You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone: Africa needs to do more to preserve its audio-visual heritage

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According to UNESCO, 80% of audio-visual archives are endangered after 5 to 10 years, if they are not backed up. Most radio stations started in the 1960 and most TV stations in the 1970s. However, a great deal of what they have produced has been lost, either through lack of care or lack of appropriate equipment, humidity or limited storage space. Balancing Act’s associate editor Sylvain Béletre visited Ina ("Institut national de l'audiovisuel" in French) to understand the role it can play in saving this valuable audio-visual heritage and interviewed Dominique Saintville, Project Officer at Ina Collections Department and Vice President of the International Federation of Television Archives.

Changes in the media, technology and cultural landscape, as well as new demands and expectations from a range of audiences (academics, researchers, professionals and the general public), make it even more necessary to breathe new life into the traditional missions of conservation and access to audiovisual archives.

As the world’s largest digital archive, Ina today holds over 5 million hours of television and radio recordings (some of which still needs to be digitized), dating back to the earliest broadcasts, with a further 800,000 hours of legally deposited material added each year. Founded in 1974, Ina now runs on a total budget of 124 million Euros (2012). Such its wealth of material is fascinating enough in itself, but Ina is more than just an archive facility. Ina’s executive team strongly believes in making Ina's collections available to the widest possible audience, whether on DVD, the Internet or, more recently, on connected TV.

Several producers and broadcaster across Africa have expressed concerns about the lack of skilled audio-visual archives’ technicians and availability of archives in several parts of Africa. There are several ways in which Ina can help African governments, broadcasters and productions develop further and there are several examples of how we have helped African broadcasters in the past.

Q. When it comes to audio-visual skills, can professionals from Africa benefit from INA's expert network?

A. Ina is at the cutting-edge of research and training in audiovisual and digital content, conducting both national and international projects. Ina via CFI has provided several expertise and training projects on the African continent and used various media operators including INA to assist local broadcast players.

The Inathèque de France regularly organises debates, forums, seminars and workshops on the role of the media in society, in which audiovisual researchers and other professionals take part.

Education is a strong expertise of Ina, training over 5,500 people each year. Ina SUP offers a range of initial education courses, from technical degrees to Master's level and including a number of Ina diplomas. Ina SUP is open to foreign students. Since October 2007, Ina SUP has offered two specialised courses at Master’s level, approved by the Ministry of Culture and Communications. In total, it offers 6 postgraduate diplomas.

Ina EXPERT brings together professionals, students and researchers working on sound and images. 
Q. Regarding the preservation of African audio-visual archives, can INA be consulted to support local heritage?

A. Since 2004, Ina has been involved in the preservation of African heritage in partnership with FIAT (International Federation of Television Archives), OIF (Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie), CIRTEF (International Council of Radio-Television of French Expression) and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

CFI with Ina has also been working to protect African audiovisual heritage. Ina plays an active role within a number of international professional bodies, to share and promulgate their concern, knowledge and conclusions on the subject of audiovisual heritage preservation. In Nairobi, the organisation has contributed to the project “Protecting and Promoting Archives” for public TV channels in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as part of the Plan Images Archives - See more here.

But here is one of the best parts: If African producers and broadcasters need audiovisual archives to build new programs, and if nothing is available locally, Ina MEDIAPRO, the leading source of audiovisual content with 600,000 hours of TV programmes and 400,000 hours of Radio programmes, is a service that provides professionals in the audiovisual sector with remote access to Ina’s newsreels, sounds and images. Ina has been collecting programmes from broadcasters including from the main cable and satellite channels. Ina co-produces programmes with broadcasters from all over the world, which are presented in the most prestigious festivals. Access to Ina MEDIAPRO services is free of charge. It is reserved for: Professionals working in the audiovisual sector (broadcasters, producers, film directors, journalists); Institutional, cultural and educational bodies, whose projects include audiovisual archives. To access the archives, you must obtain authorisation after completing the registration form.
Ina STAT is a statistical tool developed by INA to monitor TV news. It provides a set of quantitative indicators on the content of the major news programmes broadcast by TV channels. By making historical comparisons, focusing on certain themes and analysing the key trends in media coverage, Ina STAT continually enhances the knowledge of the national media’s approach to news. This “theme-based barometer of television news” can then be published on a regular basis (in France, every quarter), as part of a national media review.

In addition, Ina can support digital content storage and sales in local African centres. The organization can help use archives for the production, programming and education purposes regionally:

Ina facilitates programs' exchange, for example through the creation of a catalogue of African digital content (via the OIF project). The archives will be valued beyond the African continent. In this perspective, Ina may propose archive owners to participate in its archives portal, giving them international exposure, the ability to develop the commercial exploitation of digital content, and reap commercial revenues - along the lines of what was done with Afghanistan and Cambodia.

A software called "Aimé" (in Fr. ‘Archivage Interactif Multimédia Evolutif’) was set up and allows radio and TV platforms to digitize their archives via an inexpensive but powerful system. Today, seventeen national radio-television use the "Aimé" system.
Two areas have been highlighted by Ina experts: Training on the system and the development of a tool for remote maintenance.

In 2013, Ina has acquired a unique collection of footage shot between 2001 and 2009 by French-American documentarian Anne Aghion, during the production of her series of award- winning TV and feature films on post-genocide Rwanda. Ina will digitise and enhance the archive and provide global access to some 550 tapes, making up 350 hours of footage. See more here.

Ina also gave a lot of audiovisual archives to various francophone African broadcasters over the African independences’ anniversary. In 2007 for example Ina provided Algeria’s EPTV with 1862 TV documents equivalent to 138 hours of programmes dating back from 1940 to 1962. Ina also gave the public Algerian radio 1300 sound documents. A similar project took place with Tunisia in 2010 and so on in other countries.
OIF organised a network of a dozen leaders of audiovisual archives in Francophone Africa through the FIAT. These professionals regularly attend seminars on audiovisual archives since 2004. Countries involved are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal. The network should be extended in a second phase to other countries such as Cameroon, Togo, Burundi, Congo Kinshasa, Chad. The project will also take into account the exchange program funds (for TV) which gathered in Nairobi at the initiative of URTNA, now called UAR (l’Union africaine de radiodiffusion).     
Piloted by Ina in the multilateral framework of COPEAM, Med-Mem is a heritage project focused on the Mediterranean region with the support provided by the Euromed Heritage IV programme, funded by the European Union. No fewer than 4000 audiovisual archive items will be available online free of charge, on a trilingual website, enabling a broad range of views of the heritage of the whole Mediterranean area. An enriched interface and a high degree of editorial content offers a multitude of entrance pathways. The archives of 14 Mediterranean television corporations are at your fingertips from 12 October 2012: Just click and you can watch the poet Mahmoud Darwich making his final appearance on television in 2008. Another click reveals footage of the building of the Suez Canal, and much more.


Back in October 2012 and under the auspices of the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013, in partnership with the South African company Doxa – Visual History Archive and with the support of the 'Institut Français', the French Embassy in South Africa and the South African Ministry of Art and Culture, Ina organised a seminar on 13 and 14 November 2012 at the Athol Fugard Theatre, District 6, Cape Town. All issues relating to the preservation and promotion of audiovisual archives were raised, offering French and South African professionals the opportunity of working together, with the objective of sharing knowhow and best practices.

This Franco-South African seminar was open to participants from the SADC (Southern African Development Community) member states and intended to be a regional think tank focusing on the preservation of audiovisual heritage, and on the professional, commercial, cultural and educational uses of archives. Representatives from public channels throughout the region took part in the event. 

Q. Do you know of any audiovisual preservation and archive centers in Africa.

A. To our knowledge, there are dedicated centers in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Morocco, Madagascar, Mauritius and in South Africa.

Q. Could you give us examples of TV programmes related to Africa that you have available for broadcasters or producers?

We have plenty of audiovisual archives linked to Africa. Just type a country name in our website's search engine to see for yourself. As mentioned, we gave a lot of archives to African public TV channels. For the public, the following videos are available to view for free online. Broadcast rights can be purchased by professional players.


In French:
La Coupe du monde et l'aventure du football africain 2010: Naissance d'une passion.
Portrait Nelson Mandela en 1990 : Here and here.
l'Afrique, une autre histoire du XXème siècle
Acte 1 : 1885-1944, le crépuscule de l'homme blanc

Acte 2 : 1945-1964, L'ouragan africain
Africa Song la victoire embourbée


Special Rhodesia - 1976
Zimbabwe : un difficile apprentissage - 1982

Chefs d'Etats africains à Colombey – 1970
Paris-Dakar 1986
Africa Song la victoire embourbée


Other new video clip briefings for you this week:

South African TV producer Asi Mathaba on his next TV series, a political thriller called A Luta

Successful South African films:
Helen Kuun, Indigenous Media Distribution on her 2 hits of 2012 & 3 promising new releases in 2013

Impact of online viewing on cinema-going:
Helen Kuun on putting films on South Africa's iTunes and its impact on cinema-going

The Box Office and Critical Success of Otelo Burning:
Sara Blecher on how Otelo Burning came to be made and its reception in South Africa and elsewhere

Sara Blecher’s new film project:
Sara Blecher on her new film about a women entrepreneur in Joburg's African district, Yeoville

South African horror film from the townships:

Pascal Schmitz on South African horror film Blood Tokoloshe


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