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Typical contents of newsfilm received by the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center, Miami, Florida, from the WTVJ collection. Each film can would contain 30 to 60 stories on individual rolls, requiring up to four hours ofpreservation work per film can. Photographs courtesy of GLouis Wolfson II Media History Center. FUm & History, Vol. XXI, Nos. 2 & 3, May/September 199189 A Succinct History of American Television Archives Fay C. Schreibman As historians, archivists and social scientists, we look at television programming as historical documents and cultural indicators of our time. But in another reality, they are corporate property which the owners deem company assets. The creation of these programs involves contracts, licenses and other agreements with individuals, directors, producers, writers, talent and owners of other works, such as music and archival footage. These agreements are negotiated under guidelines of powerful guilds and unions, and protected by "errors and omissions" insurance policies and copyright protections. Contracts developed before the days of home video and cable television are problematic because they do not address alternative applications for use of the programs such as donating them to a museum, university or historical society for scholarly purposes. The networks and other production companies are maintaining programs from production companies which no longer exist or where there is dispute of ownership. They just sit on this material, not risking any liability. Some companies in this situation donate the programs to the Library of Congress since it is responsible for copyright protection. It is the media archivist who negotiates with copyright and proprietary owners in the attempts to provide access by balancing corporate interests with the needs of the scholar. One major compromise in these acquisitions is that the work is for in-house use only; unfortunately, a researcher must travel around the country to review our moving image history. Simply put, the major production collections outside of Washington are those of major television production companies; news and public affairs located in the New York metropolitan area, and entertainment in the Los Angeles area. Significant collections available to scholars are located around the country in various non-profit institutions.1 Why is apparently fifty percent of our television history destroyed? One may ask why there is not a centralized location for such documents. How did we get into this situation? We begin our over-simplified story with the advent of broadcast television after World War II. Television was live. Soon after, kinescopes and film were utilized to bicycle programming around the country. This was before the days of AT&T lines and satellite transmission. Because the industry was so ephemeral, entertainment production Fay C. Schreibman is a Television Archivist who founded the TV News Study Center at George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and the National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting at the Jewish Museum in New York City. 90 Fay C. Schreibman companies did not even think of anyone's responsibilities being archival; for the most part, they threw the programs out after a limited run. However, visionaries from The University of Wisconsin and George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, began in the 1950s to collect feature films, and later television programs. By 1965, UCLA started to collect television programs and feature films from the major film and television studios. This was the beginning of the second largest collection outside the Library of Congress, the UCLA Film and Television Archives which, in addition to film and television also holds radio and newsreels. In 1940, The University of Georgia in Athens began to maintain copies of the nominated Peabody programs. Now, housing those awards does not mean they were preserved. Throughout the years, students rummaged through the closets where the collection was kept and edited out clips of film and taped over the two-inch quad tapes. Once the collection was transferred in 1980 to the University library, it was safeguarded, and the University intends to hire an archivist whose major task is to replace the destroyed programs. Those University of Georgia students were not the only ones erasing tape. During the mid-1960s, when kinescope was replaced with videotape, many aired programs were taped over because the cost of the stock was too high and tape was not...


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