News has emerged that several long-lost BBC and independent television productions from the 50s and 60s have been uncovered in the Library of Congress. British TV companies used to broadcast-once and throw away programmes, especially drama, even though said dramas might feature famous actors and even (in one case) Bob Dylan in his first TV appearance.
We discuss this kind of thing more in sessions about copyright and why you can’t trust institutions to look after things properly.
Given that the BBC productions at least were paid for by Licence Fee payers, you’d think the question of ownership of rights wouldn’t come up, but it has – and the British Film Institute has had to negotiate access to these tapes in order to showcase them at a forthcoming season.
A hint of what is to come appears in the joint BFI and National Film Theatre guide for November, which refers to the forthcoming “Missing Believed Wiped” event and mentions the discovery of hundreds of hours of British TV drama. The tapes are understood to have been sent out to WNET for broadcast and later stored in the TV station’s collection inside the Library of Congress, where they were recently catalogued with British assistance.
They were originally broadcast by the BBC and the independent television companies Granada and Associated-Rediffusion between 1957 and 1970. News of their rediscovery was inadvertently leaked to the public in an events bulletin put out at the weekend. The programmes include works by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen, as well as new work written for weekly shows such as The Wednesday Play and Thursday Theatre.