Broadcast and Multimedia News

This slide from the presentation by Sharon Farb and Todd Grappone shows searching options available in the UCLA Library Broadcast NewsScape.

The News Roundtable brought together representatives of two major television news archives to describe the services, resources, and benefits of their respective programs. As interest in television news broadcast content for research purposes grows, CRL is exploring how the community of academic libraries might better leverage, support, and exploit the community-based broadcast archiving efforts, namely the Vanderbilt Television News Archive and the recently announced UCLA Library Broadcast NewsScape.

As background, CRL presented comparative data on the availability of broadcast news transcripts in the major textual aggregator databases, and evaluated the potential usefulness of the Internet Archive’s TV Search & Borrow for academic research.

The Vanderbilt Television News Archive (VTNA) at Vanderbilt University has been described as the “only comprehensive database of national television news.” As Connie Vinita Dowell, Dean of Libraries, and Joseph D. Combs, Associate Dean of Libraries, relayed in their presentation, Vanderbilt began recording television news programs in 1968 when Paul Simpson, a Vanderbilt alumnus, discovered that the major U.S. networks were not keeping copies of their broadcasts. VTNA began taping the national network news (ABC, CBS, NBC), during that year’s Republican National Convention. It added other programs and networks over time (CNN in 1995, MSNBC in 1996, and Fox News beginning in 2004) as well as special broadcast events (such as the Watergate hearings). VTNA now contains more than 40,000 hours of news and special broadcasts. Vanderbilt provides detailed metadata and abstracting of each story, with over one million records now available. Content is currently being captured in digital format, and nearly all of the legacy analog content has now been converted to digital, comprising approximately 200 terabytes of data and growing. Services include interlibrary loan of programs on DVDs and some materials are available for streaming over the web.

Access to the archive is constrained to some extent by copyright restrictions on rebroadcast or web distribution. Only NBC and CNN permit Vanderbilt to stream their content to subscribing institutions. Nonetheless the archive is used by researchers in a range of disciplines, including political science, sociology, history, and communications.

Research uses of the VTNA content include study of the media’s treatment of particular events, trends, and subjects over time, and the impact of news broadcasts on public opinion or on “national conversations” about health care, climate change, elections, intelligence leaks, and so forth. To date the archive has largely been sustained financially by Vanderbilt University, with support from more than 130 sponsoring academic institutions.

As VTNA approaches its fiftieth anniversary, Vanderbilt is looking for ways to expand its support network: partnering with technology groups to develop video/ audio “mining” capabilities and video and audio search tools. The university is open to developing partner models that allow “modest” cost recovery for the content providers, but the issues continue to be challenging. Working with CRL might enable broadening the base of support for the archives to encompass more academic libraries.

UCLA’s Sharon E. Farb, Associate University Librarian, and Todd Grappone, Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives & Information Technology, presented on “UCLA Broadcast NewsScape Archive of International Television News: A Transformative Approach to Using the News in Teaching, Research, and Publication.” The UCLA Library Broadcast NewsScape is an international archive of over 200,000 news broadcasts recorded in analog and digital formats. Initially created by UCLA faculty members during the early 1970s, the archive was expanded in 2005, when professors in the university’s Department of Communication Studies began capturing news programs in digital format. The content includes local news for Los Angeles, all national cable and broadcast news programs, and over a dozen international programs.

The project’s methods are driven by the paradigm shift in the ways that news is being produced as well as the way researchers use news. The project team found that increasingly, scholars are interested in using media in advanced ways and linking to source materials, thus potentially raising issues of copyright.

UCLA is not, at present, able to stream content beyond campus. UCLA takes a different approach from Vanderbilt, hoping to exploit the exemptions to copyright restrictions afforded libraries by Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law, on the basis of the transformative nature of the UCLA platform for managing and disseminating the broadcasts. Through digital capture (including closed-captioning streams), metadata enhancements, and advanced tools for markup, searching, and playback (using facial and visual object recognition, story segmenting, tagging support), UCLA presents the collection in a way that is “transformative” or greatly enhanced for teaching and research.

UCLA aims to extend streaming video access to other UC system institutions. It might be feasible to eventually provide access for the broader academic library domain, in cooperation with CRL.

Inspired by Vanderbilt’s model, but incorporating more advanced capturing techniques like UCLA’s NewsScape, is the Internet Archive TV News Search & Borrow. Launched in 2012 (with content dating back to 2009), the archive is an open-access database of broadcast clips and text for search and discovery. As of June 2013, the TV News Search & Borrow contained a reported 452,000 broadcasts from 800 programs on 22 networks. Programs include national news broadcasts as well as local news programs (San Francisco, and later Washington, D.C.). The Internet Archive provides loans of programs on DVD and full viewing on the premises of the Internet Archive library.

Like NewsScape, the Internet Archive initiative captures closed-captioning streaming as the text archive, as opposed to official transcripts found in databases such as LexisNexis. Simple or advanced searching produces a textual snippet as well as a video clip that plays only brief (30 second) snippets of the segments, roughly aligned with the text results searched. No capture or download of text or image is permitted.

At present, the platform appears to work well with displaying the captured text and video segments from the basic search. However, the platform functionality lacks many features considered standard in academic databases. Live closed-captioning may contain numerous shortcuts, spelling errors, and textual ellipses. However, the wide accessibility of the content and the popularity of the Internet Archive’s site make it likely that this tool will be useful for discovery purposes, leading potentially to additional uses of and interest in television news broadcast for research projects.