In these Internet and file-sharing times, it seems unthinkable that we could ever be in the position of any media becoming ‘rare’ again. No matter where material appears, it always seems to end up on the Internet and, once there, it is copied time and time again to every corner of the globe. Losing a movie, song or TV show forever should be a thing of the past – but it hasn’t always been that way.
With today’s compression and hard drive technology, we can store hundreds of movies in a very small space indeed, but before the mainstream uptake of digital technology, storing video or music was a very expensive and resource-hungry task. Recent news from the BBC gives us a taster of how difficult things had become for them in the 1960’s, with the public broadcaster finding itself squeezed by lack of funds and lack of storage space, and even having to resort to erasing TV shows it had previously made.
One such TV show that suffered was Dad’s Army, a sitcom about the Home Guard in World War 2. The series ran for a huge 80 episodes on TV and made further appearances on radio, film and stage. The show pulled in 18 million viewers an episode during the 1970’s and still appears on TV today. Last night a very special episode aired on the BBC.
Room at the Bottom, an episode presumed lost by the BBC when it was erased to save space and money over thirty years ago, appeared on TV last night. The original show was in black and white (the color version was erased, along with the audio) but experts recreated the color version from the black and white source. But what about the lost audio?
Ed Doolan MBE is a presenter on BBC Radio WM, but back in 1969 before he worked for the BBC, he was a very naughty boy. Using a reel-to-reel tape recorder, Doolan recorded many shows, including the audio from the ‘lost’ episode when it first aired, and has kept the recording ever since. Today, far from hauling him over the coals, the BBC has used Doolan’s illicit copy to help bring the show back to life.
Last night, millions of Dad’s Army fans enjoyed the ‘lost’ episode of their beloved show and you can bet that not a single one would be calling for Doolan to be sued. In the end, the ‘good’ in his piracy leads to enjoyment for millions, and that can never be a bad thing.
It’s only when we lose something that we truly appreciate its full value and, thanks to file-sharing and the Internet, we are now in the enviable position of never having to apply the words ‘rare’ or ‘lost’ to any media ever again. And even though companies want to make media less accessible with their DRM, in the longer term, no-one will thank them for locking away history.