to pursue them does not survive.
I might say as not just the Librarian of Congress who is responsible to the Congress of the United States but as somebody who has been a resident of Washington for nearly a quarter of a century, it's been amazing to watch how official Washington and all its aspects increasingly feels that it's either legitimize or de-legitimize as sustained, vindicated, elected, dis-elected, whatever, through this media, and therefore, it seems to me that the interest in it and the concern for how it functions, what its legacy is, is only going to increase. So this problem is one that is very much a part of coming to grips with what we are becoming as a nation in the second half of the 20th Century.
So in conclusion, the Library of Congress encourages all of you in the audience to write down your opinions and recommendations an we will collect them up to April 29th. We hope to hear from people in writing who don't have a chance to speak today, and today we will hear from a number of distinguished individuals, some professionals in the field, others representing important organizations, that share the goal of preserving American television and video and to which, as I say, we have a special responsibility under the Congressional mandate that we're pursuing here today.
Before we begin, I'd like to thank David Francis to my left, our admirable head of the Library's Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, and a long-time pioneer in the preservation business on two continents--we're happy that he's on ours right now; and Steve Leggett, extraordinarily industrious, always self-effacing, in the back of the room back there, just does simply wonderful work for the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. I can't say too much for all they're doing. They're real saints in this pursuit of preserving this important part of our cultural heritage, and particularly for their work on this project.
And most especially the man to whom I'm going to turn over the microphone, Bill Murphy, on loan from our sister institution, the Washington National Archives and Record of Administration, who is doing an admirable job serving as the project's coordinator, who will moderate today's hearing and to whom I'm pleased to turn over the microphone.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Dr. Billington. At this time I would like to introduce the members of the panel. You've already met David Francis. To my right is Dr. Erik Barnouw; and next Mona Jimenez, the executive director of the Media Alliance; and last but not least, Jim Lindner, president of Vidipax, Inc.
And so let us begin, but before we go into the proceedings, let me state some of the ground rules for the discussion and testimony in the interest of moving the proceeding along expeditiously during the rest of the day.
First, we will ask each panel to sit together at the witness table when it is their turn to speak. Second, the speakers will make their presentations in the order listed; and third, each speaker should take approximately ten minutes to give a statement. If you have a longer written statement, that too will be published in the record. If you exceed your time limit, I will try to let you know politely so that you can bring your statement to a conclusion. Fourth, please speak into the microphone so that you can be heard in the back of the room. Your statement and the discussion are being recorded and transcribed and you will receive a copy of the transcript for your review. Fifth, the Library of Congress panel will ask questions and make comments when each group of witnesses has completed their statements.
I'm sorry we don't have enough time to accept questions or comments from the floor, from the audience; but I encourage all of you to send us written statements which will be considered in the report.
This is all I'm going to say, and so with that let us begin with our first witness, Mr. John Cannon of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Good morning, Mr. Cannon.
MR. CANNON: Good morning. I am the president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and first of all let me tell you about who we are. We do represent I think goodness, kindness and we are the embodiment of not-for-profit activity, we are statesmen of the industry; but putting all that aside, we have a remarkable structure. We represent virtually the entire United States. We represent about 95 per cent of television in the United States and the concrete evidence of that is that we make available local awards, local Emmy awards throughout the country. And it is our belief that television is not in New York and Los Angeles exclusively, that television really is people in many, many cities and many, many places, and we, because of our structure, can reach out.
I want to talk to you this morning about thinking of preservation of television material, documentaries and recorded history throughout the United States rather than solely thinking about great shows that we all saw on network television. But of course, again by our structure, because we represent the Emmy, the Emmy is the terribly, terribly distinguished award. In the world, anywhere you go, everybody knows the Oscar, everybody knows the Emmy. Now there are very few awards like that. I can give you two or three, four more, but by and large other awards are--they're nice, they're somewhat conveniences for having dinners, and kind of warming up for the main event; but the only people unhappy about Emmys are those who don't win them. Everybody wants an Emmy. And you would have to sit in the office or run from the office, which I frequently like to do, about people calling and saying they should have won and Emmy and how unjust the world is. But putting that aside, we find that--maybe I shouldn't put it aside, but really I find it very flattering and it only emphasizes how truly great this Emmy is.
So when we talk about having archives, and this is something very, very good, this is the kind of thing we have a total commitment to at least philosophically, if we can't do it physically which I don't think we can do, but from the very creation of this Academy we have always been proponents of it and we have found that the educational world has been quite marvelous at this and the Academy, which began in Los Angeles and New York, began this kind of activity. I know I was president at one time of the New York Chapter and we had a very active relationship with NYU in preserving materials. But we found that from a national viewpoint that we couldn't possibly do anything meaningful. So we support all kinds of organizations that want to do this and I'm sure you're all aware of the very, very major commitment that the Museum of Radio and Television has, and they have a great deal of money and they just opened, if you saw in The New York Times yesterday, they opened a branch, $16 million in Beverly Hills. And I do know that Mr. Paley, who started this, I don't think he ever made the short walk which is only one block from what is called Black Rock, CBS, over to ABC, it's from 53rd Street to 54th Street, and he never made that walk, but he did one day decide he would go over and see Leonard Goldenson. So he made the walk, went up to see Leonard Goldenson, he said, "Leonard, I want you to support something," and it was his museum. And it never stopped from that point on. I've never seen anything in our industry supported so widely and with such deep pockets as that museum. So what your relationship is with that, I don't know. I will ask you later on what it is.
But I would like to focus a bit on some of the things that we have done in our Academy and maybe that we can open up some windows here for your thinking. We had, oh, ten years ago, suggested that each of our chapters encourage their community--let's say Phoenix, Arizona--to establish an archival reposit of what had been the best of television in Phoenix. Now this concept I think has a lot of merit. We can now envision--we have 17 cities and regions which as I tell you covers most of the United States; but I think it's very interesting if you're in Miami to have a place you can go and see what has been the best of Miami television. And I can further see occasions where people would gather in the industry to review their industry and all that's been accomplished there. Cities do this, local television is very, very strong, and people who have made great contributions to television in all the local markets are honored. They're honored by our organization and other organizations. But this is a step further. It's not easy to do. I would also encourage them to send material to the museum; but I think maybe if the Congress, if the Library of Congress would do this, it would have more impetus, it would have more motivation. But I try to open, as I say, open new vistas for you here and I think this is something that I don't think you'll hear from anybody else, of the concept of how much material there is that only those people, generally speaking only those people in their own communities saw and were a part of. But that to me is very, very valid and it fulfills what television should be.
We feel that television is--the viewer should be the boss of television. The view is the one who makes all the decisions. And nobody forces anybody to watch anything. Television will never be, or when we say television today we mean all of broadcasting, the telecommunications, whether it be satellite cable--this is all one family, one experience really. But it is the viewer that sets the standard an all the viewer has to do is turn it off. And so television will never be better than the viewer demands it to be and the more we as an Academy, our dedication is to excellence, and we are constantly talking to the people in the community if we can and tell them to be as demanding as they can.
We have a project in the Academy called Creating Critical Viewers. This is to educate young people, the high school age, how to watch television. We don't want them to grow up and be couch potatos. So we have made a very major effort and invested very major money in this so that we now have in 17 chapters around the country, we have a paid administrator who does this, and we engage--each chapter engages somebody from the educational world who can communicate with the schools. Television people are good at communicating with the public in general, but they are not educators and they don't quite know how to get into that world. But this is evidence of what can be done, what can be done for the public, and I think that's what we should all think about and that's why we should preserve the best of telecommunications, the best of these efforts for the public, not for private collectors, but for those who can benefit for the most, so we have a true heritage to pass on. And we in the Academy can educate young people so that they come out with a critical eye. We think that's very good.
And also it's very encouraging that the management, the station managers around the country encourage this. They do not find it a threat to their commercial profits. They agree that the better view they have, the better television they'll all do. There is no downside to doing good television and there's no downside to having a program that doesn't have a big audience either. In News and Documentary, Dr. Billington was a presenter at our News and Documentary Awards. PBS has always done very, very well in those awards because they dedicate the time to it. And on the commercial networks, sometimes we don't get as high quality, although that varies, there's some very high quality actually in the networks; but if you put aside every so often the profit motive and say what can we do that is the best for the public, it will happen.
So what we can do here by talking to you is see if we can give you some ideas and give you a feeling for the whole broad spectrum of television in the 50 States of the United States, with which we have a relationship.
I thank you all, and first of all being here is annulus; but particularly to the Library and its effort, I think this is very timely and it's a step forward, and just couldn't be any more admirable. So I thank you very much for listening to my few words and I would be very pleased to talk to you and answer questions. Maybe I'll ask you some questions.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much, Mr. Cannon. Questions or comments? David?
MR. FRANCIS: I was very interested in what you said about the idea, I think you used Phoenix as the example--
MR. CANNON: Yes.
MR. FRANCIS: --of selecting in the different chapters the programs which are important as far as that part of the country is concerned, because one of the big problems with television is there is so much of it and it's not all national.
Now it seems that this idea could be developed by the Academy so that each area was deciding what they considered were the most important programs. I think that would be a very valuable service, and it could lead to those programs being preserved in that area. What do you think about this? How successful have you been so far?
MR. CANNON: Well, it didn't quite work. These things take a great deal of incentive and effort. The fire has to build up, you know. I think though I'm very glad to hear what you say. I think that it's worth another try. Ten years ago when we advocated this, I don't think the Academy was doing all the good things it's doing now. We have a very major scholarship program now, we're giving two $20,000 scholarships and that's pretty good, because I look around and there aren't that many $20,000 scholarships being given out. Most scholarships are for $2,000 and that will buy you books maybe, or $5,000; but we decided to go into this in a very major way.
The reason I cite this is that atmospheres change and when people realize what can be done and we're doing these things, maybe this is another step we could take. I really think it's worthwhile. And if we could get a letter particularly from Dr. Billington, if I could get a letter saying we encourage this, this kind of encouragement would be a very good thing for us and might bring this to a meeting and that's the way these things start. We'd have to think out how this can trickle some place, as I wanted to do it with the museum, but I think they've got a pretty full plate over there. Maybe we can do this through you. But we need to have it go somewhere too, as well as--do you agree with that?
MR. FRANCIS: Yes, certainly.
MR. MURPHY: Jim?
MR. LINDNER: You were mentioning the role of education in regard to your membership and there's no question that your membership is certainly the movers and shakers of the television industry in many regards, and I was wondering since the membership is so large whether the Academy has published any brochures or other information to help educate your members on how to take care of their materials?
MR. CANNON: No. We never have. No, no. That has never been done and that would never be done because there is no program that would call for it. But again, that's a good idea.
What we offer here is an availability if somebody wanted to do that, the Academy has the structure that allows for a lot of communication, if somebody wants to come along and do that. What better way for distribution than to use us. That might be a good joint effort with somebody.
MR. MURPHY: Okay. Thanks again, Mr.--
MR. CANNON: Dr. Barnouw, I wanted to--
MR. MURPHY: Go ahead.
MR. CANNON: As I was joking with Dr. Barnouw, I said that I read his book since I was three years old, he said I was very precocious when I did that, and I said but he wrote with such clarity, how does he know that I didn't? But I want to take a personal moment here to ask you, Professor Barnouw, of what you do now. Do you lecture still at Columbia? Are you still writing book? I'd like to know that.
DR. BARNOUW: I'm not lecturing at Columbia. I've retired some 20 years ago.
MR. CANNON: I know that, but I thought--
DR. BARNOUW: I am still writing books, yes.
MR. CANNON: All right.
DR. BARNOUW: I don't want to make this a personal advertising program.
MR. CANNON: Okay.
DR. BARNOUW: Yes, I just published a book called "The Media Marathon," essentially a memoir which goes to my life in all the media.
MR. CANNON: I'll certainly be looking for that. It's a privilege to be here with you. Yes, Dr. Billington?
DR. BILLINGTON: I was wondering if either the Academy or the museum, which you mentioned, you mentioned in connection with the museum deep pockets. One of the fundamental problems with preservation is that there are virtually no pockets at all.
MR. CANNON: That's right.
DR. BILLINGTON: And I wondered if you had any thoughts as to how first of all you organization, which does have all the prestigious and important people in it, do either they or the museum have any systematic institutional stated commitment to the preservation of the television heritage or have there been any major meetings or pronouncements devoted to it? I just wondered as a matter of history.
MR. CANNON: I would highly recommend and I think I mentioned to Mr. Murphy when he came to see me, I highly recommend that you meet with first of all Frank Bennick, who is the chairman of it, and he is the president and CEO of The Hearst Corporation, all of television and all of the newspapers too. I think that would be a very worthwhile visit for you to have. They are the ones who would have that kind of resource and, of course, that's what they are doing. They are preserving television. The Academy no, the Academy does not and I don't think it's likely that the Academy would get resources exclusively for that. Anything could happen, but for when we talk about financial wherewithal and also the structure and actually doing it, I'd say the museum would be my prime target if I were you.
DR. BILLINGTON: I see.
MR. FRANCIS: Bill, can I ask something? Could I ask one small follow-up? Do you actually manage to preserve the Emmy award programs, the programs to which you give the awards?
MR. CANNON: Yes, we do. We keep, one way or another, when we do a--when we do a telecast, by our contract one copy of it comes to us. Generally the networks keeps a copy too, the networks keep copies of things like that.
MR. FRANCIS: But the individual programs?
MR. CANNON: No, not in--only winning programs or--well, for instance, News and Documentary, we get some marvelous material and it's so much of it that we call up schools and see if they can pick it up or we just have to throw it out. There's just not-- there aren't enough buildings to put all of this in. They are going to take all our news and documentary winning programs and preserve them. So we'd like to find more opportunities like that and we'll find another college, I think we can do it for sports, and this concept of having someone's resource for it--we like the schools, we think the schools are great at this and they give a lot of attention to it and it's very beneficial to them because students of the communications departments can refer to this material and it's quite wonderful.
But for an organization such as ours that has no many award structures and so many awards programs to do, our biggest problem is to clean out the shelves and keep it moving out of our premises. We can't find a building big enough to hold all that.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much indeed, Mr. Cannon.
MR. CANNON: Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: I think in the interest of time we have to move on and thanks again.
MR. CANNON: Thank you. I hope you have a very successful day and a very rewarding experience. It's quite admirable.
MR. MURPHY: We've been informed that Kitty Carlisle Hart will be delayed, so we will move on to the next panel of educators and we'll ask those people to come and take a seat.
Well, good morning to you, and let us begin with William Boddy.
MR. BODDY: Thank you. I'm going to read a five-page statement, so I should be ten minutes.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning about a subject, television preservation, which is crucial to the work of scholars and educators across many fields and many academic institutions. My words today will, I hope, build--
MR. MURPHY: Excuse me, could you pull the microphone closer?
MR. BODDY: Sure. My words today will, I hope, build upon previous testimony in Los Angeles from educators, including Janet Bergstrom who spoke as a representative from the Society for Cinema Studies, an organization I have been actively involved with for over a decade. I would first like to acknowledge the work of the Library of Congress in film preservation, including the hearings which produced a 1994 report, "Redefining Film Preservation, A National Plan." I will defer to the expertise of others here and elsewhere who will speak to you on technical matters of physical preservation and legal practice; what I wish to add is simply the voice from a community of scholars and educators whose work would be immeasurably impoverished without access to the national heritage of television and video material.
While occasionally arcane and technical sounding, the work of television and video preservation, I believe, serves to support nothing less than the fundamental need of citizens in a democracy to understand their collective past and to actively shape their own cultural and political futures. I'd like to address the four central issues of storage, access, public/private partnerships, and funding, from the point of view of someone who earns a living teaching and writing about the history of American television. To briefly introduce myself, my work in television history began with a doctoral dissertation at New York University, a dissertation which ended up as a book at the University of Illinois entitled Fifties Television. Since then I have contributed two dozen articles on U.S. broadcast history to scholarly journals and monographs in this country and abroad. The subjects of these have ranged from television broadcasting efforts by CBS and others in the early 1930s to the post-war programming strategies of NBC and CBS, the quiz show scandals of the late fifties, the TV violence campaigns of the early 1960s, the rise and fall of the classic television Western, the contested role of American television programming in the U.S. image abroad, and the history of independent video in the United States. I'm currently writing a book on the social history of electronic technology for Oxford University Press, as well as a book on The Twilight Zone for the British Film Institute's TV Classics Series.
Before turning to these larger questions of what we ought to be preserving, allow me first to direct some specific remarks to the four issues of storage, access, public/private partnership, and funding, which were raised in the Library of Congress's report on film preservation. While, it seems to me that these can, in large measure, be addressed in similar terms to those involved in film preservation, there are a number of novel aspects to the world of television preservation. Concerning storage, for example, I believe the Library can make an important contribution by supporting the research and dissemination of optimal methods for the preservation of original materials and the conversion of original materials to new storage media.
It might be noted that the term "television preservation" involves original materials ranging from 35mm and 16mm film stocks as well as a plethora of technologically obsolete or endangered electronic recording systems. Unlike theatrical filmmaking, where film formats and viewing technologies have remained remarkably stable historically, television demands the preservation of rapidly changing hardware systems as well as program material. It seems to me that the Library of Congress can lead in the sharing of expertise concerning these historically fragile technological platforms, in order to insure continued access to the programming they support. Likewise, the Library can pool technical expertise in the conversion of these technologically endangered television materials to more permanent and accessible electronic formats, with the recognition that any new formats are themselves likely to prove historically transient. Finally, as in film preservation, it seems to be prudent to pursue both the conservation of original materials and the conversion to new electronic storage systems. The problem of access to television and video materials presents similar continuities and exceptions to the model of film preservation. There are common goals in insuring the widest possible access for scholars and educators to television collections, in simplifying procedures for copyright clearances and fair use, in enabling remote access to information about the holdings of private and public archives, and finally in moving to direct electronic access to non- copyrighted television and video materials. These issues of access are likely to be more complex and vexing than the challenges of physical preservation and storage, and copyright holders need to be protected from unauthorized commercial exploitation of their work, a concern more urgent with the prospect of a commercial Internet trafficking in full motion video and sound.
However, and this is the most deeply felt point I would like to make this morning, there is an urgent need to preserve the distinction between educational and commercial uses of television and video archive material, and with that distinction, the practice of fair use of copyrighted material by scholars and educators, whether for research, classroom instruction, presentations at professional conferences or scholarly publication. The Library of Congress could encourage archives to devise donor agreements to maintain this fundamental distinction in order to insure access by scholars to copyrighted deposit material. Issues of copyright may be more complex in television than in film; unlike the model of the studio feature film, networks and station operators rarely own copyrights for the works they broadcast, outside of news and sports. Copyright is more often held by individual production companies operating in an unstable business marked by a rapid turnover of firms.
Regarding issues of private/ public partnerships and the funding of television preservation, copyright owners must, I think, assume the major responsibility for insuring the physical preservation of, and scholarly access to, their television and video material. However, the Library of Congress can support these efforts by sharing information about the storage and transfer of primary materials and by encouraging and coordinating remotely accessible databases of archive holdings. Public efforts should also be extended to support the preservation of vulnerable television and video material which is either outside of copyright or which lacks immediate commercial prospects for its copyright holder. A public/private partnership in the form of a federally chartered foundation could also support efforts to preserve the diverse voices of artists and independent video makers whose television work may exist in endangered video formats and equally endangered non-profit institutions.
I would like to conclude by speaking not of a ten most-wanted list of disappeared programs, but more generally about the special challenges of television and video preservation in deciding upon what is worthy of preservation. It is clear that television archives confront a fundamental challenge in their collective task; unlike the preservation of the collection of unique one-run theatrical films, the basic definition of a television artifact can be confounding. In the commercial television medium, which thrives on various forms of seriality, ought one to collect series pilots, or some sense of representative episodes, or entire seasons, or multi-year runs of a particular series? Even compared to the thousands of American feature film of the Hollywood era, the universe of television material potentially available for archiving is staggering, even more so in view of the on-going proliferation of program outlets via direct broadcast, satellite, cable, and broadcasting. Despite this multiplication of program sources, many of them recycling material from previous seasons, meaningful scholarly access to television's past cannot be insured to commercial syndication and to advertising supported cable, no matter how single-mindedly devoted to various forms of nostalgia they may be.
There is a host of contingencies which determines the entrance and survival of any particular network program in the syndication market, ranging from the original program genre and number of episodes, to the commercial and ideological needs of the current commercial programmer and broadcast advertiser. Television lacks film's cultural memory bank of the repertory cinema or the video shop, and In an understanding of television's role in our nation is impossible without scholarly access to a much wider universe of program materials than those of interest to the demographically minded programmers at Nick at Nite or The Family Channel.
Given this situation, let me offer an historian's plea for the preservation of the widest range of television material. Invaluable public institutions like the Museum of Television and Radio have taken on the dual task of both celebrating that which it judges of highest quality in the medium and also of assembling a collection which will illuminate television's role as cultural and political agenda- setter and battleground. However, historians need access not only to the prestigious prime time network hits, but also to less celebrated television material, from low prestige genres, from affiliate fringe time, from independent and community stations, and from the chaotic world of small format video and public access cable.
My own scholarly interests have been directed at understanding the role of television programming in wider cultural, intellectual and political contexts, including the shifting definitions of citizenship and the public sphere, the relation of American intellectuals to mass culture, the policy debates regarding broadcast regulation, the effects of television violence, and the international role of American commercial television. Addressing these sorts of questions in an historical context in a meaningful way is not likely to be accomplished by looking at a few critically privileged programs. Instead, understanding how commercial television became entangled in such larger cultural and political issues requires a broad consideration of as many relevant programs as possible; a consideration only possible with access to the resources of private and public television archives.
Much of the most productive recent historical work in film and television studies has indeed focused on the culturally marginal and excluded, guided in part by the proposition that what a society pushes to the margins of cultural expression can say a great deal about what is central to its beliefs and practices. Television preservation, therefore, must make available to future researchers and scholars the full range of what is to be found on our nation's screens. Likewise, future historians considering some of today's loudest public and political controversies associated with television, like the debates over the effects of negative political advertising or the cultural consequences of so-called trash TV, will depend on their access to the often culturally denigrated programs which provoked these controversies. My point is simply that contemporary critical taste cannot offer assurance about what future historians will find revealing about our contemporary culture, and absence such assurances, the prudent course seems to be to try to preserve the diversity of our television environment.
The challenges of preservation and access to the uncountable hours of our television past and present, a medium of both great cultural and political power and of an almost willful ephemorality, are indeed daunting. While my life in the classroom exposes me to students who bring what seems to be increasingly short cultural memories, there is also a genuine hunger among students and among the public for non-nostalgic confrontations with our cultural history. As television increasingly becomes the medium for historical representation and popular memory, it is vital that its own place in history be available for scrutiny and contestation. The often unglamorous work of television preservation is the necessary ground for such democratic interrogation and we neglect it at our peril. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Boddy. I think we're going to skip Peter Herford for now and go on to Deirdre Boyle. Good morning.
MS. BOYLE: Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today at this hearing. Others will make the case for why broadcast television news and entertainment programming need to be preserved. Rather than add to that resounding chorus, I will simply say that growing up in the '50s, as a member of the first television generation, I responded actively to television. At 12 I appeared on a local children's show to speak out about my gripe, that children should be seen and not heard. Arguing persuasively I believed at the time, that children would never grow up to be effective citizens and responsible adults if they were prevented from expressing their thoughts and testing their ideas; I exercised the power of television to shape public opinion. I thought we all had that right, that that was what television was there for.
Because television has not always served as an arena for public discourse and creative expression, members of my generation when presented with the first consumer video technology in the late '60s responded by setting out to re-invent television, to create a parallel system to the then monolithic world of network TV. They were inspired by the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and other media gurus; by the social and political movements sweeping the country at the time-- and the world I should add; and by a revolution in the arts that celebrated process, not product.
Some of the most talented members of that first TV generation joined video collectives, not broadcast unions, producing lively video programs seen in Soho lofts, public library basements, community centers, on public access channels, in alternative art spaces, off-off Broadway theaters, and later on, on public television, network TV and eventually pay cable. It was independent video pioneers like TVTV, working outside the industry, who first brought the portapak to a major media event, the 1972 Presidential Nominating Conventions. TVTV demonstrated the versatility of portable video to networks still hardwired to cumbersome quad equipment, propelling the development of the first ENG cameras and the quick transition from vid-film to all-video news departments, and aesthetically influencing the look of television news and documentary programming. Without a consideration of the contributions of video pioneers such as these, any history of American television, not to mention recent American social history, will be incomplete, distorted.
The achievements of video artists and documentarists, many of whom worked within the experimental TV labs at public television stations during the '70s and '80s, are co-extensive with television but go far beyond it. Artists like Nam Jun Paike, for instance, produced single and multiple channel video works using video as a sculptural medium, creating environments never designed with television in mind. The task of preserving such art work is perhaps more daunting than tackling single-channel videotapes, but no less important if accurate records of the cultural history of the last half of this century are to be made.
My own area of research, the history of documentary video makers in the '70s, led me in 1983 on a cross-country journey in search of historic tapes and their makers. This was my first brush with the already alarming state of video preservation. In New Orleans, I excitedly located a tape I had read about and heard about, only to discover as I opened the black plastic box, a sickeningly sweet smell emanating from the encrusted white crud that covered the unplayable tape. The New Orleans Video Access Center had been inundated and their tape archive, housed in the basement, was badly affected. It was only one of many such disappointments encountered while researching: tapes mislabeled, tapes missing, tapes that played for five minutes then devolved into a series of morse code like black-and-white glitches, tapes made on machines that were unrepairable or nowhere to be found. Housed in garages, basements, in closets and footlockers, the precious record of an historic period lay vulnerable to fire, flood, heat, humidity, carelessness and indifference.
I was part of the first wave of video historians, critics and curators who uncovered the array of preservation problems confronting individual artists, media art centers, video distributors, funders and exhibitors. Since then I'm happy to report progress has been made in launching this vast effort at locating historic programs, cataloguing them, providing archivally acceptable storage for these tapes and their playback equipment, developing reliable, low-cost methods for cleaning, restoring, and preserving tapes, and sharing information with others similarly engaged. All sorts of partnerships have been forged. Time prevents me from enumerating them, but in a monograph that I wrote a few years ago for the Media Alliance, Video Preservation: Securing the Future of the Past, I did outline some of this. The very fact that the Library of Congress has agreed to this hearing and to a serious inclusion of video and television programming within its preservation purview, is perhaps the best sign that the times are a-changing.
Clearly there are economic incentives that motivate broadcasters' interests in the preservation of classic entertainment programs and the archiving of broadcast news and public affairs programming. But economic reasons should be the least compelling ones when deciding video preservation priorities. Consider, for example, the tapes made by Broadside TV, a unique experiment in local origination cable programming produced by community video activists in Appalachia in the mid-'70s. Although the characters who appear in these tapes are not household names like Lucy or Uncle Walter, they helped extend the concept of oral history to video and gave isolated people living in the hills and hollers of Appalachia a tool to confront strip miners, state legislators, and future generations. From the viewpoint of the social historian, the student of American politics, communications and culture, the value of such tapes is immeasurable, and I'm happy to report that this collection is housed in the Archives of Appalachia in Tennessee.
Here's one more scenario to consider. I think few people here would argue that Ken Burns' documentary series on the American Civil War was a signal broadcasting event. By coupling early photographic images--daguerro tintypes, carte-de-visite photos--with readings from the letters and diaries of both famous and ordinary ordinary individuals, Burns evoked the agony of a nation divided. His success depended upon the official documentary photos of battle scenes or of commanders-in-chief shot by artists like Matthew Brady, as well as anonymous portraits of raw recruits produced two for 12-1/2 cents. Burns employed the full range of photography, a visual medium barely 30 years old at the time.
Imagine if you will now a documentary producer 100 years from now who is interested in making a documentary about the recent Gulf War. She would need to have access to videotapes; not just to those broadcast as news by CNN or NBC, but those exchanged by military personnel and their families during the war. It was during this war that home video became a favored medium for the intimate exchange of ideas, images and memories, absorbing the functions of photography, letters and diaries. These homemade tapes were just as much a part of the war record as the orchestrated image of high-tech electronic war seen on television.
Since videotapes have come to replace snapshots, audio tapes, Super 8 films, letters, and even written diaries for reporting the milestones of our lives, video has become the fabric of our family memories and by extension of our collective social history. We in this room know that video has a limited lifespan. The manufacturers of videotape and recording technology know this, too; but the millions of people who own handicams and record Billy's birthday party, Jennifer's soccer game, and the children's wedding on tape don't know that their precious memories will fade in time to mere snow on a flickering screen.
What does this mean to a culture that has become increasingly dependent on visual images for its self-image, its view of the world, and its understanding of what is and isn't true? What does this mean if our databanks of images, those public and collective as well as those private and personal, fade into oblivion? I would argue that, without evidence of the past to re-examine and reconsider, we become increasingly vulnerable to the spin doctors of history who reshaped the past to serve other agendas. The entire spectrum of video recordings, from those professionally recorded for cultural institutions like network television, to those made by you and me to memorialize the events of our lives, demands our attention and concern. Were the public to realize just what is at risk if video as a medium is dismissed as ephemeral or someone else's concern, we would have a considerable lobby behind us and this enterprise.
And my last comment is really made as an educator. When I completed the book that I had been working on for 13 years and heaved a sigh of relief, I gave it to my graduate assistant to read to find out how well I was communicating to someone who was born the very year that video and man first went to the moon. Needless to say, Alex was not very conscious of video during the period of time that is the subject of my book. I was gratified that he was very enthusiastic about what I had written and surprised at his amazement to discover that what I had to say about the '60s and the '70s was so different from what he had learned elsewhere in this culture. Bell-bottoms and peace signs and rock music of the period, was pretty much the lingering image of this time for him; and he is a very intelligent and sensitive person. We had a very interesting dialogue, and I shared a number of these tapes with him, and it convinced me that there was indeed a reason to make the images of this time period available to younger people. But more importantly, what really struck Alex was the sense of optimism that pervaded this time period, an optimism that was so much a part of my generation and that is not a part of his generation, a sense that one can change the world, that it is indeed the legacy of youth to feel empowered and to believe that it is possible to make a difference. And I think if for no other reason than this, making these historic materials available is necessary and perhaps increasingly a necessary counter-measure if we are to have a really vital society. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much. Is Peter Herford in the room? Questions from the panel?
MS. JIMENEZ: I have one.
MR. MURPHY: Yes, Mona?
MS. JIMENEZ: Yes, I was wondering if you could describe a little bit more about access to the materials, in addition to the physical problems that you were experiencing. Where do you actually find particularly independently produced video materials? Where do you find them--either one of you actually-- through what kinds of networks and what obstacles do you face in finding the materials?
MR. BODDY: You're probably more expert on this.
MS. BOYLE: Well, let's differentiate the act of researching and searching for things in the highways from the by-ways. As an educator I turn first to non- profit video distributors like Electronic Arts Intermix and Video Data Bank and a few sources like that, because given the infrastructure within the independent media community, distributors have taken on the role of maintaining, keeping alive, cataloguing, and otherwise making accessible the history of independent production.
There has been something of a bias toward art over documentary because art often seems to have a longer life than documentary works. There are other places to turn. I'm not sure if Media Network still has their information service, but it has been a source for locating more fugitive materials like documentaries that haven't always been seen as financially lucrative in terms of distribution. I think that people wind up having to read a great deal in order to find other sources.
MR. BODDY: I would add that Electronic Arts Intermix, Video Data Bank, the Museum of Modern Art all have very active circulating collections. In terms of day-to-day teaching, those are the three sources I've used. They also do a very good job in documenting material, providing lots of information, bibliographies on artists and tapes, and are very forthcoming about allowing student access to material not for classroom use.
In New York City, the Donnell Film Library, and to a small extent the Museum of Television and Radio, collects and holds this sort of independent work. And I agree that there is a bias toward film or video about artists rather than in community activism and documentary.
MR. MURPHY: Dr. Billington?
DR. BILLINGTON: One of the things with film we've done is that--well the Congress has done really-- is to create this National Film Registry whereby we pick 25 sort of films for their historical, cultural, aesthetic significance every year, and that's designed to dramatize the need and also to pick out some important illustrative examples for preservation. Do you think something comparable would be possible and useful in the world of television, and related to that is the literature, the academic literature, does it provide a sufficient base of sort of shared critical standards that would enable one to pick such in this much more, in a way miscellaneous and diverse world of television, 25 such or some other number; we found that to be particularly I think a useful way of dramatizing the need for film preservation. Would it be--we always say at the time, it's my responsibility ultimately to pick these on the base of the board's recommendations, of course, and a lot of public input. We always say that it's not the Academy Awards, these are not the Academy Awards, but these are historically, culturally and aesthetic significance, that's the word that the Congressional Act has produced.
Do you think it's possible to define such a universe and is it desirable to dramatize the cost of preservation?
MR. BODDY: I think that the National Film Registry has had a good effect in the film studies community, particularly because it's obvious that you've looked beyond the Hollywood feature film with the major grosses or the critical successes of a particular year, and broadened the definitions and the cultural memory of film. I think it also provides a kind of window on the work of film preservation. I think those two aspects are important for the task of widening our definitions of television and television's past, especially about recovering the stuff that isn't an Emmy-award winning show, that wasn't aired on a network, that nevertheless may have had an incredible historical impact. So I think that designating a broad range of television material, to have something that was very mainstream and very prominent alongside something like TVTV or something from that independent community, would be very helpful.
The other part of the registry program, using public screenings to reinvigorate the theatrical film experience, I don't know if there is an analogy with the work of television preservation. And certainly the basic task of designating, of wading through and coming up with 25 or 75 titles, in television is a bit more daunting.
But I think the positive aspects of making the work of preservation more visible and of broadening the cannon, of redefining what it is to think about television, I think that would help.
MS. BOYLE: To answer the second part of your question about is there a body of literature extant, I think there is more and more being written and our efforts are somewhat symptomatic of that. But I think that in order to make a selection of titles to preserve, you would have to assemble a body of experts from a fairly wide frame of reference because there are overlapping areas of expertise, but then there are other areas of expertise that don't overlap at all. And there would be considerable contention I think within, say, the wider community of independent video-- perhaps it's not all that different from looking at the tribes within the film community. I think one would have to throw a very wide net.
And it may be worth considering in this larger debate criteria around endangered programs rather than only significant programming, or at least to give them some sort of equal status. With film, the problems of nitrate preservation created priorities. With video, I think urgency is less easily defined technically, but there are certainly works that are becoming unretrievable as time passes and there may be some need to factor that into decisions. But like Bill, I would agree to anything that gets public attention: if it's a list, and lists do tend to get people's attention, then by all means, use whatever will work.
MR. FRANCIS: Really, this is a follow-up on that question. Obviously the Library itself can only do so much. One of the things we're hoping that will come out of these hearings and out of the study is that we can engage the whole community more in dealing with these problems.
We've heard both here and in L.A. of the importance of particularly non-broadcast television to the academic community. Would it be possible for say S.C.S. to come up with a listing of key items, even if it only contains 200 or 500, not currently available which the academic community would like to have, so that the final plan could address some specific programs. Obviously there's a rights issue here as well, but if it was possible for say S.C.S. or any other body to come up with this endangered television list of material that would be widely used if it was available, I think this would be a very valuable step forward because it would give us something concrete which we could concentrate on. Do you think that's a feasible approach?
The second part of the question is do you think if there was agreement over this list, that the academic community itself in order to have these materials available, would be prepared to assist in some small way in preserving and making available the programs, subject obviously to copyright owner's agreement?
MS. BOYLE: Even though I'm wearing my academic hat here, I wear several others, including that of a curator and a writer and someone who's been involved in other aspects of the independent media community. I think that there are certainly good reasons to go with an organization like S.C.S. in making these choices. But I think it leaves out some of the key players, for example, curators in museums, and the people who have been directors and producers within media arts organizations. While academics may have interests in this area or even have close ties, I think that there would be some problem in having the full breadth of independent media necessarily represented in their choices. Perhaps I'm being overly cautious here, but I think I'm a little reluctant to endorse the idea of turning it over to one academic group.
MR. BODDY: Yes, I think that's appropriate. I think it's a good idea and I think that S.C.S. could collaborate with other people. I think those voices are important to bring to that question. So I'll bring it back to S.C.S. people.
MS. BOYLE: The other part of your question about whether academic institutions would be willing to lend an economic hand in this matter--I don't know about other academic institutions, but my own doesn't lend economic hands to its own faculty. So I think that one has to then look to large institutions, and perhaps there is an advantage in creating partnerships with well-endowed institutions that permit public access to their collections. But I don't know if it's realistic to expect that this is going to be an overwhelming response.
MR. MURPHY: Thanks very much. We're now going to invite Miss Kitty Carlisle Hart to the witness table. Good morning.
MS. CARLISLE HART: Good morning. Hello. Any one of these microphones will do?
MR. MURPHY: Right in front of your name plate.
MS. CARLISLE HART: I see. Now we all know who I am. This is indeed a welcome opportunity to speak to this distinguished panel. The issue of television and video preservation is dear to me personally, as Chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts, because as you probably know--
MR. MURPHY: Excuse me, could I ask you to pull the microphone a little closer? Yes, that's good. Thank you.
MS. CARLISLE HART: As you probably know, I spent quite a long time in my life in television. I was on a program called To Tell the Truth for about 17 years and I care a great deal about television. It's turned every town into a small town for me, because people come toward me smiling and they remember me from To Tell the Truth and other shows long before that. So I'm a veteran of Goodson/Todman and the early television, so this is something that I care about.
Now speaking in my role as chairman of the New York State Council--can you hear me now? Good. Perhaps a bit of history will clarify why the Council is concerned about television and video preservation.
The Council was an early and ardent supporter of independent video. As early as 1966, the Arts Council had already helped experimental artists present video in a variety of performances and exhibitions. I remember the early performances and exhibitions on television, and let me tell you, they were pretty experimental. It was almost incomprehensible, but it was something, and it was the wave of the future, and my people at the Council said we've got to go for it, and I believed them, so we went for it.
In 1969, the New York State Council on the Arts provided a grant to start a series of video production networks for young people with the public television stations around the state. When the Council budget increased in 1970, sadly it's decreased remarkably, video flourished, community video centers were established across the state from Buffalo to Port Washington. Other groups emerged to explore the creative potential of the medium and put it in the hands of performing and visual artists. A study was commissioned to create the television lab at WNET, which was really very important.
This was a time of tremendous possibility and experimentation. Artists like Nam June Paik and Shirley Clarke were creating a new artistic medium. With small investment public funds, we created a weekly rural cable series in the Catskills and in Jamestown. Partnerships with public television brought the arts home to homes throughout the state and around the country. Innovative documentaries were being produced in ways not possible for film.
In the early 1980s the Council was funding over 80 organizations involved in video in New York State. Hundreds of productions had already been created and the Council was not alone in its investment in independent video. Other public funding agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television, arts councils in many other states, were deeply involved in funding production and acquisition of this work.
In the next few years we would hear from museums and from distributors that their collections needed to be transferred to another video format. In a very limited way, the Council began to assist in the conservation of videotapes at the Museum of Modern Art and in the collections of several distributors. The Council felt that it was vital that the work continued to be available to the public in the present and also, obviously, for the future.
Where are all these tapes today? Very little is in traditional archives. Work of the most influential community workshops is stored in barns, attics, public library stacks. A few organizations have made heroic efforts in providing safe haven to whole collections, like the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester. A variety of institutions, scholars and curators are coming forward to assure that the very different creative uses of video are catalogued, conserved, and brought to the attention of the public. Working with Media Alliance, the Council has helped bring these organizations and individuals together to share their knowledge and foster collaborative efforts. Deborah Silverfine, the director of our electronic media and film program, will be submitting a statement of our activities, along with some recommendations for future plans.
To touch on some of our efforts, the Council has provided some support for cataloguing so that regional and specialized collections are reflected in the NAMID database being created. The Council has funded both lab costs and storage space, but it can't do it alone. It's not possible. The problem is far too big. We hope that the study being undertaken by the Library of Congress will point toward new partnerships, new solutions, and increased awareness of television and video preservation needs. And, so much of our contemporary culture and our history is being recorded on video by choice or by necessity, it is critical that we find ways for those images and sounds to endure.
Have you any questions? It's quite a large subject. We all have a lot of questions.
MR. FRANCIS: Miss Hart, the achievements of the Council are well-known and are incredible. It's very sad to hear that funding is more difficult now than it was in the past.
MS. CARLISLE HART: Oh, much.
MR. FRANCIS: We heard when we were in Los Angeles from one of the people in Florida who said that Florida is operating a state lottery which gives a certain amount of money towards film and television activities. I wondered whether New York State had considered this; and whether you thought it was a feasible approach? You're aware probably of what's happening in the United Kingdom at the moment, that the lottery there is providing a resurgence of funding for all aspects of the arts. I wondered whether on a state level here, and particularly in a state like New York, this was a feasible approach to rebuilding funding?
MS. CARLISLE HART: The only time a lottery was approached to me by the lottery director Mr. Quinn was to do a lottery for the arts, and it died aborning, it didn't last very long. It was not properly publicized, it was not taken up properly, and it didn't quite work out. That's the only time. I've always opposed a lottery because I felt that the minute we had a lottery in this state, then the state would stop funding the arts, because they would say you're getting it this way, so we're not going to do it, and I wasn't sure that it would work.
MR. FRANCIS: Thank you.
MS. CARLISLE HART: I have someone here named Debbie Silverfine, who is head of our electronic media and film, and she's very good about answering questions, if you want to ask any technical questions.
DR. BILLINGTON: Let me ask a non-technical question. First of all, thank you very much for being here.
MS. CARLISLE HART: Delighted to see you again.
DR. BILLINGTON: For all the wonderful work you've done over the years, which would be impossible to fully document, but some day it's going to obviously become part of our--not merely New York, but our national history.
MS. CARLISLE HART: Thank you.
DR. BILLINGTON: So we're really honored and pleased to have you. But as a public personality, how do you feel--this is a very non-technical question, but a rather essential one, perhaps second only to funding and perhaps even more important--how does one, someone who's been extraordinary successful in relating to the broader public and yet at the same time maintaining your own very high standards, how does an issue like this get across to the public? I mean the public watches television, but I've never seen an announcement on television saying could you help; we have phone-a- thons for everything else. Is there some way that television itself could contribute to its own preservation?
MS. CARLISLE HART: If you've been watching television, you will realize that not only would they not be interested, they're not interested in decent, first-class programming. I hope the press is here. I find the whole television spectrum a disgrace and I find that my friends only watch news, one or two programs, WNET, CNN, and some of the cable things like history; but it has fallen into total disrepute and the standard is so much lower than when I first came into television, that it is a disgrace.
So to ask a television studio to even understand what video, public or experimental television is, I don't know how you would get it across to them. I despair.
DR. BILLINGTON: But how then does one communicate about this to the general public? Surely it would be helpful in terms of the general, national consciousness of television to have a little more full knowledge of the richness and variety of what has actually already been achieved, albeit small ways and in various peripheral ways to the main enterprise perhaps. But that would seem to be all the more important for getting a broader range of the television experience preserved and made public. How does one dramatize the importance of that if television itself can't help?
MS. CARLISLE HART: I agree. I think that's absolutely true. The only thing I can think of is some cable stations that might be more open to this kind of suggestion. The networks certainly are not. But cable is beginning to come into its own, as you know even CBS and NBC are going into cable and there will be stations that will be interested, I'm sure. And one has to find them, you have to--we have to go after that. It's a very good idea.
Debbie, where are you? Why don't you come up here and tell us what you think?
MS. SILVERFINE: I think I'm not invited to speak today, but I will write them a statement.
MS. CARLISLE HART: What do you think could be done to broaden the spectrum?
MS. SILVERFINE: I'm Deborah Silverfine, I'm the director of electronic media--
MS. CARLISLE HART: I've explained.
MS. SILVERFINE: --fine. We will be submitting some recommendations. But if we do find any partners who can make the plea, really do help us, and I think the work that American Movie Classics has done about raising the consciousness of the issues of film preservation are very helpful for the American public. And, they can be doing even more, talking about various aspects like the role of sound in film, the documentary, etc. And I think they might be one of our partners actually in bringing this consciousness to the fore about television history.
DR. BILLINGTON: Who is they in this case?
MS. SILVERFINE: They, meaning the cable stations that repackage earlier programming. I agree with Mrs. Hart that we need to look to our public television stations and a number of the cable stations, and I think the networks might be more helpful if called on the right way. They will be important partners in this effort, because that's where people watch television.
MR. MURPHY: Speaking of the networks, we do have to move on to the next panel.
MS. SILVERFINE: They're up next.
MS. CARLISLE HART: They're up next? Oh, good, I'll stay and listen.
MR. MURPHY: I want to thank you very much for your statement.
MS. CARLISLE HART: Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: And please do stay and listen.
MS. CARLISLE HART: I'm delighted to have had the chance to meet you all, and my friends again. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Can the Broadcasters Panel A please take the witness table?
Good morning to everyone. We'll start with Mr. Singer from NBC. Good morning, Stan.
MR. SINGER: Good morning. I have a brief statement, just sort of a general overview. I'll be happy to answer any questions on what we're doing afterwards.
MR. MURPHY: Could you speak closer to the microphone please?
MR. SINGER: Yes, I will move it closer.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you.
MR. SINGER: I'm Stan Singer, I'm the manager of the NBC News Archives. The NBC News Archives is responsible for preservation of news film and videotape, archival databases, film and tape libraries and warehouses worldwide for NBC News. NBC News has relied on its archives as a support mechanism for over 50 years. What began as a way of keeping a collection of major news events became a way to present broadcasts in a cost-efficient manner. If one show shot an image, a second show was not required to send a camera crew out to record it again if the archives could turn a clean, well-preserved copy quickly. Needless to say, our images are used every day, in every news show that airs on NBC. We also feel this great responsibility towards keeping the recorded history of this country during the second half of the 20th Century.
Additional attention has been focused on the collection, heightened by the rise of the number of our outlets, including the NBC Super Channel in Europe and the Microsoft joint venture. Cable and the Internet are just two growth areas that could produce an unlimited number of access points for the consumer. The problem is there is not an equal amount of programming to go with it; thus, the archives provides NBC with enormous flexibility to produce high-quality programs at a reasonable cost. But this new world is also fraught with perils for archives and I'll talk about that in a second.
The NBC News Archives is currently involved in a number of special projects to improve our collection. We've spent two years designing a powerful new database that will allow NBC personnel to perform sophisticated searches on the editorial content of the archives via visual write-ups, transcripts, and key words. They will be able to view or hear digitized portions of the collection and place electronic orders for the original material to our libraries and warehouses around the globe. We are designing a new facility to allow better climate controlled storage for our film and tape, as well as offering us the ability to separate duplicate copies of our broadcasts to prevent catastrophic loss.
For the past three years we've been transferring our oldest tape formats. Our two-inch tapes will be completely transferred to an analog and digital copy by the end of the year. Shortly we will begin the enormous task of transferring our 3/4-inch cassettes. The reason why these are the first on our list of preservation items are two-fold. The two-inch tape, though generally of good quality, will no longer have the hardware to play back in a very short amount of time. While there is an abundance of 3/4-inch hardware, these tapes have shown the most dramatic decay of any portion of our collection. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan are rapidly fading. This does not mean that other tape formats are much better; all videotape will require transfer in the not-too-distance future. This will present, as the previous speaker mentioned, an enormous crisis for the country and the world if we broaden the scope to include all consumer videotape that's in everyone's possession.
The digital era may help all this and I certainly will be the first to cheer when we leave the videotape era. But there's also this peril. We are feeling our way through the new mediums. In the process, the focus has been on producing, not preserving. What will happen to all those web sites? What will be a cost-effective way of archiving cable channels? What will be compatible to what? There are many ideas as to what is digital and many hope that computer and television meld together into one great unified and standardized entity.
But there is also the chance that the climate that produced the two-inch and the 3/4-inch videotape will simply repeat itself. During that period, the old medium film was being replaced by the first videotape, but that two-inch tape was too expensive and most was recorded over as a cost savings. This is similar to what we hear about high quality digital disks. Then other formats developed, some better than others, some that failed rather quickly, just like what's happening now. Libraries became splintered as different groups controlled their own formats. Much was lost because production groups did not focus on preservation. Much was lost when experimental formats were abandoned. Much was lost because hardware evolved. All the while, new information came pouring in and new ways with ever greater volume.
All these scenarios are occurring today and it's important that the Library take a leadership role. For you to set the standards of how best to preserve all tape formats and to keep a storehouse of the hardware, as well as the cassettes. Beyond this, the Library must anticipate the results of this next revolution and try to assist in setting guidelines for retention of all that is being produced in non- traditional ways, with multiple digital hardware and software formats, and to work towards a unified digital format, and to best determine how to save all the 24- hour per day streams of information.
We will face this at NBC and then much more, and we look forward to working with the Library and others in the field in sharing our experience.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you. Mr. Lang?
MR. LANG: Thank you. In June of 1993, the senior corporate management of ABC gave its enthusiastic support to a project intended to ensure that the network's vast archive of own video material would be preserved. In the over two and a half years--
MR. MURPHY: Closer to the microphone please?
MR. LANG: In the over two and a half years since then, representatives from ABC News, Sports, Entertainment and broadcast operations and engineering, have worked together to build the foundation of what eventually will be a unified network film and tape archive carefully houses, properly maintained, and consistently indexed. The magnitude of this task is daunting. ABC now holds approximately one million separate reels and cassettes of network-owned material, most but not all of it news footage.
At the time we began contemplating the creation of a unified archive, these massive holdings had long been balkanized into different collections, located in different places, operated by different divisions or departments, catalogued in different ways and to different standards, and stored with different levels of care. Even worse, we soon realized that some unknown percentage of this material was in danger of being lost.
For example, during preparation for a retrospective Barbara Walters special, a number of field tapes were retrieved from storage for viewing as possible source material. Damage caused by adhesives once used in the assembly of reels was discovered on one important interview tape; other two-inch and even newer one-inch reels were found to be dirty, brittle and flaking; and there was mysterious warping damage that caused tracking problems on an interview tape that was only seven years old. It soon became obvious that no easy fix for this problem would be forthcoming. Even with all our resources, we could find no technological Heracles capable of quickly cleansing these, our video Augean stables.
Instead, ABC Broadcast Operations and Engineering, the technical arm of the network, proceeded to design and construct the ABC Media Conservation Facility (the MCF) which is exclusively dedicated to the on-going process of preserving the network's videotape assets. Attached to our written submission is a description of the MCF prepared by David Chilson, the engineer who designed it. But I would like to briefly discuss in general terms both the facility and the way it works.
The physical space, approximately 2,000 square feet, is divided into two basic functional areas: one for screening and the other for dubbing. The screening area, which is not yet operational, will be where representatives from ABC News, Sports and Entertainment preview, when appropriate, endangered tapes in order to determine whether any of the existing material need not be dubbed to fresh stock. For example, unlike film, videotape cameras are often rolling several minutes before a newsmaker arrives at the podium or in the doorway, and sometimes reporters doing "stand-uppers" don't get it "right" the first time. When multiplied by the myriad of news field cassettes in the ABC inventory, excising repetitive shots of unoccupied podia or pre-occupied reporters may in the end save thousands of hours of dubbing time, which translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars in materials and labor costs. The costs of raw stock alone is almost $100 an hour: $75 for D-2 and $25 for beta oxide one hour cassettes.
In the dubbing area of the MCF, in order to satisfy operating requirements as well as meet our obligation to insure the long-term preservation of valuable material, two copies of each endangered tape are being made: an analog beta copy and a digital D-2 copy. Each fresh beta copy is returned to the shelves of the working library from which it was plucked, and the D-2 copy, the long-term archival storage copy, will be placed in an appropriate facility either on or off the company's premises, where it can quietly reside until another working copy is required.
During our initial planning process, all parties had agreed that the deteriorating copy, once it had been dubbed afresh, could be discarded. Even a mildly skeptical observer, however, might easily conclude that only the intense pressure of overflowing shelves will force this cleansing the deaccession to occur.
Although D-2 is our initial choice of format for long-term archival storage, it almost certainly won't be our last. For the moment, at least, considering the massive quantity of material with which we have to deal, it meets our most pressing criteria; it's digital, it's reliable, and it isn't ridiculously expensive. As other options become viable, disk-based media for example, we may move away from D-2. Indeed, when disks become economically competitive with tape, the random access capability of the disk format, plus the likelihood of a very extended shelf life, would certainly make it an attractive successor format.
Unfortunately, with a perpetual archiving process that will involve changes in the selected storage medium, one of our most troublesome concerns is how to ensure that we continue to possess and maintain the technical equipment required to permit the playback of electronically stored images. Unlike printed paper which presents itself directly to the human eye, analog and digital signals are incomprehensible until played back through an electronic mediating device that converts them into recognizable pictures and sound. As formats evolve, the greater risk lies not in the eventual deterioration of properly stored archival media, but in the probable unavailability of the equipment, including spare parts, needed to play the stuff back.
Like Proteus, formats and media will continue to change. But great caution should be exercised before scrapping one established archival storage medium and substituting another. Considering the volume of material with which we must deal, the possibility of reconverting all previously archived material to each successor medium to maintain some neat consistency and eliminate the need for more than one sort of playback device, would be both impractical and uneconomic.
For entities like ABC, with several hundred thousand hours of material on hand, the desire to achieve preservation at a reasonable cost is obvious. We must, therefore, seriously consider the possible use of compression. Compression technology would permit a radical reduction in the amount of both the storage medium required and the space in which to house it. The issue of whether it is archivally responsible to compress video material is, we understand, a highly charged one. Some opponents of compression pronounce it anathema, maintaining that to use it is to needlessly throw away a percentage of the material which we are committed to save.
But what is the material to be preserved? Is it the analog magnetic signal, or in the case of digital formats all those ones and zeros resting on the tape? Or is it instead the pictures and sound which are created when these invisible elements are processed by an electronic mediating device? If what we mean to save are the images and sounds, and if they can be created, using less electronic information, to a degree virtually undetectable by any human being, then we have preserved everything of value.
It is even possible to compress to a higher standard than that of human comprehension. Using so- called "lossless" compression, which is probably slightly under two to one, image creation can occur to a degree that preserves levels of sharpness and color well beyond the capability of the human eye to discern. And the difference between an uncompressed image and one created at this low level of compression would be virtually undetectable even to an electronic monitoring device. In either case, the pictures and the sounds will have been saved--at a significant savings. Obviously, for material which may be used for production purposes involving much editing or other electronic manipulation, the less compression the better. But for material which most likely will not be subjected to intensive processing, the notion of a compressed archival format should not be ruled out.
It would surely benefit ABC and the many other public and private organizations who have decided to preserve their respective videotape holdings, if these and similar issues could be discussed on some continuing basis. A forum is called for in which ideas and information pertaining to the preservation of videotape records can be shared. We certainly hope that one outcome of these hearings will be periodic gatherings at which the archival problems, both technical and conceptual, which we encounter individually, can be discussed and perhaps even solved together. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Michael Lang. Joel Kanoff?
MR. KANOFF: ABC News is a for-profit commercial network news organization providing news and public affairs programming. Although not widely seen at that time, the television network offered its first newscast in 1948. This was followed in 1952 by a weekly program called All Star News, and in the fall of 1953, eight months after ABC's merger with Paramount Theaters by Leonard Goldenson, ABC started a regular Monday through Friday news program anchored by veteran newsman John Daly.
ABC broke new ground in the fall of 1958 with the introduction of early and late evening news programming, and in the late '60s, ABC joined the other networks and increased its evening news program to 30 minutes. Barbara Walters became the first anchorwoman of a network evening news broadcast in 1976. Under Rune Arlege's leadership, innovative programs were introduced, such as World News Tonight, 20-20, Prime Time Live, This Week with David Brinkley, and Nightline, the first regularly scheduled late-night newscast of its kind to use satellite technology to bring together leaders and experts for in-depth discussions on the top stories of the day.
Over the years, ABC News has built a unique and far-reaching news gathering organization domestically and throughout the world. Currently among other capitals there are bureaus in Beijing, London, Moscow, Paris, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo.
As you may well imagine, preservation of footage from past events and programming is of great importance in a television network news universe. While the majority of footage used is certainly newly shot, each show contains archival footage. In a typical World News Tonight edition, almost every spot contains older footage used to put a fine point on a subject, supply background, develop its history, or just remind us of the continuity of our way of government or of life itself.
ABC News will continue to collect the wide variety of materials that reflect U.S. and international news events, history and cultural trends, religion, science and technology, environment and wildlife. Our preservations efforts extend to footage of events of every day society and every level of magnitude. Footage of people from the most famous to the obscure, the entire range of human social activities, flora and fauna from everywhere, landscapes and even still lifes of objects. That is to say besides news, the collection includes a great deal of generic footage, children in schools, people working in factories, ships and airplanes, beauty shots, aerials, all of which can be reused in a wide variety of stories.
Our core collection consists of approximately 850,000 units of film and tape dating to 1960. Another 60,000 tapes and kinescopes are off-air records of programs, current programs, as well as all but forgotten programs such as Scope, Directions, ABC Reports, The Reasoner Report, and Now. The core collection is film-based through 1975, mostly 16mm color reversal. Mixed film and eumatic through the late '70s, eumatic until 1986, and beta cam to the present. Roughly 12 per cent of the core collection is film; about 47 per cent of the collection is beta cam; the rest 3/4-inch. That is the core news collection used by all programs for production. We also have many millions of feet of film and many thousands of video cassettes in storage. These are trends and production elements for documentaries and magazine segments. The further use of these production elements is more restricted, so they do not circulate freely.
Roughly speaking, we save over 4,000 tapes a month, about 5,000 in a political year such as this one. No, we don't save everything, there just isn't space. We immediately recycle a roll with a correspondent's stand-ups, since we don't feel it's important to save rehearsals for the final take, which is of course preserved on the air history anyway. We recycle graphic builds and multiple camera set-ups of minor importance to the event recorded. But, with regard to subject matter, because we try no to prejudge and therefore not to dictate what will be important to producers in the future, we tend to err on the side of inclusivity.
By necessity, however, we do have to make some difficult choices. Moreover, one shot may serve for dozens of diverse future production requirements, provided that the computerized description is sufficient for it to be located objectively. Keeping these issues in mind, library staff carefully evaluate materials turned in by producers and camera crews at all our bureaus and decide what materials to permanently archive or to recycle.
News production demands swift, accurate access of archive materials. However, the richness of the videotape recording greatly reduces the effectiveness of standard archival cataloguing methods. Key words and brief subject classifications at best do not do justice to, and at worst misstate and distort the moving image. For that reason, an extensive account of the visual an auditory contents of the recording is necessary. Producers, researchers and writers at ABC News rely on their ability to quickly get a functional, verbal likeness of the recorded image from our computer system. In proposing retrieval requests to the system, these users may cast their net as narrowly or as broadly as they like. They may call up specific documents or thousands of documents, although they may not request thousands of tapes.
Unlike the comparatively more relaxed research done by documentary filmmakers, the television news producer is forever working against the tightest of deadlines to get the footage cut into that evening's broadcast. Full text retrieval is practically worthless without the hand of the diligent cataloguer. In the ABC News idiom, cataloging refers to the descriptive shot listing of the footage. The content field of a typical 20-minute field recording can go on for pages, depending on the substantive density of the footage. In this scenario, catalogers must ask themselves among the many things I see and hear, what is important to describe here? Also, how might this material be utilized again and within the guidelines of the classification method, the style sheet and the established lexical thesaurus, how will an army of different producers seek to access it? That is, what descriptive language will they use?
Cataloguing is a lengthy and continuing process an the focus and dedication required enjoins us from being as comprehensive as we would like. At present we are able to fully shotlist on a percentage of the new footage we acquire. Decisions must be made as the potential usefulness of the work and ultimately the significance of the story. Remember, everything does get a record in the computer, but only the top stories are catalogued. Nevertheless, cataloguing brings in the clients. In the news film tape world, the operative variant on "build it and they will come" is "describe it and they will use it." It is axiomatic that there is a direct proportional relationship between the quantity and quality of catalogue detail and the use of particular tapes and film.
We have traditionally provided and continue to provide access to outside producers for the purpose of stock footage sales and research. In 1989, it occurred to us that what was lacking was a portable index to our holdings. This was in the dawn of CD Rom technology and in that format we were able to provide an excellent word-searchable index to our footage with retrieval software every bit as powerful as the Stairs application that runs on our mainframe. We distributed this to the outside source and sent many without cost to libraries and information resources throughout the world. Still, CD Rom disks are out of date from the moment they are cut and we look to the Internet and Worldwide Web to provide the means to distribute information about our collection to outside stock footage customers and to researchers in general.
Right now the entire CD Rom catalogue of news footage, available for licensing from ABC News Video Source is available on FootageNet on the Web. We have great hopes for the future of electronic data, and in coming years even retrieval of footage itself on the Desktop. Unquestionably, the greatest benefit there will be the provision of low-cost footage access to educators at schools, universities, and non-profit organizations throughout the country.
As I have said, the archive is a very meaningful part of the production fabric. In fact, the television news moving image collection has matured into occupying a rather enviable status. It is not by chance that now at the end of this century of the moving image and electronic communication, that the television library has found new friends and loyal partisans. Having earlier learned the painful lesson that you can't go out and reshoot history, the networks are now more respectful of these valuable corporate assets and resolute that they endure.
Besides the historical significance of this footage, there is an economic consequence. While the use of library holdings has enabled shows to keep costs down, entire program concepts like the 20th Century project at ABC and documentaries that we produce for cable, have been developed around pre-existing footage. Cost center libraries have become profit center libraries.
Michael Lang has explained the MCF in detail, so I won't go into that, except to say that the news division in general and the news film library in particular, having a big stake in the success of the Media Conservation Facility, participated in the planning of the facility from the earliest stages and we are confident that appropriate, careful procedures are in place for the preservation in logical stages of the footage in our charge.
However, I should like to call your attention to the fact that the preservation of footage in active TV news archives commences well before the preservation dubbing takes place. The term archive here tells only half the story. The other half is best characterized by the words circulating collection. In this respect, we are also quite distinct from other types of circulating TV collections like entertainment collections because of the volume of circulation and the extent of reuse. At any one time, we have an average of close to 90,000 pieces in circulation, and much like a public library, when original materials circulate off the library premises, they are at risk and we have to be concerned. Circulating tapes means tapes getting worn, damaged, or worst, lost. Each run across a recording head shave some of the magnetic stratum off a tape. Unlike published materials, much of the footage we collect is irreplaceable. It is true that we are at the outset of technological changes which will obviate the term wear and tear; that is, the optical disk for storage of master materials, as well as the concept of actual physical circulation. That is, images will be distributed electronically and digitally. Yet, for many years to come, we will be circulating our tape, there's so much of it.
So the point here is that we often can't wait for the scheduled preservation project to complete its good work, for we will always be beleaguered by physics as well as by the user who critically suffers amnesia when it comes time to remembering what he or she did with a cassette.
MR. MURPHY: Can you bring your statement to a conclusion?
MR. KANOFF: Sure.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you.
MR. KANOFF: With the advent of the ABC News 24-hour channel, the library is again taking a vanguard role in expanding its operations and facilitating the use of the footage it maintains in ever more challenging ways. A nexus of technological, cultural and business advantages now in evidence, including the Internet, HDTV, Interactivity, new digital video formats, recent mergers, and an end of millennium public that gives news a privileged place in every day living, makes this a time of extraordinary opportunity for the television news collection.
At this juncture it is especially important for the Library of Congress, the National Archives and other government institutions to work more closely with the network archives to sponsor specialized discussions or conferences devoted to the problems of the TV news collection in particular and to cooperatively establish criteria for the on-going deposit of network news materials.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Joel. Doug McKinney? I'm sorry, Donald DeCesare will go first?
MR. DE CESARE: Thank you very much. We say DeCesare, by the way, although it defies linguistic practice.
Good morning, and thank you for allowing me and my colleague from the CBS News Archives to participate in this important hearing.
First I ought to give you a little background on myself. I've just completed six years as the executive in charge of the archives; if not the biggest, certainly one of the most respected collections of broadcast material in the world. While not a professional archivist myself, I've had to face many of the same challenges that the professionals in our organization and these organizations represented here have faced. Beyond those, I had to plan the budgets, get them approved, and spend the resulting funds in accordance with sound business practices, as well as sound preservation practices.
I've been a journalist for more than a quarter century now and it's been my great privilege to cover all the kinds of news stories that this world has to offer, from sewer commission hearings, which is how I started, to wars, revolutions, political, cultural, social changes of all times. And I've continued to work actively as a journalist even after I've entered the management ranks. So, with that background, in 1990 I was asked to take charge of the archives, for fine as they are, worthy as they are, vital I would say to our work as they are, they had come under internal criticism at the end of the last decade. There were those within the parent company at that time who were giving some consideration, believe it or not, to disposing of the collection, both to the idea of selling it off and also to the idea of having it managed by outsiders on a royalty and fee basis. So we faced then the most basic of all questions, I suppose the one which brings us here today, why have a collection at all?
After some study and introspection we answered that. The archives are us. Everything we do as a news organization, every event we cover, every picture we take, every story we produce, every broadcast we air, all are the bits in an ever-expanding mosaic of human design. We are both the artisans and the historians. To do our work, we must turn in full circles over and over again, seeing where we were to see where we are.
Once you recognize that news archives contain everything that happened before today, and tomorrow they will contain today, you understand that the material there is uncontainably indispensable to your daily work. Should you be without it, you would, literally, have no reference points.
While studying the archives, we learned something else, something practical which helped us persuade our company to keep the collection and to invest in it. We learned that nearly everything we broadcast includes archival material. Were there to be no CBS News Archives, there could be no CBS News. Even our own company had begun to take for granted the millions and millions of images and sounds we were preserving. We had to say these are not artifacts, they are in constant use.
Our collection with very few exceptions holds everything that CBS News has ever done; that which we've aired and that which we haven't, in every medium, in audio, film, tape, stills, scripts, transcripts, music, books, CD Roms, data cartridges, all of it. We collect it, we index it, we store it, and we retrieve it. It's a complicated and expensive enterprise, and that's why people were very concerned about it back at the end of the '80s. As I said, we learned it's essential, and that our company now fervently believes. And in so believing, the enterprise called the archives thrives.
Well, we are, as you can guess from my remarks, our own biggest customers, using our material over and over in more and more ways. We program our own network and now we help program others. We license material to the best-known documentarians like NET and the BBC, and we license to independent documentarians as well. We've expanded our business relationships to include feature film producers, corporate producers, educational producers, even the general public. We're so busy in fact and so much in need of ready access to the material, that we are bringing it all back to New York. All of our material, once scattered about various warehouses in this state and others, will once again be housed with us within the complex that we call the CBS Broadcast Center. Where a few years ago we considered selling the archives, now, selectively, we are buying others, so as to assist in the preservation of the irreplaceable images and sounds of our age.
So, are our problems behind us? Well, many thankfully are, solved internally by the professionals that you see represented here, who are passionate about those obligations. But some new problems are emerging, ones which may well require a broader perspective than found within our own company. Because our material is such a treasury, it's very important that at least one other repository, the National Archives, have a secondary collection of these jewels, as insurance against some unthinkable catastrophe among us and as a service to scholars and historians who cannot be well- served by us. But should that be the only additional collection? What if any obligation do we have to support collections elsewhere, such as in universities, presidential libraries, museums? There are those, some in Congress I understand, who think that unauthorized duplication and distribution of our material through so-called clipping services should be considered fair use. There are those who think that such use is anything but fair, who think such services undermine the editorial integrity of the product, while at the same time siphoning revenue which could help pay the high cost of building and maintaining the archives.
While we believe that all the rights to our material rest with us and always will, we are fully aware that digitization will bring even more duplication, making possible even more possession and distribution outside the ordinary authorized channels. Inexorably, new ideas of ownership and new issues of rights are evolving. We want to help others understand these, and in turn, we ourselves need help in understanding.
We can use public discussion of all of this, and so we are particularly grateful for the opportunity offered by these hearings, and I can assure you that we are ready to do our part. Thank you for the time and consideration. Let me ask Doug McKinney here, the director of the CBS News Archives, to provide some, as we call it around CBS News, context and perspective, to these remarks.
MR. McKINNEY: It is with a combination of some relief and awe that we come before this panel, the nature of which has been imagined as a hope for eventuality now gladly arrived. While many eloquent voices are here to cry, we no longer face such a wilderness.
The preservation of entertainment programming as it applies to CBS has been addressed by our other counterparts at the Los Angeles hearing. Here in tandem with Mr. DeCesare I'll focus my remarks on the nature of the CBS News Archives, our efforts in preservation, and end with a few suggestions addressing the mission of this panel.
CBS has the largest collection of its kind among the major networks, having kept and maintained more material generally in addition to having started earlier. Dating principally from 1950 to the present, CBS News has well over one million video tapes, including original field cassettes as well as program broadcasts, and several million feet of hard news film as well as another 80,000 containers of film and tape masters, prints, program negatives, and out-take material from long form documentaries and news magazine programs. All materials are now stored in Manhattan on approximately 60,000 square feet of climate controlled space and all nitrate film was transferred to safety stock some years ago, fortunately.
In addition, copies of the CBS Evening News from the mid-'70s to the present and of many other CBS News broadcasts, including special and documentary programs, are on deposit at the National Archives, via Library of Congress copyright registration. Significant donated collections of CBS News material for scholarly research and museum display are also part of the holdings of the Museum of Television and Radio and continually added to, and of the JFK and LBJ Presidential Libraries, in particular.
We work with historians and researchers wherever feasible and license news material for use in as wide a variety of circumstances as there are uses of reality based pictures and sounds. For motion pictures such as Forrest Gump and Apollo 13 to children's school reports. In addition to the CBS Network and CBS News, archival programming can be seen regularly on seven non-CBS cable networks. And in addition to the preservation of network produced material, we have also been involved in the preservation of material produced by networked owned and operated stations, and to a lesser degree other affiliates.
Our preservation priorities are in two principal areas currently. Two-inch videotape, of approximately 20,000 such tapes we have roughly 10,000 left to re-master, currently to D-2 and beta SP; ironically the tapes themselves are in better condition than anyone might have predicted. The urgency here is stated in the limited number of machines left to play them on, but the equally dwindling number of experienced technicians who can operate the equipment. The idiosyncratic variables involved in successful archival two-inch playback, and Jim will appreciate this, include archaic skills such as knowing when, where and how to apply one's thumb to the tape path.
The other area of immediate technical concern is more straightforward but of equal necessity. Three- quarter-inch eumatic cassettes from that format's introduction in the mid-'70s are reading the end of their lifespan now. This is not particularly a problem of equipment or personnel, as the format is still used widely, but is an even greater problem due to volume. The good news, which I know can be and has been echoed by our colleagues at NBC and ABC is that a substitute, fully representative amount of national network television news has been preserved to date. The bad news is that a great deal yet needs to be done, particularly at the local level, if we are to avoid losing a significant portion of the means of understanding our social, political and cultural identity, which is what television news represents.
Some recommendations. While the national network's efforts are critical to our concerns here, more help an coordination of assistance is needed at the local and regional levels. Indeed the recommendations to follow might also apply to network television preservation, but resources are understandably more limited at the local and regional levels. If the national news presents daily swatches of the fabric of our lives, it is local news and all its particulars that often reveals the threads of that fabric; and if the national news can appear as a crazy quilt in time, so too does local coverage provide the warp and wolf, often literally as well as figuratively. But for the same reasons, a recording of the President's press conference may be only as significant as a tape of what Main Street in Memphis in March '96 looked like, let alone of Oklahoma City in March of '95.
As it is a given that not even everything worth savings will be preserved and the resources are finite, criteria for preservation at any level are necessary. But in addition to standard considerations such as uniqueness and content significance, at least one other condition should apply to local news material invoking some test of content variety. This would serve to include what by nature would necessarily appear mundane now, but whose representational value would increase with time. In that sense, we have occasionally wished we had more of the background material of the past which was discarded for having no anticipated news value then, but which would have uniquely representational value today.
It appears obvious that even a limited nationwide program would necessarily require a coordinating function. To that end, we suggest the foundation of a nationally directed office for television and video preservation coordination. Adapting some of the mechanisms established for motion picture preservation, such an office would (A) act as a clearing house for the identification of materials in need of preservation, to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, to direct those with material to those who could provide needed transfer services, or to coordinate the combination of small amounts of material matched to facilities of great capacity. Not everyone can afford to build facilities for long-term storage nor do they need to. (B), assist in the formation of relationships linking local independent stations or video producers with appropriate local or regional institutions, successful programs exist as models. (C), administer and award preservation grants and/or assist in coordinating the activities of preservation funding sources, as well as preservation loans, to be repaid from proceeds of subsequent exploitation by rights holders. (D), help find homes for found, donated or other such materials. This could include linking rights-holders with found materials or enabling the preservation of materials in private hands without compromising the ownership or the permitted or otherwise legitimate use of such materials, for instance, home movies as well as quote unquote lost television shows. (E), publish and/or otherwise publicize a humanly comprehensive explanation of copyright rules and guidelines for appropriate behavior with respect to such rules. Realizing that this in itself could take years or prove impossible given expected changes in adaptations in light of developing digital applications, it is not, however, facetious, for it does need to be more widely recognized that were it not for copyright protection, little of what we're concerned with preserving would exist now. Finally, establish a web site for information exchange. And having scratched that surface, the issues of access will require similar means of address and cooperative coordination, but accessibility will improve in tandem with preservation an will indeed foster further preservation.
But for the moment, preservation must precede access, and although this is a television hearing, we don't have television facilities; Bill, I did bring a clip, but overall the idea is to enable future generations to see this, a clip of last night's evening news, just as we are now able to see this, a clip of the evening news from 1949. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Doug.
MR. FRANCIS: This is maybe a rather rambling question, but it's trying to summarize what we've heard this morning. It seems to me that as far as national news is concerned, both transmitted stories and material which is not transmitted, there is a commitment from all of you to preserve it for the future. I also heard one of you say that you felt it was also important to have another copy of all preserved material available in a national institution. I believe that is an important point, and I hope there will be some way, now that there are so many new methods of dissemination (Internet, cable, etc.) that all of you might feel this was a useful backup considering all the money that you've put into preservation. I was very pleased to hear that mentioned.
But the one problem that's left is not a preservation problem, but an access problem. I would expect that you would all find it impossible to provide individual access for scholarly purposes to the materials that you hold. I'm really trying to think of a way around this and one possible route (because I understand that it's absolutely essential that you control the material) would be to make a copy off-air with time code invision. This could be done by an organization like the Library of Congress, which could become an access center for scholarly research. The material would be secure, because it is a spoiled copy.
I don't know whether this is something you're prepared to talk about or consider, but it seems that from our perspective we have to find some way of making available this sort of material for scholarly use without putting that burden on you. And I don't know whether anyone has a comment about that.
MR. DE CESARE: May I give it a try, sir?
MR. FRANCIS: Yes.
MR. DE CESARE: I'm the fellow who mentioned the National Archives, so I'll give it a start. And that's something we're very much committed to, we think it's very important, it's a part of our responsibility to the general public in what we have produced.
There's also a practical consideration in all candor, and that is the scholars that you mention. We do not have the facilities nor do we anticipate having the facilities for daily scholarship kinds of work. We have often been asked to provide this kind of facility, but it's a very expensive undertaking. I don't suppose I have to tell you that scholars are not in a position to pay the kinds of commercial rates that commercial producers pay and it presents a very big problem for us.
What we have tried to do and what we're wrestling with, and why I particularly mention the copyright and rights issues, is by allowing the material to go beyond ourselves and beyond the National Archives, for example, to the various museums that we lend material to or even give copies to, starts a chain of events that as they then looking for sources of funding seek to lend it themselves. And this is a big problem that we're having right now with a particular archive, a very respected institution, but one which seeking funds for its own preservation purposes is now commercially lending our own material. That is something that we have to wrestle with. Where do we stop the sense of responsibility to the nation and where do we start some irresponsibility to ourselves? Unfortunately I don't have the answer to that, but it's one which we are wrestling with.
DR. BILLINGTON: Well, let me pursue that a little, because it seems to me that's a very crucial question. It seems to me that this is a very perilous situation we're hearing described, because for perfectly understandable and sensible commercial and production reasons, you're all preserving much more than you used to and you're much more conscious of it.
However, your concerns are necessarily and properly essentially commercial and survival, you're all competing against each other and against other people. So you've got very important assets which you sensibly are trying to recycle and use.
There is a very distinct public interest in all of this which you all also recognize and it floats in and out of your presentations. But it's not clearly focused and it isn't clearly focused as they say in the public sector either, so it's very confusing. I mean each one of you have your archives basically in a different institution for instance, just for starters. All of those institutions are under financial pressures also. So the kind of situation you're mentioning is something that's going to increase. You're under financial pressures, the public institutions are under financial pressures, and I see an enormous mess emerging with a great deal of institutional confusion on all sides, unless something is done to clearly establish and clearly fund the public interest part of this, so that the fire wall is built up and it's kept distinct and people are able to think seriously and clearly instead of a muddle-headed way, where half of the consideration is their own financial concerns, which we all have, and half of it is very genuine, public concern, which we all also feel. We're all patriotic Americans and we all are concerned that our children be able to figure out all the confusions we've gone through in the second half of the 20th Century, most of which involves television, as well as the creativity and the successes, so forth. But that has to be done.
Now what I'm suggesting is should there be some distinct national institution, maybe apart from the Library of Congress, apart from the Archives, something set up specially, totally funded by the television industry, but totally devoted to the public part of this and established with a fire wall so that it doesn't get mixed up in the promotion of television, but is solely devoted to the preservation of it as a public records for the United States, and maybe that should be all-together different, maybe it should be part of an existing institution. But it's sufficiently important, and I don't hear out of this discussion how it's going to emerge, and plotting the dotted lines, everybody's under financial pressure, and we're going to end up in a situation where the public part of this is done in a highly uneconomical way, with half a dozen institutions all struggling to do bits and pieces of it, duplicating each other in an inefficient way.
Should there be some new institution--I didn't come with this prepared speech in mind, but it's prompted by the sincerity and the hopeful side of what you're saying, that on the commercial side there is considerable progress. Can we build on that and get the commercial people to get together and basically fund a central, national preservation facility and institution? Is that a practical idea or is that something you would never agree on?
MR. McKINNEY: If I may? There's a nay-sense aspect or a foundational aspect even in the television industry with the Museum of Television and Radio to some extent as a means, because I think there were two issues involved in what you were saying, one of access and one of public custodianship if you will, as distinct from network custodianship or rights-holders ownership of its own material.
The Museum itself was founded by network people, William Paley and the other networks--
DR. BILLINGTON: It doesn't really do any serious preservation, does it? Well, boutique preservation. It's not the same thing as serious execution--
MR. McKINNEY: No, it doesn't. But rather than duplicate the efforts, if the networks are going to make the effort to preserve the materials initially on their own, then supplying the Museum with a means of access as a study center, and one of the problems is the scholarly aspect of research for it, although we can easily now imagine a future not too far down the road where you can put things on the phone lines if you want access to see it, I mean that's quite a ways down the road still in terms of a practical aspect. Right now if you want to research television you have to physically travel to two or three places. That, however, is more than you used to be able to, now that the Museum has opened a branch in Los Angeles. You can spend a couple of hours at the Museum in particular and watch news or entertainment programming.
One of the beauties of it is that it is easy to copy on material these days and the means of access physically is much easier that it once was. You don't need a projection room necessarily. Those things are going to adapt. But on the national side, if material is already stored as a safety measure in the national archives, then you don't necessarily have to duplicate everything everywhere, nor do you have to make it necessarily all the aspects of the collection in one central location. But the Museum itself is all ready to some degree, to a large degree funded by the industry as a--
DR. BILLINGTON: But it isn't doing film preservation, that's my point--is it? With all due respect, I'm not saying what they're doing isn't important.
MR. FRANCIS: The Museum of Film and Television is basically selecting programs that it feels the public would like to have access to. I think that we're talking about something different. We don't know what the scholar wants to see in advance, so we need to keep a broader range of program materials.
I think there is an important role for the Museum because it is taking what are acknowledged to be important programs and giving the public a chance to see them. However, I think that's a totally different sort of operation than the Library of Congress is undertaking. We are trying to make available as broad a spectrum of material as possible not knowing what people want to see and without making pre-judgments about that material. We get confused between these two separate roles. The Museum satisfies one very well indeed; but the other one, which is one that I think the Library, the National Archives and other archives are concerned about is not being satisfied. I think this is what Dr. Billington is addressing, this second area.
MR. McKINNEY: A place to go and sit down and study television.
MR. FRANCIS: You don't know what people are going to ask for until they come and ask for it, so you've got to keep a broad range of things that are acknowledged to be important and things which could not be defined in advance as being important enough to put in the Museum of Film and Television.
MR. MURPHY: Joel?
MR. KANOFF: Yes, without going into different strata of interests in society for television programming, there is a difference between the public, I think as David is trying to say, and the scholar, the scholarly need for access. And sometimes those things overlap. But I think if you go into the Museum of Television and Radio, which is an excellent institution, on any particular day, especially on a weekend day, you will see a lot of the public who are really just there to see old programs, sometimes in a nostalgic way, but perhaps not in a scholarly way, and that's what we're interested in.
I think the National Archives and the Library of Congress are really best suited to command and take responsibility for this type of operation, which would intend to give access to scholars and researchers who have a real need to look back at news and other types of programming.
DR. BILLINGTON: Well, it's not only scholars, it's the record of America. America is a throw-away society. We have a responsibility to preserve these things. The most important breakthrough, one of the most important breakthroughs in cancer research occurred recently--it's a very interesting story--because the Library of Congress preserved the book that everybody else threw away because they thought the guy was a quack when he wrote the book. Yes, today's quack, today's idiosyncratic producer is tomorrow's genius.
Public institutions have an obligation to preserve--this is an enormously creative country and as the holders of the copyright deposit of the United States, we're particularly conscious of that. People, it's a very creative society, but everything is created on perishable materials. And to preserve the range and to preserve the kind of possible hunches of something that may prove to be far more important in the 21st Century than we can imagine now, that's our responsibility. And the simple fact is there are not going to be the means to do it unless the commercially successful part of the industry supports the public memory.
It's not just for scholars. It's for our children and our children's children. But the tendency tends to be to make archives, museums and institutions kind of shrines of contemporary taste rather than preservation of what tomorrow's needs might be. You've all given eloquent testimony to the extent to which you yourselves are discovering how important your historical legacy is. I'm just trying to push it a step further and see if we can't get--and I'd like to just throw it back if we have time for one more question, you said we ought to work together in the future. I think there was a recognition of that very thing in your own testimony. Do you have any ideas? We had some good suggestions over here and at the beginning of it, I wondered if you had any particular suggestions as to how that might be possible?
MR. KANOFF: Well first, I think to have conferences among a group of limited participants, among the major networks and government institutions, to work out a project for the future which would involve providing for the preservation of the materials probably at government institutions, and for access to those materials, I think that the networks have shown many times in the past that they can work together for both their own operational interests as well as for the public good. And we tend to be in agreement when it comes to the need for people to see what we've done in the past. We feel that our work over the past 30, 40 years has been tremendously important and we realize the need for others to make use of that material intellectually. We need to agree amongst ourselves and with a large economically viable and stable institution about how that will happen.
So I think the first thing would be for us to get together in semi-formal meetings to do that.
MR. MURPHY: Stan?
MR. SINGER: I think we also have to think in non-traditional terms. You're not going to get all 800,000 copies of our cassettes. It's just not going to happen. It's field material, it's material that we're just not going to be sending some place else.
But I think we need to think in terms of well, tonight's broadcast, should it not be grabbed in some automatic way of grabbing an HTML page, that grabs frames, that grabs closed-captioning and perhaps audio, that then can be distributed in a way that it's not traditionally physical. There is a cassette at your doorstep, that there is some national way of repository of this on-line data. I think we have to--we're not going to go the path of cassette or film or that sort of thing. It's just not--I don't think it's feasible. We're making every plan to preserve it, but to then say let's build another 10 million cassette facility, it seems extraordinary I think. But there is great potential and maybe we're not quite there, but certainly the technology is there to say I can instantly grab tonight's nightly news and give you 250 still representations plus the closed-captioning wrapped around it within an audio viewer today. And this could happen with all the networks, and I think we have to look towards that road and come up with some way that that works. That really is just a black box at the end of the production schedule.
MR. MURPHY: I'm afraid we've fallen behind schedule. I'd like to thank this panel and ask that we take a break for ten minutes. Please be back promptly in ten minutes. Thank you, panel.
MR. MURPHY: Welcome again. We'd like to get started with the rest of the proceeding and we're going to hear from our next witness, Mr. Jac Venza, who is the director of Cultural and Arts Programs for WNET here in New York. Mr. Venza?
MR. VENZA: Is the audio all right? Can one hear? I'm going to be speaking primarily to the nature of what our company does and what we've created, since there's been so much time given to technology by people who know more about it than I do, and archivists who do.
Public television is such a strange system in itself that I think it might be useful for the record to have some of the background how we work so you would know where to find what. Particularly since WNET, the company that I'm involved with and represent here today, is one with GBH in Boston, who you will be hearing from shortly, who probably produce and provide about 80 per cent of the programming to the national service, to more than 250 stations around the country. They have access to the tapes when they're fed from Washington and in many cases the rights extend for over three years. That's been the traditional until now. That means that copies for the reuse very often rest with the stations. That means there are as many as several hundred copies of things in some random state, depending on the ability, the financial ability to tape and to store things.
Our company, WNET, is licensed in New Jersey and it serves the tristate area of New York and New Jersey, and it's probably the largest by audience size of all the public television stations. It began programming in 1962 as WNDT and it was dedicated to programming alternate kinds of materials that were not covered by networking. The subjects deal in the arts, history, nature, science, and public affairs. But many of these programs are co-productions with American, independent, and foreign broadcasters. In some cases, WNET is the presenting station in America, licensing a program for a limited PBS distribution period, and that means the use and the archival support of those programs tends to be less than any others.
In 1969, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS were formed, and in 1970, the 20- year-old pioneer National Educational Television, NET, was merged with New York's younger station, WNDT, and the call letters changed to WNET. So the ownership of 20-years of Ford Foundation sponsored NET programs went to WNET. However, the NET archive of the earliest programs went from their Ann Arbor storage and distribution facilities to the new Washington, D.C. archive of PBS. As I understand it, and you know more about it than I, I think those earliest programs are the first ones to transfer their housing now to the Library of Congress.
I'd like to touch briefly on my other chief producing colleague, George Page, because his program, the highest rated weekly series, Nature, comes from his division, which also produces other science programs and limited series; for example, The Brain, The Mind, Travels, and a series on childhood. In almost all cases, these are international co-productions and shared ownership and specifically produced American versions of each series of programs. In other words, the versioning you've seen in America may be a varied version for our audiences on the same material in some other form that will exist in archives abroad, or perhaps with other distribution sources.
Once an air date is assigned, a tape master of the PBS network version is stored at PBS and WNET. Traditionally the two copies, two master copies, are sent to PBS and one retained at WNET.
I am going to concentrate if I may on the area that I know best, and that's really what I've devoted the last 30 years to and that's the preservation of the arts through the media. These have included public television's first drama series, NET's Playhouse, and later Theater in America. These series recorded many of the works of the emerging non-profit theaters and their new playwrights, directors and actors. They include the first television productions of early plays of Sam Shepard, Edward Alby, Wendy Wasserstein, and more recently George Wolf. They include the first television records of the theater debuts of Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, and many others in their first years in the theater.
For 23 seasons under the Great Performances umbrella, hundreds of dramatic works of American playwrights and adaptions of American literature were produced, as well as the Metropolitan Opera Production's Great Performance annually produced debuts of new American operas from regional companies in Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Houston, just a few mentioned.
We've created a whole video library of America's greatest composers, like Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Charles Ives, Julie Stein and Miles Davis. We've already recorded many of the seminar works of new composers like Philip Glass, John Adams and Quentin Marsalis.
Two generations of Americans have already watched the rise of great singers and musicians that they never would have known, being distanced by geography or economics. Examples: Jesse Norman, Beverly Sills, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathleen Battle, Thomas Hampson, Itzhak Perlman, and of course, Placido Domingo and those other tenors, to name just a few.
But public television began at a critical time in the '60s when all forms of American dance were bursting with creativity. I think that it's significant we began to produce this kind of programming at the time that the National Endowment of the Arts was formed. At our station, I've personally been involved in the creation of nearly hundreds of programs of American dance. Thankfully we've recorded the prime time performing years of Suzanne Farrell, Lotoli McCarva, Peter Martins, Judith Jamison, Rudolf Nureyev, to name a few, who are no longer dancing. There will be no question about how harmless creative choreographers wanted their dancers to move. For example, George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Alvin Ailey, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham and Paul Taylor were all key collaborators in translating their works to television.
Most of the programs that I've referred to thusfar are performances, recorded in the studio, the theater or concert hall, with the best video and audio technology at the time of production. Film documentary introductions or transitions often surround the performance, and in these cases the film is transferred to tape, so there is really no existing film master of that footage at all. Because of the importance of some of these artists, we've donated the unused footage, the trims, to a specialized archive, like the celebrated dance collection of the Lincoln Center Library, but there have been few archives willing to take that sort of material in the form that we've been able to dedicate it.
If we have a foreign production or a home video partner, one or more other versions of the master will be created, and these versions may vary in length, content, sound or graphics. It means the archivist needs a more detailed code to identify how many versions exist, what are their differences, and what copy he has. Because the high quality of fine music recording required for our various kinds of music, often these programs include a commercial audio arrangement of some kind, and so very much more elaborate archive exists of the unmixed tracks and they're usually retained by the distributor of the record or the tapes.
Until recently, all single camera documentaries were shot and edited on 16mm film. However, we could seldom afford the cost of a film master, since all the initial distribution required was tape. In other words, most of the film--that's the basis of many of our archives in the last 30 years only exist in the tape master--all the film is gone, there was really no archive to support keeping it, at least at our station.
Most often these documentaries involve several years of archival, visual research, from a series of existing film, tape and graphic archives. Often the new filming involved elderly witnesses or experts critical to the story. Truly for the performing and visual arts, these high quality documentaries have a very different impact than any book on the subject. And in fact the research for the books for the scholars of the future will probably need access to these tapes; it's something you've given some attention, Mr. Francis.
Finally, I'd like to join with Kitty Carlisle to call attention to one of WNET's I think most significant earlier activities, which was really the work that the New York State Council and the Ford Foundation supported, the experimental laboratory, which was an effort to bring artists of many disciplines to really have their first experience with the idea of videotaping and what would happen to them.
I think probably, working in public television, that's the good news. The good news is the quality of what we created and how uniquely different it was in intent, working in the non-commercial world, in terms of what we thought was value to bring to the public through the media of television. The bad news is that as we were financed as a non-commercial operation and because we were so underfinanced, and we were dealing with artists who also were supported by institutions who were non-profit, we joined together to pay this most minimal rights possible contractually so we could have the programs. It meant that essentially the programs are now tied up in rights and ownership in a way that I think would be almost impossible to have access to anyone except archival scholars until some of the new systems of distribution provide enough income for us to go back and fairly renegotiate with the artists, the ownership, for their use in these other new markets. I think that for that reason, an archival--significant archival storage is going to be particularly important of the materials that I've been developing, because so many of them are tied up right now until that can be solved.
I'm not going to spend any time with video technology, because I care and know less about it than all the gentlemen who just gave you a marvelous update on what the technology is from the networks.
I think the other thing that you know more about than I do is finding a better way to deal with cataloguing. I'm afraid that the longer we distance from the time of the programs, the ability to find the material you want--I'm thinking for example just in my experience we've created three major series. The first pilot one was called A Time to Dance, later one called U.S.A. Dance, and one called Dance in America. When I retire, I don't think there's anyone who will know what's in them and how they differ, not just in time and in technology, but I worry that we in public television have not been financed in a way that's properly allowed the cataloging that's going to make access to these possible in a significant way.
Finally, I'm concerned that having created a unique video record of American arts, ideas, history, nature and sciences, public television is far too financially vulnerable to salvage what it has created. That does not end on a very cheerful note, but since I'm addressing the people who have already taken on responsibility of trying to protect that library, I'm open to questions.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much, Mr. Venza. We're going to move on to the next witness and we'll come back to you with some questions and comments.
I'd like to ask the next witness to make a statement, Judy Crichton, who is the executive producer of The American Experience, WGBH-TV, also one of my most favorite documentary series. Very nice to see you this morning.
MS. CRICHTON: Thank you, and good morning, everybody. I should add to that that I'm here in part as a former journalist and I want to pick up on some things that were said by the representatives by the network. I also am representing my colleagues at WGBH and among the work that is on-going is the Nova science series, the FRONTLINE series. WGBH also some years back initiated Vietnam: A Television History, which is a 13-part series.
WGBH has been in business now since 1955. We come to you very much as Jac does, not with his absolutely beautiful performance work, but with a singular video library. We are part of the on-going problem--we are a user of archival material and I want to talk about that a little bit more, and we are also aware that we are generating archival material for the future.
I was very pleased, Dr. Billington, by your remarks, because much of what I have been responsible for collecting over the years has not always had a very obvious or immediate impact. Yet, both in the shows that we have done at The American Experience and at FRONTLINE in particular, we interview many extremely important and well-known people. But those people who are most at the top of the news, there is usually singular collections of that material. We have also, really in our own way, been social historians who have talked to numbers of people toward the end of their life who saw a world very different from the one we are living in now, and who leave quite remarkable evidence of the lives that have gone before.
Because The American Experience is a public television history series, we work with numbers of academic advisors and scholars who have helped us put that material into some context. In addition, while there isn't a day of our life that people are not in your facilities at both the Library and the National Archives, and when you all closed down, our people were in total panic because of it. We are enormously grateful to you for you work.
We also have prided ourselves on going beyond known sources and in many cases expanding the parameters and the universe of archival material. We do such things as advertise and set up 800 numbers. We collect material from private libraries and collections and people's attics, and have kind of a rescue operation of our own.
Looking back at the work of WGBH, which went on the air in 1955, it is very clear to me as it is to all of you that what is important is not really necessarily the content of the interviews, but it is sometimes what is not said or what is left out, or even the postures of people involved. An example, WGBH produced a series called Prospects of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt when she was 75 years old. It was a series of interviews with international leaders. V.K. Krishna Menton was the first guest. There was an extraordinarily frosty and quite interesting interview with a young John Kennedy, who clearly Mrs. R had no taste for at all. These tapes reveal a tremendous amount. A student can begin to understand why people of my age and older were so fascinated with Mrs. Roosevelt, in part through the postures of difference and the civility of the interviews, as much as the specific content. It becomes a historical artifact for the next.
In 1964, WGBH did a lovely film with Robert Frost, wandering through the woods and fields around his home. I would argue that it is easy to protect his poetry; but that we also need to protect the memory of his posture, the sound of his voice, the way he responded to those fields, the comfort with which he picked up an axe and chopped wood. This is the gift of film and this is the gift of television and that is what we are fighting to preserve.
Similarly, a few years later there was a series called The Negro and The American Promise. Dr. Kenneth Clark interviewed James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King. There are young producers working for me today who are mining that material. We in the past few years did a film about Malcolm X. Now we are very lucky at WGBH because we do have storage facilities and we have a superb media and archival center of our own, and I'll come back to that and tell you a little bit about it. But these people who are working with us know what it means to go back to these materials and how important they are. Our series of Vietnam, which was in 1983, which included political leaders from all sides of the conflict, Vietnamese, French, American, scholars as well, material from obscure archival sources--that's material of extraordinary value, and we understand full well that we cannot allow it to evaporate.
Where I'm concerned about what was said earlier is that as a former television journalist, I know that the single most valuable material is often in the out-takes, that the compression of time--yes, you'll have minutes of emptiness at a podium, but that isn't what we're talking about. We're talking about the attitudes of people before they make public announcements. They're asides, the things that strip away the facade and let you begin to understand what is real and what is contrived.
Similarly, in the kind of shows I do today, even though we try to be as responsible and thoughtful as we know how, we're still a terribly extravagant media. We interview extremely important people for long periods of time. The out material is as important if not more important than what we put in the shows. We don't have the wisdom of hindsight. Thirty years from now there are going to be scholars and historians who say that what we selected was not really the nub or the heart of the issue, no matter how hard we tried or what good advice we had. We will look at things differently as we will look at that Vietnam series differently. We look at it differently today. The outs and the material that substantiates how a film is produced and what the filtering mechanism that the material was sifted through are extremely important.
WGBH has, as I mentioned a moment ago, a media archive and preservation center and it has worked hard at raising money to support that center. We are a non-profit institution and we eat what we earn. But we have now 6,000 hours of program masters, thousands of boxes of out-take elements and documentation. We require that independent producers who are commissioned by us turn back their material at the end of that period of production and WGBH holds the copyright.
We have succeeded so far in preserving a small quantity of that material. Our archivist, Mary Ide, is here with me this morning and a very conscious and serious effort is made to select what we consider the most important material to preserve. But again, I know how distorted that can be with time, that what one generation thinks is important may not be, half a generation even from now.
I understand that it is not possible and probably not wise to preserve every frame of video or film that has been shot. But I really beg you, whatever selection process you go through, and I understand how vulnerable that is and some of the consequences of doing that badly, that you try and drag with you all the makings that went into that work, because if you think of television, simply in terms of what has aired, I think you are only touching the surface in terms of what it is you all want to achieve.
Now with a small bit of reservation, I would like to close with one quite different subject on this, because I am very conscious, as an older producer, what the absence of historical material can mean and what its impact can be. And I want to tell you about one very specific area in which I have struggled for many years, and the distortion of the image of ourselves as Americans is very clear and obvious. And that deals with the whole business, the visual history of African American life in America, going back to the founding. There is information, general information on slavery, we all know that. But it tends to be limited and it tends to be stereotyped. We know about the agricultural workers but our youngsters don't know about the master builders or the cabinet makers. Too few know about the role of black soldiers who fought in the American Revolution--Crispus Attucks, maybe if you're lucky. Colonial images included scant numbers of black faces as you know and because those images weren't there, Americans have grown up with a distorted vision of the human landscape.
I have spent years of my life trying to teach younger people how to get over those hurdles and also trying to understand myself how the hurdles got put up beyond the obvious. I'll leap to the end of this story by saying that about six or seven years ago, I went to an older friend of mine who had been managing editor on the Herald Tribune during World War II, and I said "Les, for god's sake, explain to me why I'm having such a hard time finding images of black soldiers in Europe in 1944. They aren't existing in the large commercial archives--why aren't they there?" And Les had a very good explanation. He was the guy who got the pictures when they came over the desk and decided what would go into the paper. And he threw out images of black men because he thought his viewers--his readers were not particularly interested. And because he threw them out, they didn't make their way the way the other material did into our general archives. Similar things happened and I can be very specific on another occasion with newsreels. But the consequences was that 40 or 50 years later, the commercial archives without this material, people simply ignored the problem. And the fact that men had served in the Revolution, in the Civil War, in the Spanish-American War, in all American wars, was lost because it was too difficult to get the materials.
We have made at The American Experience a small effort within our own limitations to find archives that specialize in this material, special holdings, family holdings. We've gone to the black colleges and universities. The Ford Foundation did a study a few years back and these institutions are so under-funded that those collections are very often in chaos. So it is only the best funded producers and the ones who are goaded and nagged to death who are coming up with an image of America that is reasonably accurate. And as television becomes the repository for these still materials, television then goes on to perpetuate the problem.
So I am very concerned that an era of this kind not be made for the next generation. I don't know hat that era will be, I'm not wise enough to go out in time and look back and see what the elimination of a whole collection will do to us as a society. But I know in this one instance it was genuinely wounding and that it will be replicated if we don't protect what we're generating today.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much. Now questions and comments. Let's start off with Jim.
MR. LINDNER: In public television, my understanding is that very often you are contracting independent producers.
MS. CRICHTON: Correct.
MR. LINDNER: And Mr. Venza, you had mentioned that there is this issue whereby you have very limited rights, you have rights to air for a certain amount of exposure. And one question I have is how do we, since these are independent producers, what kind of suggestions might you have for us to preserve these materials after the airing is done and these producers in some cases vanish into the ether and it's gone forever?
MS. CRICHTON: Our problems are totally different.
MR. LINDNER: I was interested in that. They seem to be.
MS. CRICHTON: Go ahead.
MR. VENZA: When I--I should explain that I began in public television--in commercial television in 1950. I was there at the very beginning of everything. By the time the idea of a non-commercial system existed, I knew what there were among my friends in the arts who were never going to appear in commercial television, there was no reason for them to. It was clearly defined that the ratings would be so low that the idea of putting them in the media was not there. And the great proof of it was the great CBS series Omnibus, which proved that a mind of musician could take the media, Leonard Bernstein's first efforts were done on commercial television but the ratings were so low, that the Ford Foundation who sponsored this effort decided not to do it. That meant that when we started in this country, we were so under-funded that we had to find a way to generate sources financially so you wouldn't have to ask Balanchine--we took five years trying to get him to take television seriously after his experiences at commercial television, and then say but you have to use half as many musicians and only a few of the girls.
So our job in public television was to find the resources from philanthropy, from private foundations, from some corporate funding. None of those sources in the first years demanded ownership, but it meant that we barely gathered enough money to make the recording. So we owe it now to go back. It means that your work no with PBS Library will guarantee the future that some exists of the master. I believe it's going to have to take a commercial resource, because I don't believe there's going to be a change in government support looking at their attitude toward the National Endowment of the Arts, humanities, or public television, it's going to happen there. But I do believe that the work that I've done will not spoil and I believe it's going to be up to you to guarantee that when there is television on demand and there's enough rational reason to go back and pay those rights, at least there's a master that exists.
I'm going to take one minute more. We had years to get Balanchine to work with us. We had 10 or 12 programs when he died. When we tried to do the documentary, the masters, our own masters we got back from PBS were flaking. Fortunately we had two or three masters to generate a new master. And since we do not have at our station a fundraising archival thing in the capital campaign, I asked if they could put a section called archives, and husband and wife looking through what they'd like to donate saw Dance in America, archive, $100,000. They said we'd like to do this. And this one couple gave the money to reversion 71 tapes. I don't have the rights to them, but at least we have a new master.
That is really I think the role we have here because I think there will eventually be enough commercial resources to find ways to get those things in distribution. I'm just worried that the master won't be there when that happens.
MR. MURPHY: Mona, did you have a question?
MS. JIMENEZ: Thank you very much for you comments. I've enjoyed this a lot and I've learned a lot.
I come from the world of independent video makers that produce and are screened often at museums or in other venues outside of broadcast, but also on public television. I'm just wondering, first of all in terms of WNET's collection, is it stored on-site or is it stored off-site; and then the second part of the question for both of you is do you see any ways that we might be able to collaborate between our worlds but also from some of the other groups that we're hearing from in terms of the storage problem, you have a storage facility but I don't know if you have room for other things, just well, if we might be able to solve some of those problems collaboratively?
MR. VENZA: When we work with an independent, they at least are guaranteed that there are the masters that are sitting at our place. But again, the ability to use them in a new market would mean we would re- negotiate financially, so everyone would benefit.
The most important thing about what we've done is that until now, when you had your own material in the station as they have at GBH, you at least have access to look at it again and help sell it. That's one of the biggest problems. We're not going to be able to make any interesting commercial movement in the new avenues of delivery if you can't show anyone the material, and that's going to be a bigger problem because getting access to something once it's in the Library of Congress is much harder to get than it was when it was at PBS. So you will be creating a deeper hole for us to dig ourselves out of.
I used to be able to get a tape out of PBS in a day and a half; now I think your system of retrieval is months, at which point very often the person interested in seeing it is long gone. So that is going to be one of the biggest problems in the future, that you don't create such a perfect archive that you have to be a scholar with two years to work on the project to have access to the material.
MS. JIMENEZ: I'm actually in favor of regional storage.
MR. VENZA: But once something is on public television that we presented, I think it's one other backup for the independent.
MS. CRICHTON: The one thing you should know is that we do now buy rights to the programs that we commission. Occasionally when we come in and acquire an already produced show, those rights are tied up; but our rights problems are not acute like Jac's because we're not using large orchestras and opera companies. So we do own those rights for the most part.
We also have, you should know, already set up a system whereby scholars do have access to our material, including the transcripts, including the outs where possible. It's very preliminary, but we have begun that.
MR. MURPHY: David?
MR. FRANCIS: Perhaps I could just respond a moment to what Jac Venza said. Our problem is that most of the material we've received so far from PBS is in the form of two-inch tapes.
MR. VENZA: I'm aware of it.
MR. FRANCIS: And pretty well all the money that we have available is at present going to copying two-inch tapes. You're expressing a concern for the preservation of this material. We want to insure that it is preserved before we make it available. Are you suggesting that one should send back a two-inch tape before it's copied?
MR. VENZA: No, no.
MR. FRANCIS: We feel that would be irresponsible.
MR. VENZA: What I'm suggesting is that we're all subject to a government that supports our kind of activity so poorly as compared to other countries, that you just said the whole--the further you distance yourself from material, because now we have the technological distancing. In those years, people did not have cassettes in the office. It's amazing the calls I'll get from people who simply said could you send over a cassette of X, and I'll say to the agent, my dear, there wasn't a cassette in those years, it was a two-inch tape. That's the reason you never saw it again, that's the reason you don't have it, the reason the actor doesn't have it. It didn't exist.
It doesn't occur to people that there was a period in which you did not have anything except a two- inch machine to look at the master. That's why I'm saying the earliest and what will soon become historically the most important materials from the early NET years, the early dance series that we did at GBH, is so pathetically out of date technology but some of the great artists are on that--
MR. FRANCIS: Sure.
MR. VENZA: --and the reason it's accessible is because in those years no one knew about rights. No dancer never did. So they bought the film rights and University of Indiana has circulated dreadful film copies of those early primitive tapes at GBH and they're in every university in America. So the worst possible thing we've ever done is circulated, because the rights were worked out at the top. And that's why today, it's going to be easier, because very often we will make a music program with a home video deal and that means at least the public access libraries can buy it. So it isn't just the financial benefit for myself, it means that any time I have a home video deal, at least I know that when I'm not here, people will have access to the material.
MR. FRANCIS: Can I just say something about the out-takes. I think archives are always concerned about accepting out-takes because so often they are not catalogued, and they feel that once you get that far removed from the original production data, you cannot identify a lot of the material. Therefore, you can't satisfactorily make it available.
In both the cases you mention, out-takes were identified, so if they were given to a national archive, it would be possible for the archive to make them accessible.
MS. CRICHTON: I think that our material for the most part is. I think it's sort of a requirement that we impose at least on the producers I work with. But if you go back into the UCLA newsreel archives for instance, it is true that you look through a great deal of junk. But it is also true that if your eyes are educated, you often find what is most important within that peripheral material.
I think that as we move towards learning how to collaborate with each other that it is an area where standards should be set out and not everybody is going to mind those standards; but even if some of the more serious producers and producing organizations do, we're very far ahead.
MR. VENZA: If we have time, I'd like to answer that as well. It depends very, very much on the attitude of the curator, and I'm going to give you two examples. Years ago we started the first dance activity. I filmed a whole week of activity of Jose Limon, it was his very late years, and he was still performing, teaching, and we wanted those things. We used only a few minutes of it, and I had cans and I didn't know what to do. Genevieve Oswald, at the Library of the Performing Arts, was an avid collector of anything. I did not have the money to even sink up the material, but I knew it was valuable and I called and said would she take it if I just gave a release, the material. I know that for years knowing she shouldn't have done it, she taped every damn thing in the world off--we did not have the rights to actually give things, because we didn't have those rights. A completely different version of that in the same Library is the Theater Collection.
A few years ago, Joanne Woodward came to me with the idea of doing something on the group theater for the American Masters series. She said that she and Paul owed their acting style to an epoch of people and those witnesses would be gone. So we began to do one program. I couldn't stop the interviews--20 or 30 people were interviewed, we had a boxcar full of interviews and still no one was doing the programs. So before we began to cut that program, there was the decision to make should we make a dub master, and I said it's $10,000 more but it's so important, let's do it. We made the program, a 90-minute program, while we still had all those hours and hours of people.
When I talked to Joanne this year she said that of the people we interviewed, only three are still alive, and it sat in boxes because we could not sink it up because no one would accept it in that form. And finally she and Paul, eight years later, just out of their own funds, gave the money to sink it up and give it as a gift to the Library of the Performing Arts.
Now those are two cases. I only have two cases where I had to financially find the support to put something in proper shape for the archive, and that is going to be one of our problems, and we'll have it together since we all work in a non-profit world. We're going to have to find some philanthropic or government support for a more civilized way to generate the kind of recordings we need. I think the out-takes in terms of my case are tragic. Because we only had 10, 15 minutes to do this, I just rattled off names. Each one of those names with it goes an extraordinary thing that they did in public television. That's very different than what they did in the theater or concert hall. And all of the bits and pieces will become very much more important.
MS. CRICHTON: In news and public affairs there is one thing that you ought to know, which is that one reason that networks resist out-takes and in some ways I do too, is that they are easily abused. And interviews, particularly sensitive interviews or political interviews, are an act of trust between the producer and the person who is being interviewed. And you have won the right to interview that person because he or she trusts that you will not distort the material.
I am not suggesting that I am arguing for out-takes to be used by other producers for undisciplined pastiche in some other form. I am arguing that it be used as serious library material that can be studied and maybe in some cases you will find a way of setting the same standards that were initiated at the outset.
MR. MURPHY: We will take a break for lunch now and try to be back around 1:30 for our next group of panelists. Thanks again for your testimony.
(Whereupon, the proceedings were adjourned, to reconvene later this same day.)
A F T E R N O O N S E S S I O N
MR. MURPHY: We are back. We are very happy to see you again. We'll proceed with the rest of the discussion.
We're going to start this afternoon with two statements concerning videotape technology, and we have two distinguished visitors. The first is Dr. Peter Adelstein from the Image Permanence Institute, and also representing the chair of the ANSI Technical Committee IT9. It is a pleasure to see you here again. Dr. Adelstein.
DR. ADELSTEIN: Thank you. Is this mike working?
MR. MURPHY: Yes.
DR. ADELSTEIN: First of all, let me start off by saying that I probably come from a different perspective than most of the people that have been before your panel. I was trained in science and spent close to 40 years with Eastman Kodak Company and the last 10 with a non-profit research lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology. My field of interest has been physical properties of photographic film, gelatin, and magnetic tape. That's the perspective which I am bringing to this panel.
For the last 25 years, I have been chair of the American National Standards Institute committee, which has as its scope the permanence of imaging materials. So that's what I am going to be addressing this afternoon.
Now the importance of standards is very obvious when you are talking about the dimensions of light bulbs and sockets or the width of magnetic tape. These are parameters that have to be standardized. But when you're talking about image permanence, this is not quite as obvious. Why do you need standards with respect to permanence? There are a number of very good reasons, and a lot of this is evident from the benefit that standards have been to the preservation of the photographic image, a field in which there has been a great deal of standardization work over the last 30 to 40 years.
One is that curators and archivists are not expected to be experts in the behavior of materials and how long they're going to last. So they need to rely on people who spend their livelihood in these particular disciplines. The standards organization serves as a means of getting people together with different background and resolving differences of opinion.
The whole field of permanence of materials is a very difficult one to obtain hard data. You have anecdotal information but that information is really not hard. It is on materials which have existed for 25 or 50 years, about which you know very little. You also have poor knowledge about the storage conditions and how they have been kept. The other type of information is by incubation, subjecting materials to high temperature and high humidities. There is always the danger that what you're doing at these accelerated conditions does not reflect the real world. And there are many cases where we know it doesn't, although there are many cases which we know it does.
So the standards committee is a group of people who will resolve a lot of differences of opinion. And when we write documents, it's very important to have people from different disciplines. For example, the pure scientist will tell you to keep everything at absolute zero, while the archivist will tell you that's really not a very practical thing to do. So you do have to reach some type of compromise between what is scientifically correct and what is practical.
Standards have also been very useful in the photographic field by improving the quality of materials. Specifications have been written for both photographic materials and for the matte board which you use with photographic materials. Once there is a specification, manufacturers try to live up to it. So for those reasons, standards are really very important and in the United States they come under the aegis of the American National Standards Institute.
In 1989 a subcommittee was formed which deals with the permanence of electronic imaging. Up to that time, nothing has been done in that particular field. We've been meeting twice a year for the past seven years. The group is composed of the user community (like the Library of Congress), manufacturers, other government agencies, and some independent labs.
Now when it comes to magnetics, there are really two things that you have to be concerned about with respect to permanence. One is the inherent stability of the material itself and the second is how you store and handle the material. So there are two important considerations. This group first tried to write a specification on how you tell a good magnetic tape from a poor magnetic tape, or a poor magnetic tape from a very poor magnetic tape. This is not an easy task. Magnetic tape fails as a rule physically and it fails physically for two reasons. Either because of the way it's handled or because binder degradation causes it to be weak in certain physical properties. So that means that in a specification you need physical tests. Physical tests are required for the cohesion of the magnetic binder, for the adhesion of the binder to the support, for the friction which can't be too high or too low, and tests to be sure the tape doesn't clog up heads and create drop-outs. An alternate approach is to measure the degradation of the binder which is by reaction called hydrolysis and you can do that by chemical tests.
The ANSI subcommittee decided what physical properties were pertinent, and they agreed on test methods for some of these, such as adhesion, friction, and hydrolysis. But once you decide on the property, then you have to determine how you're going to measure it. Every laboratory has a different procedure and some are good and some are poor, and sometimes none of them are very good. Once you get a test method, then you have to have some way in which you can accelerate the stress you put on the material, because you're not interested in determining what the properties of magnetic tape are as of today; you're interested in determining what they're going to be like in 25 to 50 years.
So there's two things you can do. You can either incubate the tape or you can make the test very severe. The next decision is to decide what is a failure--how much friction is too much or what kind of drop-outs can you tolerate. This is further complicated because drop-outs are very system dependent, you're going to get drop-outs in some systems which you're not going to get in others. So you run into some very difficult technical problems.
A lot of work was done. We had cooperation from three U.S. manufacturers. However, we had zero cooperation from foreign manufacturers. None of the Japanese were involved in our work, despite repeated efforts to get them involved. To make matters worse, in the past couple of years, the American manufacturers have ceased activity in this area. So right now there is not a critical mass in this subcommittee to finish the work on preparing a tape specification.
I suspect the position of the American manufacturers is that permanence is not a strong point of magnetic tape. The permanence of magnetic tape is not a great plus, and manufacturers have to be concerned with the bottom line. You can't fault them for that; if they don't take care of the bottom line they're not going to stay in business. Devoting their scientific talent on this characteristic is not a way of making money. It's a good way of losing money. And so they have not put in the effort in recent years. Accordingly, activity in writing a specification for magnetic tape has ceased. It's not a story you may like to hear, but it is the fact. In the Middle Ages, if a messenger brought bad news he was usually executed and I'm just very glad that we're living in the 20th Century.
The other area which affects permanence very strongly is its storage. This is really what everybody who has magnetic tape should pay very, very careful attention to. It's a lot cheaper in the long run to store magnetic tape properly than to try to restore it. In this area, the ANSI subcommittee has been more successful because we had a lot of input from the consumers. You don't need the complicated laboratory facilities to write a storage specification as you do for a specification. So a document on storage was prepared, was valid and was passed. We expect it to be published in 1996. It specifies the temperature and humidity conditions; the lower the temperature, the longer the material is going to last. Likewise, the lower the humidity the longer the material is going to last, although there are limits to how low you go. Of course, the other problem which has been addressed already in some of the testimony that I heard this morning is that of the hardware and the format. Some people were talking about obtaining tape cassettes when all that they had available was obsolete two-inch tapes. That is a major problem and it's a problem which isn't going to go away. It's a problem which also exists in optical disk technology, I think even to a greater extent, because there you have software as well as hardware and the field is changing very, very rapidly.
The only answer to that is reformatting. People who have tape archives should keep tape at recommended conditions, i.e. low temperatures, low humidities, and that will prolong the life of the tape as long as practical. The time will then come when it will have to be recopied or be reformatted.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you. Peter Brothers, from SPECS Brothers, Inc.
MR. BROTHERS: SPECS Brothers. Is this on?
MR. MURPHY: Yes, it is.
MR. BROTHERS: SPECS Brothers is a magnetic tape decontamination/restoration facility. We specialize in disaster recovery and the rejuvenation of archival tapes suffering from material breakdown.
Since 1983, we've been examining, testing, cleaning, repairing and restoring tapes that would not play back at all or had signal retrieval problems. We also, because of the fact that we do a lot of hands-on work and focus on the physical restoration of tape prior to playback have a slightly different and somewhat unique perspective on video preservation. We deal in the practical realities of video preservation and restoration on a daily basis and we've identified a number of actions and biases that are fairly widespread in the industry that we feel have very far-reaching effects.
Initially there are two pre-conceptions one encounters repeatedly that must be addressed if any current video preservation initiative is to be successful. The first is represented by the statement, "Print and film are physical media, but video is an electronic medium." We hear this opinion frequently at conferences. While video may be recorded, manipulated and transmitted electronically, the medium on which the information actually exists is physical. With videotape, the potential for preservation is greatly enhanced by the fact that the signal itself is fairly hard to destroy. However, if the tape itself becomes so abused or degraded you can't retrieve the signal, the fact that the signal is fairly durable is somewhat academic.
A perceptual bias exists throughout the industry that disassociates the physical tape from the program or the image it contains and makes the tape vulnerable to mistreatment. Humans are by nature visually and task-oriented. A videotape containing images of President Nixon physically looks like a disk or a small plastic box. It's physical appearance recalls neither the president nor the many hours of shooting and editing required to create the program. Experience shows that personnel do not intuitively make the connection. Once a program has been recorded or viewed, the tape itself becomes an object, divorced from the image it contains and emotionally devoid of value. People get very excited by new machinery and the images on a monitor. People understandably don't get excited by the physical tape which contains the image. One of the results of this is while personnel and machinery are maintained in relatively clean, climate-controlled environments, there's a tendency to stick tapes away in whatever space an organization has absolutely no other use for. I understand from a number of the presentations here and from others I've talked to that there's work being done to correct this. There is still a problem in that many of the people who are developing new archival facilities aren't always the people who are handling the tapes, and the perceptual problem exists throughout.
If people really did associate the physical tape itself with the value of the program it contains, people would not be putting tapes in extremely unsuitable environments. Even when an organization provides climate-controlled storage such as people are doing now, abuse is going to continue in other areas of the operations. Simply consider the difference between the care that's used in moving machinery around a facility and how people treat tape. Machinery is moved very gently and carefully, it's always put down right side up. Tapes are constantly stored improperly on their sides because it's convenient, and the most common way of moving a tape is a swing of your arm and a distinct drop of anywhere between two inches to a couple of feet. This treatment is obviously going to cause some severe problems.
The widespread unintentional abuse of videotape brings us to the second preconception we'd like to address. That is the very commonly held feeling that since videotape was not originally designed as a long-term storage medium, a lot of recorded materials are now decaying and there's really not much we can do about it.
We handle large volumes of older tapes. The primary reasons these tapes are sent to us for restoration should not be attributed to design flaws or inherent material instability, but to the fact that the tapes have been subjected to extremely hostile environments under conditions we would not expect other materials to survive. To date, the industry should really consider itself lucky. Whatever the initial design intent, most professional videotapes have been fairly durable and are capable of surviving tremendous abuse before they're permanently destroyed.
From a physical viewpoint, we actually consider magnetic tape a fairly good long-term storage medium. Research exists that indicates the life expectancy of tape can be extended significantly. If tapes are properly handled and stored, they very probably will outlast the availability of the playback machinery that's necessary to retrieve the signal. Furthermore, a wide variety of restoration techniques exist that can reduce the effects of aging that otherwise render tapes unusable. The premature aging we're seeing in videotapes today is primarily caused by excessive exposure to standard environmental factors, the same factors that cause degradation and decay in most other products: dirt, moisture, and heat. Dirt is all pervasive. Very small amounts of debris in between the tape and the playback head will interfere with signal retrieval. There is sufficient debris on every tape we have examined to cause some interference.
A perceptual problem occurs here also. People too often assume that to put tape in a protective case is adequate. None of the standard cases that are available protect tapes totally against either dirt or moisture. If a tape is exposed to any variation in temperature, the air inside the case expands and contracts and sucks dust right down into the case. Every single tape, before it is transferred to a new format, should be cleaned or you will end up permanently recording signal loss that is not inherent to the original. This signal loss is caused by dirt and debris on the tape that could easily have been removed.
Basic cleaning is sufficient for removing particulate matter. There are commercial machines that are built for this or people can build their own. Most of these machines use some sort of wiping tissue and a burnishing post or blade. We would like to mention here that the tungsten carbide and the sapphire blades used on most modern machines are not the same as the razor blades that gave cleaning machines a very bad reputation many years ago, blades that were causing substantial damage to tapes. We have not seen any evidence whatsoever either from test results, from our own extensive experience, or from anyone we've talked to, that indicates the use of modern blades causes damage to tape.
While damage to tapes from dust and contamination is usually overlooked because it simply isn't recognized even after a problem tape is put up on machinery, damage from water and moisture is frequently identified. Binder hydrolysis is both a common and serious problem. As well as the problem itself, one solution to this problem is widely known in the industry. This is a procedure called baking that has shown itself to be very effective in melting hydrolysis residue causing it to be reabsorbed back into the tape. Baking often allows the tape to be played back if it is badly hydrolysed.
This is not a panacea. Baking addresses one specific problem. We're constantly having people call us up, asking us to bake tapes when hydrolysis is not the major problem. Baking exposes a tape to substantial heat and it's well accepted that heat is not good for tape. This procedure is not something that should be applied under many circumstances and can actually end up damaging the tape.
Temperature is an area where tapes are commonly abused. We have seen many circumstances where tapes have been stored in rooms that human beings can't enter without breaking out into a sweat; situations where there's absolutely no temperature control whatsoever. It's very important to have fairly strict temperature controls to preserve tape integrity.
On the other hand, rigid standards are not absolutely necessary for all usage. There are a great variety of conditions that are tolerable. These conditions do not include situations where tapes are left out on loading docks in the rain, put in rooms full of dust and debris, or stored in basements that flood all the time. The tapes need to be taken out of these negative environments so that they will last for a reasonable amount of time. If the tapes can't be restored or transferred at this point, at least removing them from these extremely negative environments may allow for the opportunity that they might be restored and transferred sometime in the future.
We have discussed the neglect tapes are subjected to under normal circumstances because the damage being done is not highly visible. There is another kind of neglect that frequently destroys tape because the damage actually is highly visible. We deal with a lot of disasters and disasters are very obvious. The damage is right there, it's very extreme and very visible. Because it is so visible, people assume that the tapes are destroyed. This is not generally the case. There are effective procedures available for reclaiming tapes that are in disasters. Tapes do become somewhat more delicate when they're exposed to extreme contamination and extreme circumstances, so they have to be handled very carefully but they usually can be saved.
A lot of the damage that is done to tape happens over time. If tapes that are in a disaster are handled promptly, often the tape can be restored before it's permanently destroyed. We have restored tapes that have been under sewage and we've saved tapes where the cassette shells have melted onto the hubs and had to be totally disassembled and the tape removed. Tapes are routinely salvaged from these sorts of circumstances. People should not assume that if a catastrophe does occur that they've lost their valuable programming. Some materials may be lost, but the vast majority of these materials can be restored.
The most common disaster that people run into is a flood situation. To a large extent, once again, this is because of the way people treat the materials. In commercial buildings, if you store tape in a basement underneath the sewage lines and the water lines, it's very likely that these items are going to be damaged. Additionally, there are a surprising number of storage facilities that are on flood plains. This is not a particularly good place to store your very valuable materials.
Fire is less frequent, but it's a more volatile threat to tape, simply because it combines more elements. In fire scenarios, the tapes not only are exposed to heat, but they're exposed to a tremendous amount of debris, to the water from fire suppression systems, and also to chemicals that are used in fire suppression. One of the things that we want to point out here is that after a fire, generally, services are called in to clean up the space, clean up the carpets, and clean up the machinery. Unfortunately tapes are too often treated just like the carpets as opposed to the machinery. Cleaning personnel are allowed to clean the tapes with water, ammonia and detergents. This is not a very good idea and can do a lot more damage than the actual fire itself. In conclusion, we obviously feel that tape can be a very good long-term storage medium, but we are concerned by the manner in which the tapes are treated industrywide. Unfortunately we don't see any easy way to alter the prevailing attitudes. Tapes simply don't look like anything of value. If you look at a picture and something starts to go wrong, you can visually see something happen. Very seldom do you see anything with tapes. So they will continue, unfortunately, to be destroyed by benign neglect. For decades we've had fairly good general handling and storage guidelines. They have not been followed. If they had been followed, a lot of the problems we're running into today wouldn't be occurring.
Still, the current state of television and video preservation is surprisingly good. Despite the neglect, large volumes of magnetic recordings are playable. The majority of the tapes that have already deteriorated or have been damaged can be restored, and there's still sufficient obsolete machinery around the country for virtually any tape format to be played back. If we don't initiate a comprehensive program at this time, however, we're likely to encounter serious problems in the future.
If you've got a situation where a transistor technology machine breaks down, it can usually be fixed fairly easily or the parts replaced. Twenty years from now, that may not be so easy to do if you need a specialized computer chip. Additionally, you have a situation where to this point the obsolete formats have been fairly sturdy. They have been able to stand up to a lot of abuse. The new formats are thinner, smaller, and much more delicate. They may not be able to stand up to the same abuse. The standards that are being developed, the storage conditions under which things should be preserved, the handling of tapes, may well become much more important.
We're already observing new patterns of decay in the new formulation of tapes, tapes such as D-1, D-2 and Beta SP, that weren't present in the older formats, types of decay that really emphasize the need to treat the tapes properly. Two of the most common problems we're running into we have labeled spot hydrolysis and accelerated contact hydrolysis. Spot hydrolysis is caused by condensation. When water from condensation gathers on the edge of a tape, underneath that spot of water the hydrolysis of the binder is very rapid. It breaks the binder down and glues the edges of the tape together, leaving a crystalline residue. If you attempt to play this tape back, the tape will rip. You can't generally see this sort of damage because it's happening inside the cassettes. We're constantly running into problems of condensation on cassettes. In the past, condensation has not been a tremendous problem except in playback. If you let the tapes dry out before you played them, there usually was not any permanent damage. This may not be the case in the future.
The other problem, accelerated contact hydrolysis, is caused by the interaction of the tape backcoat and the polished metal guideposts that are being used in the new cassette formats. When exposed to moisture, the metal post acts as a catalyst and the backcoat of the tape breaks down very, very rapidly, gluing the tape to the metal guidepost. Once again, this is happening inside the cassette and you may not see it. If you attempt to play the tape, there's a very good chance the tape will snap. If the tape is in a disaster scenario, where it has been submerged in water, the backcoat of the tape can be totally destroyed within 24 hours by this sort of decay. Simple exposure to very moist conditions in the air or in storage, can cause tape failure within a couple of weeks as opposed to the years or months that often are necessary for serious hydrolysis in some of the obsolete and more sturdy formats that we've been dealing with up to this point.
These new patterns of decay highlight the need for continuing research. At this point, the data that we need requires rather sophisticated equipment that is hard to find outside of government facilities. It would be very helpful if a government agency such as the Library of Congress could collect suggestions for data that is necessary, collate these suggestions, and present them to the government laboratories so that we could get some of the data we need to deal with the problems that we're encountering now and the new problems that we will encounter in the future.
Finally, we'd like to make a plea concerning experts in the field of video preservation and restoration. Expert advice is essential, but one should be prudent when applying or relying such information. Much of the information in the field that is passed around is opinion and may not be supported by data or experience. Other information is garbled by repetition and inaccurate. Just like the old children's game of Telephone, the message three or four steps down the line bears little resemblance to the original.
Conversely, experts should not attempt to inhibit the flow of information by hiding behind the term proprietary. Few techniques are really exclusive to a single individual and most experts' real advantage is the length and breadth of their experience. While one would not expect an expert to provide a complete blueprint of his methods, a brief explanation of procedures that are used and the theory behind them is essential, otherwise an organization has absolutely no idea what's being done with their material. Quite simply, people should ask questions and make certain that they understand the answers that they're given.
In conclusion, we believe that communication is the key to success. We would not be having the success with restoration that we are right now in our facility if we had not had access to a tremendous amount of research that has been done all over the world, things that we are able to interpret, synthesize, and put together into practical applications. We believe that all of the various areas must be open in their communication and there must be a great amount of cooperation for us to be successful. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you. Questions? Mona?
MS. JIMENEZ: First, Dr. Adelstein, you were saying that the three tape manufacturers had pulled out of the committee or pulled out of the work, and I'm just wondering first of all who they were, if you're free to say that?
DR. ADELSTEIN: Yes. IBM, 3M, the third one escapes my memory.
MS. JIMENEZ: Ampex is it?
DR. ADELSTEIN: Beg your pardon?
MS. JIMENEZ: Ampex?
DR. ADELSTEIN: And Ampex.
MS. JIMENEZ: And Ampex. And then why would the work cease, is it because you don't have tape available or financial resources, or-- DR. ADELSTEIN: Well, what you need to write a specification on properties are laboratory facilities. Unlike the specification for storage where you need people who have had experience in storage, and who have storage facilities. To write a specification you need someone who has, for example, a friction test. They can incubate tape in ovens at different temperatures and humidities and they are scientifically trained to be able to interpret the data obtained on incubated tape. So you need scientists and you need the scientific apparatus. The only people in this country who have the facilities are the manufacturers.
MS. JIMENEZ: I see. How much would it cost? We can't completely be stuck because the manufacturers have pulled out, we're in big trouble. So we have to think--
DR. ADELSTEIN: I know this is a statement which I made several times and the reaction I get is very similar to yours. You don't like to hear what is being said and I don't blame you.
The only laboratory in the country which I think has facilities to do this is the National Media Lab, which is government-supported. But their facilities are limited as well. The only hope that I really see in preparing a tape specification is if we could somehow write a specification which just measures the hydrolysis of the binder. But that means you don't get into some of the other characteristics, for instance, adhesion. And that may be possible with the help of the National Media Lab, but it's not a sure thing at all. I have been in contact with the National Media Lab just within the last month to see if we can move that along.
I suspect that if we ever did write some type of specification which just dealt with the chemistry and not the physical properties we've have an awful hue and cry on the part of the manufacturers. But I don't have a great deal of sympathy for them.
MS. JIMENEZ: Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Jim?
MR. LINDNER: This is for Mr. Adelstein as well. Again, getting back to this issue of standards. It seems that talking a little bit about equipment for the moment, we've been talking mostly about tape, it seems that for lack of a better term there's been a wholesale abandonment of a standards practice on the part of equipment manufacturers. It used to be that before a format was introduced to the industry or to consumers for that matter, it went through the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers or some other process, and it seems that lately at least the manufacturers are intentionally introducing formats that are just slightly different for commercial advantage. The most recent example is Panasonic with their DVC format and Sony with their DV format. They both use virtually the same algorithms for compression but they use different tape that's different by literally three millimeters, which is clearly not trying to find a standard.
Is the same thing going on with equipment standards, I mean are manufacturers just forgetting about standards and practices at all and they really don't care about standards and practices any more and they're just doing it on their own?
DR. ADELSTEIN: I can't really answer your question very well because it's outside of my field, the equipment aspect. Some people have suggested why don't we just write a standard for playback equipment. In other words, standardize on a piece of equipment that tape should operate on. In my opinion that's a ridiculous suggestion. What they're saying is let's standardize technology the way it is today and that means we're not going to have progress in the future. The manufacturers won't stand for it and wouldn't listen to it. You just can't stop advances.
The manufacturers, of course, are out to advance their product and to do that they want to make things better and different. So there is an economic reason why there should be differences between manufacturers.
MR. LINDNER: So you don't see there being less formats at all, you see there being more formats as time goes on?
DR. ADELSTEIN: I can't make a prediction. I don't know.
MR. FRANCIS: It's very pleasing that there's now more information about tape preservation and handling, but that in some ways is causing more confusion. If you manage a large collection, basically you're always concerned with the bottom line. Let's just take two-inch as an example. Obviously you have various choices. You can try and preserve your tape longer, but that means you have to keep your equipment in good repair longer.
You have another alternative. You use all the money that you were going to spend on additional storage and on maintaining obsolete equipment now and copy the tape onto a format which didn't have the equipment problems.
I see in the new standards, for instance, they're talking about the idea of recommending a much lower humidity than previously. But reading the standards correspondence, it appears that if you have a wide tape like two-inch, then it may have to spend up to 30 days or more in some sort of intermediate humidity situation before you can withdraw it.
It's very useful to have a lot of these issues on the table; but I haven't seen anything quite like there is for film where you can see the advantages of each of these alternatives. You can compare the cost of longer storage with perhaps the cost of maintaining say two-inch equipment. And it's not only two-inch you need comparisons for, you need them for all formats, because some formats which are much more recent have a very short life.
I wonder whether the Image Permanence Institute or any other organization is trying to chart this information to make it easier for people who are actually managing collections, to decide where to spend their dollar?
DR. ADELSTEIN: Yes. Well, of course, your words warm the cockles of my heart, because you're referring of course to work that's been done at the Image Permanence Institute and which I know you're very well aware in which the have come up with a concept of a preservation index and a preservation index monitor, PIM. That was based on chemical changes in photographic film base and how it's affected by temperature and humidity. You can take any environment and come up with a number of how good it is which is given in years. The same effects of temperature and humidity also exist for dye stability as well.
We have got to realize that the photographic industry is 100 years old, the tape industry is only half that old, and concern about permanence has only been relatively recent. The best papers have been written about it early, about 15 to 20 years ago. So the industry is not as mature as far as dealing with tape preservation.
I think you could probably get a type of preservation index just looking at the hydrolysis of magnetic tape. That doesn't get around some of the disadvantages that you have, for instance, of humidity conditioning your tape. That isn't dealt with in the photographic industry either. If you go to low temperature storage, you have a price to pay and the price is the warm-up time. And of course it's a lot easier to warm it up than to humidify it up.
The 30 days humidification time that you referred to I think was a little excessive and the individual who actually suggested that has modified his position somewhat. The current thinking today is that if you find that your tape, particularly helical scan tape, isn't following the track that it should, that is you don't get a good playback, then you probably have a humidity problem. The tape should then be humidified until it does play right. But 30 days is a little excessive I think.
With respect to the comment you made about should you put your money in preserving what you have or should you copy now, I'm a firm believer in preserving what you have. If you copy now, you're going to be given the same problem in 20 years. So why copy every ten years when you can copy every 20 years?
MR. MURPHY: Peter Brothers, from your work with the physical property of tape, can you recommend any areas of further research that you think are needed to make your work easier and give us a greater sense of comfort about the future of videotape?
MR. BROTHERS: Well, as Dr. Adelstein was discussing, we need to know more about the hydrolysis process itself. We have developed a procedure where we've been able to readhere loose oxide onto the base coat. We have supporting theory as to why it works, but we really need some quantitative data that we do not have the test equipment to provide. Theoretically, it has to do with the hydrolysis process. Again, theory indicates that to some degree the hydrolysis process can be reversed. Unfortunately, there is insufficient hard data on the reversal mechanism and how long it takes.
A lot of restoration procedures involve exposing the material to extreme conditions and we don't have enough data on how long or how extreme those conditions need to be and how much--how far the effect has to go before the tape is playable. For example, in the situations where we're talking about the length of life of a tape, models are often determined by an arbitrary percentage of hydrolysis product in the binder. But there isn't really enough hard data on how much hydrolysis product in the binder actually interferes with playback. Different models use different levels. There has not been enough testing.
There also is a lot of residue material that is found on the surface of tapes. There's calcium, there's sodium, there's breakdown from the lubricants, and there's the residue from the hydrolysis process in the binder. When talking to different people, they'll often identify the residues as different things. It would be very helpful to do more laboratory testing and really find out just exactly what all of these residues are and how frequently they appear. The basic breakdown of hydrolysis where the polymers break down into low molecular weight, oligimers and carbolic acid is important, but there's obviously other breakdown occurring.
Other decay has been so overshadowed by the hydrolysis problem that I don't believe that there's been enough research done in this area and it could be very important. If we find a way to retard the hydrolysis breakdown of the tape, there may well be other decay that is going to show up as long-term problems. Problems that haven't shown up as well in accelerated testing at this point.
DR. ADELSTEIN: I think that another aspect that should be mentioned. Both Peter and I have been talking about hydrolysis, but another aspect of magnetic tape permanence is the fact that we're dealing with a very flimsy material. To get greater and greater compaction we're making it flimsier and flimsier. So we take this flimsy material and we run it through all kinds of complicated machinery, and run it over stationery heads, and we expect it to be very durable.
So when you want greater compaction of information on one hand, and greater durability in the other, then you're going at cross purposes. They're not compatible. It's like having a water soluble raincoat. There's a contradiction in terms. And a lot of tape damage that Jim and Peter will testify to, is just caused by the handling of the material. This happens to a much lesser extent with optical disks and with photographic film. The more severe handling of photographic film is a motion picture film and that is much, much thicker.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much for your statements and your willingness to answer our questions. We'll take a 15-minute break.
MR. MURPHY: Can we have the representatives of the Archives and Museums come to the witness table?
The position of Public Archives and Museums in the program has nothing to do with their importance. We had to juggle various calendars and this is just how it broke out. We are going to go in the order listed, except that Robert Haller will be a little late, so we'll start with Mr. Duane Watson, representing the New York Public Library. Mr. Watson is the Aaron and Clara Greenhut Rabinowitz Chief Librarian for Preservation.
MR. WATSON: Good afternoon.
As you've just stated, I am the chief librarian for preservation at the New York Public Library. The New York Public Library is the world's largest public library system consisting of 82 branch libraries and four world-renowned research centers, the Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Library for the Performing Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and our soon to be opened Science, Industry and Business Library at Madison Avenue and 34th Street
The Library's preservation program, now in its 30th year, and involving more than 70 full-time staff members, coordinates preservation services for each of these library centers. Each year, more than 100,000 items from the collection, now surpassing 50 million catalogued items, receive some kind of preservation treatment.
The Library commends the Library of Congress for embarking on this study and providing national leadership in the field of American television and video preservation. We are pleased that this study includes representation from a wide range of organizations and individuals. It is especially encouraging that the librarian is seeking information on the preservation efforts and needs of the various types of public institutions with video holdings. These measures, we believe, are essential if a comprehensive national television and video preservation effort is to be established. This includes adequate funding, the development of preservation priorities, and the development of national standards. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this study by sharing the New York Public Library's experience with and concern about video preservation both through this hearing and in the more detailed survey which we are in the process of completing.
The New York Public Library's video holdings are often primary documents, unpublished and unique recordings of artists and their works. They document the most significant artists and events of our time and contain local and individual interpretation of people and events. They are vitally important elements within the videotape preservation, which is now under consideration.
Another area of immense importance both in quality and quantity are videotapes which were published but which are no longer available anywhere else and which are not being preserved anywhere else. Together these two types of videotape "document" the past 30 years in detailed ways which must be preserved for future generations of study. Without these tapes, significant and dynamic issues in our history will be lost.
Videotape has become the "medium of choice" of the past two or three decades, particularly by artists and recorders of social and cultural life who for the first time in history can obtain affordable equipment to record their own works and observations. This is especially true for dance and choreographic works. Also, educators and students have utilized videotape as a pivotal communication and teaching device for transmitting information on every subject. Consequently, the preservation of so important an aspect of American culture must be one of our national priorities.
The documentation and dramatization of our experiences that were once exclusively captured on film are increasingly being captured on videotape. We must take immediate steps to insure that this physically fragile medium is preserved or we will lose a substantial part of the history of the last two decades.
We live in an era of transition from information and artifacts in chemicals on paper to information in electronic forms. As we undergo this transition, the ultimate answers to preservation of electronic information and materials cannot be known with certainty. Copying to the currently best format is the option available while we await technological changes which lead to longer permanence. Because we will be continuing this transition for many years, we must devise strategies to save as much videotape as possible. Funding for the transfer of videotapes to a more stable medium is desperately needed during the wait for an alternative preservation medium to arrive.
We see several concerns. One is the type of materials. The scope and subject matter of the television and video materials held by the various divisions of the New York Public Library and the procedures followed for preserving and providing access to them is varied. However, the common concerns regarding television and video preservation have encouraged cooperative efforts and assistance by the preservation program. Together we are preserving video footage that would appear to fall outside the scope of other institutions or individuals.
Some of these are productions that were created originally for television broadcast; others are not fully edited or are productions that were not created for theatrical exhibition. We feel that these types of material merit preservation because of their value to researchers and to the history of television and video. Researchers and documentary videomakers require large volumes of raw footage from which to select appropriate segments, just as filmmakers will shoot many more hours of footage than will ever make their final cut. For these reasons, we would urge that concern be given not only to the preservation and restoration of individual released titles, but also to collections that contain released, unreleased and raw television and video footage.
This is not to suggest the preservation of anything and everything. Given the costs, we recognize the importance of being selective about what is preserved. The study of the current state of American television and video preservation provides a vital opportunity for many institutions to share information and express concern.
The hearings process also provides insight into appropriate selections for preservation efforts; however, unreleased titles and raw footage held in research institutions must be included in any plan designed to preserve the nation's television and video heritage. This material when viewed by future generations will provide them with greater insights into the people and events of the past, and will be the basis upon which future generations will rely for their understanding and interpretation of our time.
Institutions such as the New York Public Library rely upon funding from external sources for assistance. Increased national awareness and continued funding is necessary to secure environmental conditions and appropriate screening equipment, to preserve endangered materials, and to train television and video historians, archivists, catalogers and technicians. Such support and cooperation between the holders of video collections will allow us to preserve our video legacy.
Technical standards. Scientific studies on video preservation issues must be undertaken to examine the unstable properties of video in relation to time and environment and to determine the negative impact of storage materials, systems and environment. National standards must be established, published and widely disseminated so that television and video archivists are not left to rely upon their own experiences and the studies conducted by the manufacturers of the media materials. A forum such as the National Moving Image Database would provide a means of sharing bibliographic and technical information. We fully endorse a national survey of all institutions collecting and/or preserving television and video materials and are eagerly participating in this survey. This undertaking will provide some sense of the volume and the scope of the nation's repositories. The results may be daunting, but are essential to enlightened preservation decision- making.
On-going dialogue and information sharing. The New York Public Library already has become a "museum of equipment" as we face the need to preserve videotapes. Keeping old equipment in proper working order and using a telephone network of concerned professionals around the world to trace needed machine parts has become a daily part of the preservation work of staff who handle videotapes. Increased national attention and leadership to expand this network of obsolete equipment and parts will be an essential activity if we are to retain the videotaped work of our collections.
Finally, we would like to encourage the Library of Congress to facilitate an on-going dialogue among the various institutions whose comments were sought for this study and testimony, and to encourage individuals and institutions not represented to join in a national effort. The Library of Congress should lead this effort to enable cooperation among institutions and individuals, to share the wide range of concerns and problems associated with videotape preservation. Increased support is also needed for the professional associations which are already actively focused upon the issues of videotape preservation.
The New York Public Library collects and preserves materials in all formats and it is our mission to provide free and open access to these materials. A number of the units of the library actively collect videotape, and I am going to mention just a few items of our collection here or the types of collections, to give you an idea of the range of the preservation problem which we are facing. It will be in more detail in the printed copies that you receive.
At the Donnell Media Center which is curated by Marie Nestus who is here in our audience, we have a large collection of 15,000 videotapes which are heavily used by our public. Donnell collects exemplary television programming, primarily American produced but including work from around the world. We have never had he money to provide the kind of environment to store these collections. It's through the efforts of Ms. Nestus that we have preserved this collection, which is rare and often unique.
At the Library for the Performing Arts, we have extensive video holdings. The Theater on Film and Tape Archive, known as TOFT, and curated by Betty Corwin, is the world's foremost collection of film and videotape of live theater performances. Through agreements with unions and theatrical guilds, we are able to videotape live theater performances across the United States. This is a large collection; it also has a number of endangered films which we have transferred to "safer" tape for the moment. Up to 132,000 feet of endangered film is stored off-site. These were early performances done before we were actually using videotape.
The Dance Collection, curated by Madeline Nichols, has an archive that is now in its 31st year, with over 8,000 videotapes. 51% of the use of the Dance Collection is using videotapes that people come to see at the site itself. If we lose those, we have lost a way of looking at an art which we have never had before. That is to actually be able to see the dancers in action. This is a very significant part of our collection and a very important one.
The Rogers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the Performing Arts Library also has a large collection of music and opera videos. Most of these are from European and Asian broadcasts, not readily available in this country. Part of the problem with that collection is the fact that we do not have a standard cataloguing system for them. Nationally we do not know what other people have yet, and it would be very important to share this kind of information.
At the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, we have been documenting and preserving the history of black culture around the world and have a large collection of videotapes there, in which are included historical, political, anthropological, religious, and performing arts documentaries. In addition, we videotape our oral history interviews and document public programs which are not available anywhere else. The Schomburg Collection is curated by James Briggs Murray who has been the founder and real source of development in that program.
In the Humanities Center, in our manuscript collection, curated by Mary Boone-Bowling, the videotape collection numbers over 150 videotapes with subjects relating to 20th Century American history. They include documentaries, out-takes, and political and personal coverage of issues. Using a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, we were able to preserve about 65 per cent of the film and video material, but that program has been eliminated and there are no longer any funds available.
In conclusion, let me say that because of the needs and problems associated with the numerous and various collections housed at the New York Public Library, we applaud the efforts of the Library of Congress and its staff. These hearings and the accompanying survey provide an opportunity to participate with our distinguished colleagues in this important step toward a national preservation program for America's television and video heritage.
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the New York Public Library's concerns about the preservation of this fragile and fugitive medium and to add its support for a national preservation program.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Watson.
I now ask Barbara London, who is the Curator of Video at the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art to give us her statement.
MS. LONDON: Thanks. It's the Department of Film and Video. Thanks very much for the invitation to be here.
Since the founding in 1929 of The Museum of Modern Art, the institution has been dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and preserving the art of our time. The Museum first presented video art in the 1968 exhibition, "The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age." This was only three years after the first consumer video camera was put on the market. These were exhilarating, formative years of video art.
Technical factors made it challenging for museums to exhibit video. Nothing was automatic. Reel-to-reel tape decks required that someone be on hand to thread up, start, and rewind each tape. For the "Machine" show, Nam June Paik turned his Lindsay Tape into a video installation, by jerryrigging an endless tape-loop device. He set two open reel half- inch playback decks about ten feet apart on a gallery floor. He ran the spliced-together tape between them. After about a week, Paik's Lindsay Tape wore out, it died. This classic work was presumed lost forever until a kinescope version turned up in Germany a few years ago. The kinescope at least give us an idea of what this spirited work was like.
The next video appeared in the 1970 "Information Show," along with Xerox and mail-art. Videotapes by artists from North and South America and Europe were shown. Many of these titles have subsequently been destroyed by fire and the extreme humidity of Brazil.
The Museum began its contemporary "Projects" exhibition series in 1971 with a site-specific, live camera installation by sculptor Keith Sonnier. The early video installations of Peter Campus, Shigeko Kubota and Bill Viola, to name a few, followed in the project series.
In response to the broad scope of video art being made internationally, the Museum established an on-going video exhibition program in a specially designated gallery in 1974. Since that time, we have presented more than 2,000 independently produced videotapes from 20 countries. We have helped define the evolving documentary, narrative, computer- generated, and other experimental genres.
In 1977 we launched "Video Viewpoints," a lecture series. Here artists present and discuss their works with an interested audience. We've transcribed all of these talks and they are available to researchers in the Video Study Center. Around the same time we began acquiring artists' videotapes. Initially we purchased 3/4-inch sub-masters. This was in 1975. During the 1980s, we shifted to acquiring one-inch sub- masters. In the future, we will change over to a preservation format that is digital. This will undoubtedly be a major undertaking, which fiscally we are not prepared to make yet. When we do take this step, we will work directly with the artists and with other archives to use the best existing master. We will not duplicate anyone else's efforts, we will work together.
Today our Video Study Collection includes more than 800 titles. We have the right to hold up to three copies of each title: a preservation sub-master, an exhibition copy, and a study copy. Several years ago with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation we started cataloging the video collection and we have succeeded; we are up to date. We've used the Star System. We've modified for our own purposes the Star program that our film colleagues at the Museum use.
As many of you know, the Department of Film and Video Preservation Center has just been built. In fact, as I speak, the collection is getting settled into its new premises in the Catskills. The video collection now is stored under ideal conditions, 55 degrees fahrenheit and 45 degrees relative humidity. We'll shift and adjust these as we learn that we should be maintaining slightly different figures. Each tape and each storage shelf has a bar code sticker attached to it. This method has proven to be the most efficient collection management system. The bar coding is, of course, connected to Star.
Our video preservation activities over the years have been conducted with very limited funds, primarily from the New York State Council on the Arts. Whenever we can, we collaborate with other archives. To give you a few examples of what we've done, about ten years ago we transferred John Sturgeon's early black-and-white, half-inch, open-reel work to one-inch. We did part of this work up at the Experimental Television Center (in Oswego, New York), which I think has already been mentioned. We worked with the Kitchen in transferring Vito Acconci's PAL videotape entitled "Theme Song" on to one-inch NTSC. We found out after exhibiting Vito's tape and then holding on to the exhibition copy, that we had the only copy of this work in existence. We had played the tape for at least a month, for many hours. This exhibition tape became the preservation sub-master.
A few years ago we worked with Electronic Arts Intermix in remastering Tony Oursler's now flaking 3/4-inch color videotapes. So we worked closely with Stephen Vitiello, who will speak on his project. Similar to FIAF members, video art archivists work together and pool financial resources, expertise and efforts.
The Museum has also acquired video installations, which pose distinct preservation problems. In these environmental and sculptural works, disparate media are combined, such as video, the architecture of the room, some sculptural elements, and sometimes a computer controller. For example, our video sculpture, "Nude Descending a Staircase" by Shigeko Kubota, uses video monitors with screens of very particular sizes, because they fit into particular holes cut into the risers of the plywood staircase. Our video installation, "Between Cinema and a Hard Place" by Gary Hill also has specific needs and very specific schematics and requires trained staff members who are knowledgeable about installing the work.
After any installation like this has been exhibited for a long period of time, the specially designated cameras, monitors or projectors have been worn, and these in most cases are obsolete models. Replacement parts become impossible to find. The loan fee the Museum charges when another institution borrows an installation in the collection goes into a special video installation preservation fund. In time when these funds have built up enough, they will be used to purchase the necessary backup equipment and parts.
The Museum of Modern Art is well known for its exemplary film preservation work. You are familiar with our preservation activity with nitrate film, and more recently with our Super 8 film endeavors. Similarly, our video preservation activities are carried out so that work can be seen more widely by present and by future generations. Our main purpose is to have high quality exhibition material. The Museum's underlying mission is educational, to build an appreciation for the art of our time. We've performed this educational role through on-going exhibitions, the accompanying program notes and catalogues, the Museum's monthly and quarterly magazines, as well as our circulating video shows.
In 1984 the Museum opened a Video Study Center where scholars can come by appointment to do research using our more than one thousand catalogues, our numerous periodicals, our artist files, storyboards, and photographs. This unique archive documents the history of video art. We have rare ephemeral material from the early community video groups, early video programs in the alternative exhibition spaces located around the world, as well as artist production labs at public television stations in the United States and European television co-production and exhibition projects.
The Museum feels strongly that exhibition collection and preservation go hand-in-hand. In the future, great value will be placed on artist video of the 1960's, the 1970's and the 1980's, in the same way that scholars look back to the film of the early 20th Century, when there was a proliferation of film formats and extraordinary creative activity. Unfortunately much early film has been lost. Increasingly scholars will look back to the video produced over the last thirty years; they will search and discover a lot of early video has disappeared.
Video is a major art of our time. There are a significant number of international artists who have concentrated on video and installation throughout their distinguished careers. They have developed distinctive themes and stylistic vocabularies. We must all work together to preserve this heritage, the true art of the 20th Century. How can we do this? Because more fires, more earthquakes, more neglect will deprive us of our video art masterpieces.
Here in the Empire State we have received small grants from the New York State Council on the Arts. I hope this can continue. Unfortunately, with video preservation, the corporate world turns the other way. Preservation is not as flashy or as chic, as funding such areas as computer video games. It is difficult to bring attention to the dilemma that we have on our hands. How do we preserve the great works that we have? Can we set up an East Coast BAYVAC? We cannot wait until the best, best, best new video format arrives. We will lost too many vulnerable works in the meantime. So I'm very grateful that we have this hearing, to get this on the record.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much. Next is David Weiss, executive director of Northeast Historic Film.
MR. WEISS: Thank you, Bill. It's a pleasure to be here and have a chance to make a statement today.
I feel a little bit I guess self-appointed to represent the hinterlands, coming down from Maine; but my remarks are more or less focused on the fact that we are a regional, relatively remote type of facility. I'll start by describing our organization and its collections and policies a little bit.
We are a 501(C)3 non-profit corporation established in 1986. Our mission is to preserve and make accessible the moving image heritage of Northern New England. We have recently purchased and are renovating a 1916 theater building as our home. We have seven full-time equivalent employees. The facility includes a temporary climate-controlled vault which is kept at 60° fahrenheit and 45% relative humidity. There is no air filtration. We've designed a permanent storage facility but we probably won't get around to building it for two or three years, if then. We have a reference and research library, public exhibition area, 125-seat theater, and a technical services area for repair of film and transfer of film to videotape, and administrative offices.
Of our collections of four million feet of film and 2,000 hours of videotape, about 50 per cent are television or video materials and the dates range from 1953 to the present. We have collections representing seven of Maine's television stations, which includes mostly 16mm news film, some two-inch, one-inch, 3/4 and Beta.
The TV collections include programming like Maine Public Broadcasting's two-inch masters of a weekly Franco-American public affairs program called L'fley L'mere, all political commercials broadcast from one station from 1988 to the present on a variety of formats, 50 hours of unedited material and some finish documentaries on 3/4-inch videotape related to Samantha Smith, who is a Maine elementary schoolgirl who went to visit Gorbachev and then died in a plane crash, it attracted a fair amount of attention up there; as well as the usual mass of 16mm news film, advertising and local programming.
Our video holdings include work like the Archie Stewart collection which starts with 60 years of 16mm film which he shot from 1926 to 1986, and continued shooting on videotape and providing an enriched record using a VHS camcorder. We have industrial works on beta, including a record of a Maine island telephone system shot for GTE-Visnet. Other videotape holdings include a visual studies student's open reel half-inch tape documenting the 1969 takeover of the administration building at Harvard, and the Little Tree collection which is also open reel half- inch and is a Native American, or an American Indian's documentation of his knowledge of traditional medicine through long walks through the woods.
At our institution, television preservation is defined by safeguarding 16mm news film collections in temperature and humidity controlled storage and creating master copies on beta and reference copies on 3/4-inch and VHS. Two-inch videotape will be transferred to beta as funding and staff time allows, the one-inch is left to its own devices.
We're facing preservation problems with open reel half-inch which after some effort we've given up trying to transfer in-house. We also have several hundred unique 3/4-inch videotapes from the late '70s which when we look at them they're not playing back correctly anymore and we don't have any real way to deal with those. We don't have the finding to systematically go at this; and I know that we have even more stuff from the early '80s which looks more or less okay, but it will be an increasing problem.
Our preservation priorities, and I think his would be true for a lot of small regional places, are split between trying to preserve the most at-risk materials and focusing on the ones most likely to generate revenue through stock footage or home videotape distribution or other ways. It is a constant issue that we struggle with.
Between 40 and 50 per cent of our collection is available to researchers. This means that the material has had some descriptive cataloguing and a reference copy is available. Copies where rights allow are available for reuse and a lot of video cassettes are available free for outside loan to members of Northeast Historic Film. We have minimum records at the collection level and detailed item level cataloguing only for about 20 per cent of the television and video collections. We use LC subject headings and have a local thesaurus. Three of the TV collections we have have detailed production files.
I think one of the main points I really wanted to make was that the specificities of our nation's regional life are an important part of our history. Collecting and rationally curating material from small markets and non-national creators is important if we are to have a sense of ourselves as a multi-faceted society. This work is important. This work cannot realistically be dealt with solely by the Library of Congress or other national facilities. A comprehensive national TV and video preservation program must include a network of organizations who together preserve the nation's television and video production. The coordination of the many stakeholders in this endeavor is the key to success.
In the Northern New England region, Northeast Historic Film is essentially the only archival institution with a defined mission to preserve television and video materials. Our primary area of responsibility is Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont; but we know that Massachusetts, and with the possible exception of Rhode Island, the rest of New England lacks curatorial attention to television and videotape, and I'm excepting from that statement places like WGBH and Harvard MIT, who are generally focused on things t that the have produced or that relate to their own activities.
I recognize that this is not an ideal state of affairs and we admit are lacking the resources to do better. Yet we are in the region and we're making some progress and I think that across the country many areas are worse off.
Our choices in accepting and prioritizing work with television and video collections is critically important. Ninety-eight per cent of our reference collection and most of the pool of potential new acquisitions being created today is on videotape. In addition, the only affordable way to provide access to our film holdings is to create reference videotapes. And television stations are generating a vast amount of videotape material which could provide a rich chronicle of the years since the late '70s.
The development and continued viability of our archives depends on our ability to preserve this material. Success in this area will require one, a more evolved relationship with television stations and other producers, i.e., a clarified relationship between archives and the corporate entities that control television production and dissemination; and two, the ability to transfer television and video to new formats before it falls apart on our shelves.
The Library of Congress can help by using its stature to articulate a clear message that the national interest is being served through the preservation of this material, coordinating the smaller players, and providing guidelines or models of arrangements between archives and copyright holders, television stations and producers. The producers of local television material want continued access to that material, limited costs, control of the images, and a sense of receiving fair value for their efforts.
I think that from my point of view basically the costs of preservation of those materials must be borne by revenues that are going to have to be generated from those collections in one way or another, plus whatever the archives can bring to bear on the issue and whatever the creators decide to contribute. The creators are generally profit driven corporations and they have to see a clear benefit both financially and perhaps a new sense of obligation to provide a long-term social benefit before they'll get very much involved. The archives on the other hand want ownership of the materials, to enable grant writing and fund-raising, the freedom to relicense, allowing us to raise money through reuse, and to serve our mission of allowing access to holdings.
We feel that there is some common ground to be found between these positions and look forward to participating in the planning process. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, David.
And now our next speaker is Mr. Graham Leggat, president of the board of directors from the Media Alliance. Mr. Leggat?
MR. LEGGAT: Thank you. It's a pleasure to sit on this panel with my friends an colleagues and to address such a distinguished panel. I'm grateful for this opportunity.
Unlike a number of the speakers who have just spoken, Media Alliance is not an archive or a collection. Founded in 1979, it is instead an advocacy and service organization that's dedicated to advancing the independent media arts, by which I mean video film and related electronic media. It's positioned between local and national groups, it's a statewide organization, and it serves as an information clearinghouse on video preservation, organizing training opportunities and networking events and providing technical assistance.
In 1993 Media Alliance published a monograph, Video Preservation: Securing the Future of the Past, by Deirdre Boyle, who spoke earlier today, which has been widely distributed.
While today I'll address certain common needs of Media Alliance's diverse constituency, I'd like to note that we're especially concerned with collections that are held by groups that lack staff or resources devoted to preservation; that is smaller organizations and groups. Media Alliance is concerned with the preservation of videos that fall into two general areas--video art works produced by national, regional and New York artists, and community television, produced by community-based organizations and video collectives. Currently collections of these types of video are housed in small or mid-size libraries, smaller museums, media art centers, college media departments, video collectives, community organizations, public access television stations, and non-profit distributors. It's a unique body of work that I'm talking about and it represents a major investment of both public and private funds into an historical and cultural legacy that unfortunately remains largely out of reach of both scholars and the public. Out of reach because in many cases the folks who work in these organizations where these collections are housed are often unfamiliar with movie image preservation, conservation and collection management, and as I mentioned, lack the staff or resources to perform such tasks.
So we have a vast repository of treasures, cultural treasures that unfortunately are not being able to be accessed as they might be. The collections are largely uncataloged and the unavailability and underuse is a great shame. It often includes works by cultural communities that are traditionally under- represented in mainstream media.
New York in particular is home to a tremendous range of video work produced in communities all across the state, from New York City to remote upstate towns. This is due in large part to the work that New York State has done through its state Council on the Arts, and New York was the first state I believe to fund video as an art medium. At the same time, federal, state and private dollars have supported projects promoting the use of video as a tool for community development and dialogue. Video production sprung up within local boards of education, for example, as the first examples of media education programs. And communities and individuals thus were given the means to explore a dynamic and powerful new tool, one that was uniquely appropriate to express the spirit of grassroots community development that was so evident in the late '60s and '70s when video first was born as a medium of expression.
Community-based video production grew out of these democratic traditions and the ideas of free speech and of equal opportunity, of active participation in government and government responsiveness to local needs that are so vital. When artists and community producers picked up the first open reel half-inch video port-a-packs in the late '60s, the relationship of regular ordinary folks to the telecommunications industry changed dramatically. Within a system conceived as a one-way path for communication, there grew a movement for non-commercial alternative media that continues today and the ability for communities to create their own video programming provides an opportunity for all folks, all Americans, regardless of race, creed, religion, class, or political ideology, to speak, share their cultures, and take part in the development of their local communities and national identity.
The media arts field has learned a great deal about video preservation in recent years, not the least of which is that it requires a multi-faceted approach, something that a panel like this one speaks very well to and that I'm sure your speakers today have spoken well to. We've seen success in several priority areas that have been identified through regional and national meetings and it's clear from these meetings that we must continue collaborations that bring together the resources of many institutions to benefit the field as a whole. We must continue to create regional models that link the expertise of local groups with that of nationally recognized centers for film and video documentation and preservation.
I'd like to speak very briefly to two key areas that we believe will be useful to look at in a study. Storage. Of course, immediate steps must be taken to insure proper storage of video materials while other long-term preservation strategies are developed. We have to recognize that it's not always desirable or feasible to simply transfer collections to exiting major repositories. Funding is needed to research the feasibility of creating new storage facilities or upgrading existing facilities on a regional basis. A national survey along with accompanying regional surveys are needed to determine how moving images are currently stored, what the costs are, and whether collaborative strategies are possible or desirable.
As far as cataloging is concerned, there's currently no infrastructure that allows intellectual access to many collections, especially to tapes made in 1985 and earlier. The early years of video. Each institution has attempted in its own way to document and save its own collections. Significant progress, however, is being made on a standard national database through partnerships between the National Moving Image Database, NAMID, a project of the American Film Institute and regional media arts and community television groups.
In the New York region, the immediate goal is to create an inventory level database of key at-risk collections. This initial level of cataloging will both assist groups internally to allow them to prioritize which tapes or collections to work on first, as part of a long-term preservation plan. It will also allow groups to work together to preserve tapes held in common. As part of the NAMID database, the information will eventually be accessible to scholars, educators and programmers, through recognized research networks.
As mentioned, many of these organizations are typically unfamiliar with standard cataloging practices. In addition, computer and human resources are limited and existing hardware and software vary greatly. Also, there are few available training programs to teach cataloging and description of moving image collections, and few models for compatible information systems between institutions with similar collections. This is an unfortunate state of affairs.
While many groups are committed to principles of compatible cataloging, they also need information collected by NAMID for their own purposes, such as in- house catalogues, publications, or reports. And so far, NAMID has worked closely with groups in upstate New York to address these concerns, developing a template for compatible cataloging among five separate sites.
With severe cuts to the NEA however and changes in the guidelines, the future of NAMID and its partnerships with media arts groups is called into question. The NAMID must be stabilized with increased funding for participating funds, in particular for smaller museums, libraries and artist spaces.
Physical preservation. There's a continuing debate over appropriate archival formats and that debate has confused funders--that's an unfortunate side effect--and those involved with preservation and conservation, and in some cases this confusion has perpetuated inaction. We need to balance the need to find a stable format against the immediate need for duplication. If we wait for the industry to develop an archival format, we're effectively abandoning the current collections. We desperately need sites for testing and for open experimentation with archival formats and methods. The work of BAVC, the Bay Area Video Coalition in San Francisco, is an excellent model for an environment in which information is freely shared with the goal of making the best possible transfer at the lowest possible cost. BAVC's model also links research and experimentation to a site for current production, a smart move. It makes sense if we do encourage producers to make an archival copies at the time of their creation.
In terms of collection management, video art and community television collections offer unique challenges to collection management, beyond the physical care of the material alone. Collections may contain work that was donated, produced on-site or acquired for exhibition or broadcast. Significant works exist in organizations that may not have adequate staff or expertise to properly document their acquisitions. In order to provide access to materials, many groups need technical assistance to resolve questions of ownership and copyright. There is a need for commissioned papers on these issues, using case studies and offering recommendations for resolving rights, with sample forms and documentation and guidelines to preventing future problems. Archivists, librarians, producers, rights holders, programmers, are among those who might be consulted in the development of such materials.
Finally, funding. With little funding or expertise, progress on preservation has been slow and patchy. Arts and cultural groups have suffered continual cutbacks in private and public funding over the last five years, since the late '80s. Media arts is also one of the most under-funded disciplines for arts funding. Thus, resources tend to go towards production and public programming and not to preservation.
In addition, video preservation has always been under-funded in relationship to film preservation. For example, while the American Film Institute offered a regrant program for film preservation, there's never been a comparable program for video preservation. A tiny fraction of the resources of NAMID, for example, have gone to groups such as Electronic Arts Intermix, Video Databank, and Anthology Film Archives, with major institutions receiving the bulk of the funds.
In conclusion, it's our feeling, it's the feeling of our organization, that national, regional and local strategies are needed to address preservation issues. Thus, for efforts to be truly successful, funding must be provided at all levels using multiple strategies. Existing organizations and collaborative projects such as NAMID, BAVC, and the New York regional cataloging efforts, must be strengthened.
There are on-going needs for information and technical assistance and for periodic meetings to network and to develop new skills. These efforts are important at both the national and regional level, and in the distribution of funding and other resources, we mustn't force small organizations to compete against major institutions and repositories. There must be a recognition that tapes of significant value exist in many different cultural and geographic communities. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, sir.
Kate Horsfield from the Video Databank in Chicago cannot be here today, so we'll move on to the next speaker, Gloria Walker, who is here representing Deep Dish Television Network and Educational Video Center, and she is the Coordinator of Community Organizer Television.
MS. WALKER: Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Welcome.
MS. WALKER: Thank you. I want to thank you all very much for allowing me to come and do this presentation, and thank everyone who's talked about community media.
I work at Deep Dish and also at Educational Video Center. I train community organizers to produce and use video as an organizing tool. I discovered community media shortly after I graduated from film school at the University of Iowa in 1981. Public access was just getting started then and we were very lucky in Iowa City because Nicholas Johnson happens to live there and as a former member of the FCC he helped us write up our franchise agreement, so we had a real good access center in Iowa City.
I had been a welfare mother my last year in film school and after being a suburban housewife for eleven years, I became acutely aware of how cruel and inaccurate the images of women who--single mothers like myself were, that were being presented in the press and in films and television. With the Reagan campaign in 1980, it seemed clear that politicians like to use these distorted images to feed on people's hatred and ignorance about poor people. So I naturally became a big advocate for public access because I could see from my own experience how these stereotypical and degrading images really hurt people. Public access not only gave me a chance to develop my skills in producing television, it allowed me the freedom to present myself and others like me from a more accurate perspective.
About ten years ago when I had my own production company I often transferred people's home movies to video for them. One film in particular stands out in my mind. It documented a couple's trip out west. The people who shot the film were evidently very shy about being caught on camera, so the footage was almost entirely of what they saw from their car, hours and hours of scenery of mountains, trees, and highways rolling by. A couple times as they panned to the left, they would briefly catch the image of the person driving. They would immediately either stop recording or pan back to the right, acting as if the image of this family member was a mistake. Years later when the children of this couple viewed the video transfer, it was this shot, the mistaken glimpse of the person driving the car, that they would most treasure. Those mountains and highways are still there, but the people who were caught ever so briefly in these pans had died. The children of this couple were delighted to catch these images of their parents when they were young.
I tell you this story because I believe that although community media, very much like the person driving the car, may be considered too much on the periphery, too "fringy" to be truly appreciated today, that a few years down the line it may be exactly what we or our children may find the most precious, the most valuable, as they try to understand the nature of the times we live in.
I work with Deep Dish TV. I am a part-time worker. Deep Dish has a staff of three part-time workers. We're a very low-budget operation but we do a tremendous amount of work. Deep Dish TV is the nation's first grassroots satellite television network. It was started in 1986. It's more than a television network though, it is also a network of activists across the country and internationally who produce video to educate and organize around issues that are being ignored by the mainstream media. Our programs are down-linked by over 300 public access stations in the United States and some PBS stations and they've also been seen internationally.
I lived in Albuquerque for four years and one of the high points of the time I lived there working at the access center was when we did an up-link celebrating the 500 years of resistance when other people were celebrating Columbus. It was very exciting. We were able to--we had a call-in portion and we had a panel of Native Americans and Chicano people talking about environmental justice issues and it was a very powerful experience for us because they were sharing their stories, but we were also getting phone calls from people in Canada, people in Florida, because anyone with a dish, who happens to have a satellite dish could also pick up our programming. So it was a very exciting moment. And to me it kind of exemplifies the power of community media, when people can get access to the technology that normally they don't have access to. But it's kind of a matter of using imagination and technology to be able to use the satellite to link people in a community basis all over the country and potentially all over the world.
Deep Dish has always been conscious of the heavy emphasis of mainstream media on New York and Los Angeles as production centers and has actively worked to have programming produced in and covering other parts of the country and of the world. Deep Dish was started by Paper Tiger TV actually. Paper Tiger is a collective that produces media critiques, very clever, often biting critiques of mainstream media. Their programs are shown here on public access and there's such a demand for them in universities across the country and internationally that they started to look into using a satellite, and that is how they developed the idea of Deep Dish television. They wanted to see what was going on in the rest of the country, see what other people working in their communities were doing with video, and so they started doing outreach. So Deep Dish was kind of borne out of that.
Paper Tiger has an international reputation for producing these videos and we often show Paper Tiger shows on Deep Dish television. We work very closely with Paper Tiger, especially like on the Gulf Crisis series that was produced. This is a series that was very important to all of us because as everyone knows who lived through that "war" there wasn't much coverage on regular television, once the bombs started dropping, of any dissent. It was very hard to see that there was anyone in this country who was opposed to the war. And this project really showed the other points of view, plus it had a lot of very valuable information that went into the history of the region in the Middle East. So this kind of programing is very, very exceptional, it's a pity that more people don't know about it and aren't aware of it, and that's kind of our constant mission, to let people know about Deep Dish TV and to know that they can participate in it. It's a very democratic use of video.
Another group I'd just like to mention is the People's Video Network. It's a group of activists who work with unions, producing programs. They've recently produced a program on Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist who was almost executed last August. There was a national outcry in support of Mumia and a lot of work went into producing videos and distributing videos about Mumia's case, and it's clear that video did play a very important role in helping this execution--he got a stay of execution right before he was supposed to be executed. So, as an example of the way that video can be used actually to save lives.
I'd also like to mention the Alliance for Community Media. It's a national organization of people who work with public, government, and educational access facilities. They hold a hometown video festival every year that selects the best entries of works produced by community producers. So I'm bringing up all these different organizations; I don't just want to talk about Deep Dish, so that you know that there already is an infrastructure here of ways of selecting the best of community media that's being produced.
Oh yes--and all of the organizations I've just mentioned are all non-profit organizations. None of them have very much money and none of us that I know of have the facilities to archive our tapes in the proper manner. I do hope that you will consider some way of allowing us to still archive our tapes with the Library of Congress and to maybe even--I would really like to see us have, as was suggested earlier, a library set up for distributing these alternative kinds of videos and to store them in a safe way because it is really valuable, and I think on down the line in a few years their value will actually increase even more than they are today.
I recently learned that the Library of Congress made several requests for copies of Newsreel films. The New York Newsreel was a collective of activists who produced over 200 films during the '60s and early '70s that documented many of the same kinds of things that Deep Dish TV, the People's Video Network, and Educational Video Center produce today. Organizers working in communities, people demonstrating and working for social change and injustices such as police brutality, and I just want to read a quote from the Catalogue of the New York Newsreel. "For the most part, the established media has always served the interest of the corporate giants. Newspapers, radio, and television are almost exclusively controlled through advertising by the major corporations. They have conspired to maintain a monopoly on public information and manipulate public opinion to suit their interests. Newsreel's goal was to place the power of the film media into the hands of poor and working people to serve their interests and needs. In Newsreel films, it is the people who speak out strongly against economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and U.S. military aggression in Southeast Asia."
There actually, before the New York Newsreel there was a Film and Photo League of the 1930's and I just recently found out about them and I'd like to read a little bit of information from an article. The People's Video Network produces a magazine and this is taken from an article in here about the Film Video league, or the Film Photo League. They produced films and photos during the Depression. "In a period where the press denied the reality of the suffering around them, it was not known as the Great Depression until after it was over, the Film and Photo League documented the desperate conditions and heroic struggles the Depression was known for--evictions, bread lines, strikes, hunger marches, the Bonus March, the Scottsboro Case, the Hoovervilles, the demonstrations and protests, and the everyday lives of the people. Because the press never admitted there was a depression, many people felt atomized and isolated in their suffering, their loss of jobs, evictions, hunger. People blamed themselves or their local community. Like today, the reality of most people's lives were not reflected in the corporate media and the documentaries of the FPL were not suitable fare for the only major media outlet at the time, the Hollywood controlled movie theaters. The newsreels that were shown tended either to be patriotic propaganda or diversionary fluff, flagpole sitters or how many people could fit into a phone booth. In order to show their documentaries FPL members would take their newsreels to union halls, farms, one-room schoolhouses, and churches, frequently in places with no electricity. They would hook the handcrank projector's bulk to a car battery, pin a sheet between two trees and run their films. Leo described the reaction of their audiences to seeing their documentaries--their jaws would drop open. People were amazed to see that they were not alone in their problems. The same thing was happening to people all over the country and the world. The reactions that many of the Film and Photo League working class audiences had in viewing these documentaries depict in their own reality has many parallels to the current day. Today's audiences face many of the same problems, confused, isolated, and lied to. One study carried out during the Gulf War showed that the more TV people watched, the less they knew about what was going on." And again, I just want to say that the Gulf Crisis TV project was a very strong response to the media tendency to ignore the dissent in this country against the war. And it was carried by some PBS stations.
MR. MURPHY: You'll have to bring you statement to a conclusion.
MS. WALKER: Sum up, okay. Well, I would just like you to consider that what entertains us today may not be what we want to know about ourselves and our world tomorrow. Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you. Our next speaker is Stephen Vitiello, the director of distribution from EAI, Electronic Arts Intermix.
MR. VITIELLO: Thank you.
MR. MURPHY: Speak into the microphone, please?
MR. VITIELLO: Thank you very much.
Electronic Arts Intermix was founded 25 years ago to support video as an art form. Howard Wise, who was a director of a gallery of kinetic art recognized video as being that much more exciting, that much more powerful and still fairly unrecognized.
In the 25 years that we've been in existence, we've represented large bodies of work by over 200 artists from all over the world. We now represent a library collection of about 2,000 titles. We hold obsolete formats, we hold archival formats, we distribute primarily on 3/4-inch and VHS that have seen--I'm not sure, I can't even know how many formats sort of come through our places and keep moving out.
The job that I've come in contact with, just dealing with preservation has been through necessity. What distinguishes our collection is a little bit different than some of the other people who have spoken today, is that our collection exists totally for access. We have tapes so that they may be distributed. We do preservation based on request. And my own job as distribution director is really not a technical job, but yesterday I spent four hours out of eight trying to transfer a tape which featured Mr. Erik Barnouw, who is on your table earlier, a documentary on Hiroshima, for a high school teacher who was buying a tape out of her own money and needed it by the end of this week.
We work very closely with the artists that we distribute. Many of the artists are exclusive to our distribution. Several people mentioned Nam June Paik today. About four years ago he said to me, before I die you must find all of my masters from WNET, which everybody had said were thrown away. I contacted the archive at WNET where he had produced over 15 programs. The person I spoke to didn't know who he was. I mentioned Global Groove, which is perhaps the most well-known international experimental video, and everybody just said those tapes are gone. Some of them may be in storage with Anthology Film Archives, which I found some very valuable material, but it was generally out-takes that the station had thrown away.
At the last moment I found a box of 3/4-inch tapes, some of which were 20 year sold and were ready to be thrown away. On the tapes were scribbled just numbers and letters, and through lots and lots of phone calls and sort of figuring and guessing, I came to find out that those were can numbers. I called back the same man at WNET and I said do you have L1, 2, 3, et cetera, and he said oh, yes, that's Global Groove, Nam June Paik, we have the material. And through a friend who was in doing programming at the station I had 23 I think two-inch tapes arrive on my floor, and Nam June came in the office, sat on the floor, and looked like the happiest little kid I had ever seen in my life.
It really is true that cataloging this material is still very, very new. I think also when talking about video, I don't know how to say this quite so articulately, but there should be some equivalent of when we talk about animals and dog years. Because the video that I was trying to transfer yesterday with Erik Barnouw was a sub-master made about 7 or 8 years ago and it was not play, it would clog and heads over and over and over, and I think everybody, every discussion today has brought up still photographic film or 16mm or 35mm film. And a 7-year-old video is sort of like a 70-year-old film in dog years.
I've been overseeing the transfer of some home movies from 1916 through 1925, about seven hours by one family, and they've transferred far more beautifully than tapes that are 5 or 6 or 7 years old. Another thought I've had sitting here all day is that one big missing chair on your very important table is industry, meaning there should be a representative from SONY, there should be someone who's--it's sort of like giving us a boat that would sink in five years and being told to live on there. The industry who produces these formats. I've heard different people recently say between 60 and 100 formats of video since inception. The people creating those formats should really help take responsibility. I mean SONY, I know in Alabama was doing free transfers to VHS or betamax and we sent some tapes there as a test. Six months later I got back the tapes but without any sound. And the idea of transferring to VHS is also just giving you another incredible ephemeral form that won't last more than another few years. So I think it's something very important for these talks, whether you have to kidnap them or drag them in by the hair, to make them see that one of the most important means of communication has been offered from their hands and in certain ways it's been sort of--had its head chopped off at times.
One other thing if I may, I'll mention, is that we have been very lucky to receive some funding from the New York State Council on the Arts and occasionally even private collectors. But it's absolutely never enough. And the only way that we've really managed to take care of the tapes that we have is through collaboration such as Barbara mentioned with the Museum of Modern Art, with other distributors, with artists. I've had collectors who wanted to buy material; I've asked them instead to support the transfer of totally unknown material; had people who were doing programming but couldn't afford our purchase fees, but they also happened to work in technical facilities, had them give us free, in one case D-1 transfers in exchange for a fair number of free rentals. I think the more we communicate within our own field and with all the people who called very week, we get calls from all over the country just asking for advice, that there's always ways to take care of the material without much money, although there's always some that's needed.
Thanks very much for the opportunity.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you.
I see Robert Haller has arrived and we'll ask him to come to the witness table and make a statement on behalf of Anthology Film Archives.
MR. HALLER: I hope my voice survives, I've got the flu.
My name is Robert Haller, I'm the director of Anthology Film Archives. I've got a two-page written statement which I'll go through quickly.
Anthology Film Archives began restoring videotapes in 1983. As time and resources have permitted, we have continued with this work. In 1983, the condition of early video, the first decade of 1965 to 1975, was already a catastrophe with much early and important work decayed or lost. Since then videotape materials have been improved by the manufacturers, but they are still not sufficiently stable to be used as a preservation material.
Our institutional focus, that is Anthology's institutional focus, is personal, independent, and experimental video. It is both a form of expression and a distinctive record of the last third of this century. Independent video is the polar opposite of broadcast commercial television. Individually produced made with the expectation of narrow casting rather than broadcasting across continents, independent video aims at viewers who embrace challenges and questions rather than entertainment and answers.
Decades from now the videotapes made by independent and experimental artists will be at least as important if not moreso as the product made by the networks and seen by millions. Though the audience for independence is small, they speak with an uncompromised authenticity less frequently found in the mass media.
In this context, the fragility of independent video made on half-inch tape on equipment with a shorter shelf life and electronics often more idiosyncratic than those used by the networks is a grim spectacle that resembles a sandy beach awaiting its annual visit by a Caribbean hurricane. The grains of iron oxide, like the grains of sand, will be swept away unless they are trucked to safety; in our case, to a video archive where temperature and humidity will slow the deterioration that will come in the most gentle of climates. Then if the necessary playback equipment has also been preserved and if people care and funds exist to re-record the independent signal onto what is then, and I stress then the state-of-the-art video format, a tape's life will be extended for another decade or so.
Because the technology is still evolving, we, those of us who are working with video preservation, are denied the benefits that came to film early in the century when standard gauges, 35mm and later 16mm, at fixed rates of frames per second, allowed films made anywhere to be shown nearly everywhere for almost any time, now 100 years.
What in summary am I saying? That tape is so unstable that it's care demands extraordinary measures, that personal experimental video needs even more than that produced by commercial sponsors, that financial support for this restoration is tiny and likely to stay that way, and that because the technology is evolving with the velocity which exceeds 24 frames per second but will not and probably should not be standardized yet, our task is impossible. But of course we keep trying because we have no choice. As Winston Churchill said, "Never give up, never, never, never."
MR. MURPHY: Thank you. Well, let us begin with some questions.
Certainly the variety of materials that you've described in the last few minutes is quite incredible. There is a world beyond networks and we're glad to hear of that. I have a question to begin.
Those of you who do work with video artists, what are the typical terms that a video artist might require from an archive or a museum for deposit? Barbara?
MS. LONDON: Well, since the video collection began, I've been more interested in purchasing than in receiving gifts, because artists have spent a lot of money to produce a work. So we have a contract, and as I said, this entitles us to three copies. So what the artist expects is the work has a home, we have a preservation sub-master. We take it on as a work of art and we will do our darndest to have that exist forever. We have the rights only to show it in the museum unless we have negotiated special rights to put it into the circulating film video library, or to put it into a traveling show.
And I always say to artists, I'm also a word junkie, give me every shred of paper you have about the work. So that's what goes into the study center. So for me, that's very important then, when the cataloging time comes that there's information on the past exhibition, where the original is, all kinds of production notes.
MR. HALLER: At Anthology our position is a bit different. Most of our material comes from people who are dead, so even though I would like to get the written material that Barbara's talking about, it's usually not available.
Well, for instance, we are working on a large Ed Emschwiller project right now, the Channel 13 collection that was referred to a few minutes ago is in storage at Fort Lee, New Jersey. And we discovered that much of the material is in formats that we are still trying to decipher. It's difficult.
MR. MURPHY: Jim?
MR. LINDNER: It's a little daunting, at least for me as a panelist, in that the scope of the panelists and the different places you come from is very diverse; but it seems to me that one thing you have in common is, or at least two things--one is that matures aren't holding up and the other is that you have a real need to provide access. And it seems to me that there's some way where there's some kind of fit, and I don't have an answer here; I'm sort of asking for a question in that I'd like to find out what kind of programs you have in place to have access fund or help fund preservation, and whether that's realistically viable from a financial standpoint, for whether the fees that you could charge for access are so small that you could never begin to do any meaningful work, because it seems that you all share this common, that you all need to preserve things and you all need to provide access.
MR. VITIELLO: We offer about five different levels of purchase which goes from $45 to an individual or $200 for VHS copy to a university, to up to $2,000 for some of the larger museums who collect on one-inch or D-2. And often that money, the larger archival purchases are used directly--I mean we've sold tapes that weren't preserved so that we could use that money coming in to provide a much healthier copy.
MR. LINDNER: But do you actually generate a profit through access? In other words--or maybe not a profit but less of a deficit, if you will? Is using access funds a viable way to sort of bring your organizations out of this--
MR. VITIELLO: For us, that's how we survive, is by distributing, which is for us--which is then access. We get what was once--I guess 50 per cent was from public funding and now I guess it's down to about 30 per cent of how we survive as public funding. And the rest is through renting and selling the tapes.
MR. LINDNER: So is it fair to assume then that if you had more access then you'd get more money?
MR. VITIELLO: Yes.
MR. LINDNER: So since it would seem to be that if all of your organizations all have valuable materials that people want to see, that at least part of the problem is getting the word out if you will, of letting people know, potential viewers who are out there in the world, that these materials are available, they can be seen, and that the revenue that will be generated by that accession would help sort of float the ship, as it were--is that a fair--
MR. VITIELLO: Um-hem.
MS. LONDON: But the people who want to see that work are other museum curators, writers, artists, who if we charge more than $5, I don't think they could pay it. And I think I'd rather look at other avenues of getting revenue together, like I'm always trying to be very clever, so with an exhibition, say when we did a documentary show curated by Deirdre Boyle, we raised enough money to then go and preserve some of the really early works. When one of my colleagues in painting and sculpture will say oh, I'm doing this show on German art from the '80s, why don't you do a video program at the same time, I'll say okay, if you buy the videotapes. And then I get new work into the collection that I wanted. So I'm always--I think we're all trying to sort of take from here and put it here and pull it.
MR. LINDNER: But except that there are organizations which are profit-making organizations which are stock footage houses which do exactly--
MS. LONDON: But I don't have the rights to turn over say Nam June Paik's Global Groove in my collection to a stock footage house.
MR. LEGGAT: Also, it's appropriate for distributors to use access as a revenue-producing agent, but it's not necessarily appropriate for a museum or a library or something like that. In addition, stock footage houses, the footage belongs in a different economy from that which video art and community media belongs. Typically stock footage houses make money because their footage can be used in commercial projects and it's not always the case say that hours of public access programming or video arts or community media, those are not images that people want in their commercial projects typically. So we're talking often about two different medias. Nonetheless, there are, as you point out, there are some organizations for whom access can be used as a revenue- producing mechanism, but it doesn't speak to everyone, it doesn't speak to the whole picture.
MS. LONDON: And also there is the issue of copyright. When it comes to stock footage, I mean that's--
MR. LINDNER: I was using--I don't want to-- when I was referring to stock footage, what I was referring to is that for different markets, different fees are appropriate for different applications, and so not everyone charges $5 for access. Clearly if someone's going to put something in a feature film, if you have a copyright, it's going to be a lot more than $5.
MS. LONDON: Right, but--
MR. LINDNER: And so I guess what I'm trying to get at is there a way for the Library of Congress to help in this issue of access in terms of allowing the visibility if you will of your collections to be larger than--as a whole you represent a huge amount of incredibly important material. But as individuals you're each under-funded, you're small and in some cases very regional, very local, and I'm just sort of throwing out the idea that by heightening the overall visibility of the works that are contained within your collections, that that would indeed increase access and that would indeed increase funding to allow you to survive better. It's just an idea that I just had and I don't know whether it's viable or not.
MR. MURPHY: David?
MR. FRANCIS: Well, as you can see, we haven't got anyone on the panel from the industry and the Library of Congress is just another advocacy organization as far as this is concerned. We just hope our advocacy may be in a different plane.
I'd like to find a recommendation that we might actually achieve, which helps the area we've been talking about. I've been trying to all the time think of something and it's very, very difficult. There does seem to be one advantage in the formats you're working with. The equipment is pretty portable, the older and the newer equipment. The only thing that I could really think of, and I'd have to let your advocacy groups come up with this, was a proposal under which there might be a small pool of equipment which could be borrowed by organizations. Perhaps some of the older equipment could be available as well. It could be passed from one organization to another to enable them to cope with certain transfer difficulties.
I'm really trying to think of something that we could put as a recommendation that we as advocates might be able to persuade someone else to fund. One hates to have in a final report recommendations that are not achievable. So I was really just trying to say, if any of the advocacy groups here felt they could put together a proposal that was achievable, that we, ourselves might be able to find someone to support, I would really like that.
MS. LONDON; Some of us have talked, I know I've talked with Mona, and I know preservation is of course very important, say the Center upstate, Experimental TV Center, they have all kinds of old formats, there's an incredible artist-become-engineer who's amazing. It would be great to see that center or another one like Electronic Arts Intermix, if they were interested, or someone else, where we do all work together like the Bay Area Coalition in San Francisco. I think they've provided an excellent model and I think it's like their model, the equipment is all there, they've got the technician now who knows how to work it, he's pooling together experience, he's worked with the regional artists. So I think thinking of sort of this as a region--
MR. FRANCIS: It seems at the moment that the advocacy groups are really concentrated in the New York and the L.A./San Francisco areas. Is it possible to use the models that already exist in other areas? Is there any way of bringing people together in other areas to achieve similar groupings so that there can be four or five centers in the country? I'm just trying to think of something that one can propose that is achievable in some way. It's very difficult. I'm clutching at straws, I know.
MS. WALKER: I think we all have ideas, it's just a matter of funding. I think archival facilities regionally based would be wonderful, a place where we could store our tapes at the right temperature and humidity and have equipment there. It would be wonderful to be able to have that kind of facility, but I don't know.
MR. FRANCIS: What I'm trying to say is can you come forward with some sort of proposal that is not so big that it has no chance of success. I would like to feel that we had some recommendations that we might have some chance of achieving. I'm looking to you to come forward with something that would help--not the total answer, but a start.
MR. LEGGAT: When is your deadline? When do you need it by?
MR. MURPHY: This year.
MR. FRANCIS: We have to complete the--
MR. MURPHY: Under negotiation.
MR. FRANCIS: --and the report by the end of this year, so there's a bit of time.
MR. MURPHY: As a group, your organizations probably have had more experience with half-inch EIAJ tape than the larger archives and certainly more experience than the networks themselves, because EIAJ never had an impact in the networks. Is this a crisis format or can you still get equipment, is the equipment workable? Can someone speak from their experience in copying half-inch tapes?
MR. VITIELLO: The answers are yes to everything. It is a crisis format, but it is still possible to have the tapes cleaned and transferred. There's several places that we worked with. I think for the general public the information is very limited. I've spoken to so many people who have baked their tapes, so many people have hand-cleaned them with Palmolive on film reels and--serious--artists or people who have been in the field for 30 years and still kind of resort to guerilla methods either because of money or just not trusting sending their tapes off to California.
At our office we have four half-inch reel-to- reel players. The heads on all of them are gone and I haven't found anybody who can help us replace those. So for the moment I've stolen one from the Whitney Museum and transferred a bunch of tapes. But just one other thing about half-inch that I've found is that it's not always the case that once I've tracked down the original material and transferred it, it's not always in better condition than a 3/4-inch copy that was made 7 or 8 years later. So it's important to get as many copies as possible to work with and to compare and contrast, but it's not always the oldest or most original that I believe to be the most useful material.
MR. MURPHY: Thanks very much.
We'll now have the next panel come forward.
Let me say that your being last has nothing to do with the importance of you presentations. I only arranged it because I know you people live relatively close by and you can get home without too much trouble.
But we're very happy to see you here today and look forward to your statements, and let us begin with Sara Meyerson, a consultant in the area of video archives.
MS. MEYERSON: Thank you.
Good afternoon. I feel really privileged to be able to speak here today. Is this working?
MR. MURPHY: Yes.
MS. MEYERSON: And it is really with great pride in our profession that I view the enormous efforts that everyone has made here and elsewhere to further this investigation into the state of television and video preservation and restoration.
I spent 20 years as the archivist and manager of the ABC News Film Tape Libraries and when I started there was just so much to do, there were so few of us in this field of moving image collecting and preserving, and there was little background material available to help with my talk. But I found Sam Suratt at CBS and thus followed endless phone calls and weekly lunches discussing mostly my problems which he helped me with enormously. I think he may have gotten tired of it, but he seemed to have a lot of patience.
However, we managed to create standards for our TV archives and set up the foundations for the cataloging and preservation of these materials. It was a lonely task, but somewhere in the mid-1970's a group started to meet in Washinton and that was the beginning of our professional organization, the Association for Moving Image Archivists, and after that I didn't feel so alone.
Television is one of the most potent informational, cultural and historical media of our time, but the preservation and restoration of its important historical heritage has not nearly kept up with the enormous amounts of materials that have been produced, and we've been talking about that, and there are many obstacles in the way. But these public hearings, papers and reports will provide us with many of the reasons and the obstacles. I've watched the archival community make many in-roads, but the large part of the journey is ahead of us.
I want to talk about or reflect on today, two areas that we have talked about today, but perhaps my solutions or moves to solutions will be appreciated. The first of course is access and its ramifications. The second is communications between archives. In a sense, one is dependent on the other, but each is also separate. So I thought I'll start to talk about access first, and this is just one of the small areas of access.
Without access, preservation doesn't mean anything. And so we have to try to improve some of our tools of access, the cataloging and descriptive tools, the computer applications, the Internet, the on-line services, CD Roms and the other new things that are yet to come. The cataloging of material differs in public institutions, stock footage houses, broadcasting, and industry archives. We have been trying to work on a standard and have established rules but they didn't always apply to everyone. Much material is cataloged too extensively, creating long records, taking too much time, and thus material is not available in a timely fashion. I'm happy to see that a cataloging standards group has been formed by the Program for Cooperative Cataloging and they want to devise a core bibliographic record standard for audio/visual materials. And its other purpose is to create a level of completeness somewhere between minimal and full level logging, which I am glad to hear about. It's a beginning to simplify some of the cataloging. It's extremely necessary, especially for small archives that do not have the staff or the time and do not need lengthy records.
During my years at ABC we developed our own standard which was a combination of stock footage terms, which is very exacting for moving images, and general descriptions. This gave us concise visual descriptions and enough narrative to round out the record; but they weren't extremely lengthy and they were very easy to accomplish. The use of this practice I think is especially good for smaller archives who are grappling with local news footage or other things, and they can do it more quickly, and it is pertinent to have this record of regional America, especially in our smaller archives throughout the country, to have it available as quickly as possible.
The next access tool that has become the available of archival holdings on the Internet, CD Roms and other direct services, and we can say great, now everyone who looks can find out what the holdings are and can find what they're looking for. However, this has created more problems, most importantly copyright issues. And although I don't want to go into a lot about copyright issues because that's for some place else or someone else, the copyright issues are going to become more and more problematic, coupled with the vagueness of the copyright law. This had made these questions more and more difficult. We need to protect the holder of the copyright but we also need to protect the institution holding the materials. And now we have a problem--yes, we have access. But can we use these materials?
We've had countless seminars, panel discussions, round-table discussions, written papers, and I've come away a little wiser but not that much. i think that we need to establish a task force that would create specific guidelines to identify the real problems facing both users, holders and holding institutions and to create a forum for discussion locally and nationally. If we don't do this soon, the problems will become uncontrollable, and copyright infringement on the Internet for example is one of the most critical issues which is facing our work, and both industry and archives are really concerned with it.
Another issue facing access is non-access. Unfortunately, many of the broadcasting, advertising and other industry archives have limited or non-access to their materials. And though I understand the basis for these restrictions because I've worked with them for many years, I do think these private archives need to find ways to provide more public access and/or start to seriously contribute the materials to public institutions, so that educators, scholars, students, producers and others will be able to use these resources.
How do we encourage them to deposit into public institutions? I could suggest two possibilities. One, maybe we could create industry incentives. What those industry incentives are would be a whole discussion and I'm not sure I can address that right now. The other I think is if we provided clear and concise copyright guidelines, industry might be more willing to contribute material to public institutions because they would be less fearful.
It's imperative and necessary for industry to place important materials into public institutions and this leads us into my next concern and that is the lack of communications between archives. It is true the archival community has made gigantic progress when in 1984 the National Center for Film and Video Preservation was instituted under the AFI to facilitate these discussions and service the archival field. They have been influential in keeping the field engaged in discussions for the past 12 years and have widened the community by bringing together more diverse groups. They have gone out there to create dialogues between archives. We need more of this. We do have Operational Group Armia which holds a yearly conference and tries to keep in touch with its constituents. But this is not enough. We need more forums for education and we need large public and private archives to take the lead.
Next I would like to see the establishment of local networks that meet regularly to share information, to help each other to provide ways of outreach, to create programs, and to foster public awareness of the importance of preservation. Some ways to increase this awareness could be archives doing programs together locally, perhaps storing materials together to save money, to pool restoration sources, and we talked about this before, that we really try to get together to accomplish this. Even in a city as large as New York we don't have a local TV and video group which meets regularly to discuss our problems and to try to pool some resources.
I would also like to see industry forming a group, perhaps a TV foundation, to raise funds for preservation just as The Film Foundation. There are many people, wealthy people in this industry, I mean big producers of materials, that might be interested to form such a foundation. How we approach them and how we can get them to do this, that's something that we would have to discuss further.
We need some material, we need some national guidelines to help and encourage to do this. The task ahead is great, but if we can start to create easier access and more cooperations between archives, we can begin to gain the awareness that we need to help our mission to save television history.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Sara.
Sam Suratt, formerly with CBS News and formerly before that with the Smithsonian in Washington. Very happy to see you here today. Sam?
MR. SURATT: Thank you. And thank you for inviting me to speak before this august body on a subject that I have very dear to my heart and have had for some years. And thanks to Sara for her kind remarks. I was fond of saying that in the early days of television archiving you couldn't get four together for bridge. Until Sara came along, I couldn't play gin rummy.
I will restrict my remarks to television not because I don't like video art, but because my experience has been in television.
Over the past ten years the business of television has gone through some dynamic an sometimes contradictory changes. It has shrunken, divided, multiplied, conglomerated, expanded, downsized, created huge multi-media companies, destroyed at least one huge multimedia corporation, become international, and opened up local production companies. The television industry has become splintered into many narrow casting outlets, each having a small part of the market. However, the market for television collections, whether we all them archives, libraries or inventories, has increased many times.
This should be good news for the collections of television programs and the scholar's wish to study the cultural phenomenal wrought by this popular art form. But most of us who have worked in the field of television archives for many years are uneasy with this boom and the reuse of old programs for the new narrow casting channels such as The History Channel, Lifetime, Arts and Entertainment, USA, The Family Channel, TBS, and now even The Food Channel and The Weather Channel, and on and on.
The problem I suspect with all this attention to the older television programs is that it is ephemeral and will dry up and blow away when interest and styles change and another generation's taste dominates the television spectrum. Because there is no overall inventory of what television programs exist, who owns the rights to them and what is the physical condition of the media they are on, there is no assurance at any organization or many organizations can pick up the job of long term preservation. The song may have ended for Name That Tune, but the problems of preserving the few remaining programs will linger on and on and on.
I am sure that you've been told many times the problems and a huge cost of preserving television programs by copying them to the newest medium. The medium du jour changes every five to ten years and the number of programs produced increases as well, making an incredible snowballing of the cost to preserve even sample programs, much less most of the programs produced. It appears to be a no-win situation. It is quite obvious by now that the Library of Congress cannot preserve all that is worthwhile or even not worthwhile of television programs. The Library has done a magnificent job preserving cinema and recorded sound, and would, if given Department of Defense size appropriations, do a wonderful job preserving television. But as generation X would say, let's get real. There is a feeling in the wind against larger and larger federal spending for even the most laudable of projects. So I think the Library of Congress should spend its energies, both intellectual and monetary, toward leading the movement to preserve television programs rather than trying to do it by itself, and to take advantage of the current boom in recycling old programs for cable distribution.
One flaw in the otherwise beautifully conceived United States copyright law is the deposit requirement which places the responsibility for long- term preservation in the hands of the Library of Congress. What was fine for books, maps, and sheet music 200 years ago doesn't work all that well with the tidal wave of films, recordings and now television programs. Certainly such works should be registered for copyright protection; but I think the burden of the costs of long-term preservation should be borne by those who stand to profit from the work.
I would like to propose a three-tiered solution for the preservation of television programs. First, the Library of Congress should obtain an appropriation, not huge, to conduct an exhaustive survey of all television programs in the hands of archives, networks, studios, and private collectors, in order to determine the exact size and nature of the preservation project. This survey should record the type, title, series, original broadcast date and subject matter, along with the condition of the original recording and current copy. This information can be made proprietary for certain producers who wish it to be, but most of it should be shared so that duplication of programs in different collections can be determined.
Second, and I know how difficult this will be. The Library should obtain a revision of the copyright law to hold the current holder of rights to a television program, not necessarily the original copyright holder, responsible for its preservation, in the most up-to-date format until such time they wish to relinquish their rights to the program. It would be in the rights holder's best interest to preserve their programs while they can make a profit, and would be only fitting that some of these profits go to the long- term preservation of their programs and return for copyright protection.
At that point the third phase of my proposal would start. If an owner of rights to a television program decides that there is no more revenue to be made from it and wishes to relinquish those rights, then they may be transferred to any one of dozens of non-profit archives for permanent retention. The release of ownership rights would also carry with it an appropriate donation of funds from the rights owners to the receiving archive to support the preservation of the program. In other words, part of the profits received from the ownership of the rights to a program would serve to assure its long-term preservation.
The Library of Congress would be the overseer of this system. Nothing would prevent museums by contract and the Library of Congress by copyright deposit from accepting copies of television programs to maintain adequate study collections. Indeed I hope that these institutions will collect by deposit those programs which will not have a profitable future, if only by saving a few samples. Programs fitting this category would probably be the soap operas and talk shows.
My remarks today have not touched on the important areas of news and documentary materials, both programs and out-takes, and local television production. This is not because these areas don't share any of the same problems as nationally distributed television entertainment programs. In particular, national and local news and documentary production suffers from their sheer size and the reduced possibility of profiting from the retention of these materials. The large networks, both cable and broadcast, have reached an economic equilibrium with their news archives, making them pay for themselves by reusing this material and their own productions and licensing yet to other production companies. This equilibrium might be upset as the cost of preserving ever-increasing collections becomes unbearable. But for now it does not suffer.
Local television production, however, is another matter. It is the most endangered species of all the forms of television material. The economic situation in most local television markets will not support sophisticated archival handling and preservation. But, if these programs and the related out-takes are not preserved somehow, much of the nation's history of the past 50 years will be irretrievably lost. I have only to mention the series Eyes on the Prize with its heavy reliance on local television stations' film collections to make this point.
There is no easy answer to the problems of local television archives, but the local and regional repositories of television station's material would be helped by an educational campaign to dissuade local station owners that the new age of multimedia and worldwide web will make them millionaires. The production value of local television material is marginal so that the station owners should donate the rights to their material to local archives for them to eek out what little potential for money there is in order to defray costs of preservation.
Station owners should be more public spirited and give grants of money for the local archive for preserving the history of their community. But far too often the local station is controlled by a distant corporation which is concerned more with the stockholder equity than community memory.
I wish I had an easy answer to this last dilemma, but the only one that comes to mind is massive grants of money to local and regional archives to support their efforts towards long-term preservation of local television, and I am not saying about that happening. One way of easing some of the pressure on local archives would be the public subsidization of regional preservation laboratories where local television could be transferred to the newest media at low cost.
Thank you for listening to my thoughts and for addressing this very important issue in the cultural history of our nation.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you.
MR. FRANCIS: Well Sam, thank you very much. I'm glad the last contribution included some recommendations even though I fear that--
MR. SURATT: I understand.
MR. FRANCIS: --as the organization required to implement them--you've given us a pretty difficult task.
I've always been surprised that the International Federation of Television Archives did not attract more members in North America, particularly the United States, because although you can't do a lot with an international organization, I think they do help people understand why we are preserving television programs and why this is an important issue. The other thing it does very well is provide a training. The idea of having the Congress one year and a training session the other is extremely good. But I've never understood why it didn't seem to attract as many members here as one would expect, given the amount of television in the States?
MR. SURATT: Well, it has to do with the nature of commercial television in the United States. Number one, most of the European archives not only have news, but they have all of their entertainment programs; whereas the United States, most of the archives of entertainment are in the Hollywood studios vaults, that is, anything produced after 1968 or thereabouts. So there was less interest in the three networks at that point, now there are more networks, in belonging to the international organization, and the studios I think were essentially excluded by the terms of membership in FIAT.
But this doesn't mean there wasn't any interest in the United States for the concept of preserving. There however was very little interest in the concept of training. Which I can't explain.
MR. FRANCIS: And you don't think that perhaps an attempt to encourage more organizations to join FIAT would actually help, to get an understanding particularly within the major companies of the importance of television preservation, and show what was being done elsewhere in the world?
MR. SURATT: I would hope that perhaps AMIA can move into that area that has left a gap internationally and I certainly have made approaches to FIAT to amend their by-laws to make either group memberships to FIAT available or some lower level, because it's a very expensive organization to belong to.
MS. MEYERSON: I think they have recently tried to make it easier for more organizations to join, or they're in the process of revising the by-laws to get a larger group, especially in this country.
MR. MURPHY: Mona?
MS. JIMENEZ: As people that have been involved in FIAT and AMIA, and someone who's kind of new to those forums, I know that as a media arts person that I feel that our field comes to these issues with expertise about how the works, at least our particular works were produced, and what kind of cultural and historical context, that we know how to use video cameras and what the steps of production are and what some of the language is, just commonly used language in production that can be helpful in for instance describing the works and cataloging.
I think that I do find though that there are a number of different sort of separate groups that are involved. The symposium that's coming up at the Bay Area Video Coalition is more to do with conservators and scientists and engineers and it seems like AMIA is more to do with archivists, and I'm just wondering if there's a sense that we can bring sort of everyone to gather to work out some of the problems, particularly the cataloging--the physical and intellectual access questions I guess. If it's possible or desirable to do that or if we do have to kind of work in a lot of different forums.
MS. MEYERSON: Well, I think and that's what I said, we do have these larger organizations and we need those. But I think that if we had-- either of the larger organizations can branch off and have local chapters which I know the Special Libraries Association is very active local chapters, and that's a possibility. Then you would belong to the local, you would go to the annual meeting and you would do the same things you're doing, but the local chapters would address the people locally in your area and all of their problems, and you would have meetings. I think that's really important, because as I felt lonely 20 years ago, I think there are many archives that are lonely now. They don't even know about AMIA. I mean I've spoken to people, archivists and small groups, who don't--I send them literature--they don't know. So I think we have to try to find a way to get the news out and to have more local meetings.
MR. LINDNER: Both of you have very long careers working for major networks and I'm kind of curious, because it seems to me that one of the situations, one of the reasons we're in the situation we're in now was because 20 years ago people weren't taught how to take care of the medium in the first place. And I don't frankly see much of a change right now. I don't see that there's a major change in terms of trying to educate people.
But I'm wondering whether the networks have training in terms of teaching people who work there now on how to deal with media properly so that it does last longer, and if they do, whether this can be applied to the industry at whole, particularly film students and people who are just coming into the industry?
MR. SURATT: I don't think there's--at least I'm not aware of any formal training within the networks. There is, however, if you're working within your individual network, there is a very close reliance upon producers, editors and archivists. If you can't find what the need or if you don't return it properly or if it is not properly handled, then the next person down the line--and it's often a very strong, shall we say rapping of knuckles if something happened.
I think one thing, at least at CBS news, it was very good, was that many of the tape editors of today started out as film and tape librarians, so they knew what the problems were and from the ground up. They're also a very vocal group and they'll let the editors know if they're treating something badly.
But no, there's no formal training that I can say. Maybe there was at ABC.
MS. MEYERSON: No. I had always thought we should have a training videotape to train the people who worked in the library area on how to handle tape and give them basic information. But we never did it.
MR. SURATT: There is one videotape available through FIAT--
MS. MEYERSON: Yes.
MR. SURATT: --which was produced--well, in conjunction with Austrian television and BBC. I could get you the information on that, I'll send it to Bill, if you don't have it or--
MS. MEYERSON: It was after seeing that that I wanted to produce one. I thought it was excellent.
MR. SURATT: It was very well done. I mean it could be updated, it's a couple, three years old now, but.
MR. LINDNER: Is this sold or readily available, or just for FIAT members?
MR. SURATT: I think it comes at cost from FIAT.
MS. MEYERSON: And there is an English version.
MR. SURATT: Yes, there's an English version, a French version, probably a Spanish version. I don't know, I'll find that out.
MR. FRANCIS: One thing, is the FIAT Preservation Manual still available? What was it called, do you remember?
MR. SURATT: The Panorama?
MR. FRANCIS: Yes.
MR. SURATT: You know, I don't know. Because they were reconsidering reissuing it. See, it was the BBC that published the English version and ENA published the French version, and ERTV in Spain published the Spanish version. So it's hard getting all that together again.
MR. MURPHY: Let me ask one question. Sam, based on your experience and activity in FIAT, can you make some generalizations about the difference between the treatment and support of television archives in Europe as compared to the United States?
MR. SURATT: They're two main differences. One good and one bad. One, they have a lot of money because they're mostly government supported. Or they're tax supported, in the case of the BBC they have a tax on television. The bad part was that they actually started later with the newer forms and started later recognizing the problems inherent in video as opposed to film, and even in many cases they didn't begin to preserve television film, not cinema film, until quite late. So some of the new archives, that is the ones who realized late but then spent a lot of money on it are really wonderful places.
For instance, the Austrian Broadcasting Archive is beautifully done, their computer system is wonderful, the storage is great; but they didn't really start until about ten years ago. Those who started early are a little outdated and antiquated.
But the main difference is that there's a lot more money put into the archiving business. Now this may change as more things are made available for cable, I don't know.
MR. MURPHY: I think that brings our discussion to a conclusion. I want to thank you all for your statements. We've heard some very good statements today; and thanks to those in the audience who came to witness the proceedings. Thanks again.
(Whereupon, the proceeding was adjourned.)