stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
On the eve of destruction
space
As the CBC looks to modernize its archives, some fear that the past is being erased
space
By SIMON HOUPT
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, July 7, 2018 – Page R1

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. no longer airs live dance performances, but there's a mesmerizing ballet unfolding hundreds of times a day on the basement level of its Toronto headquarters. There, inside a floor-to-ceiling black cage locked inside a windowless room, four robotic devices conduct an intricate improvised choreographic routine, surrounded by a history of Canada told in zeroes and ones. Hanging from a Ushaped track in the ceiling, the contraptions - similar to sleek metal breadboxes turned on their side - glide swiftly up and down among racks of high-density magnetic storage tapes, extending a metal arm to pluck cassettes and jack them briefly into ports from which producers, perhaps thousands of miles away, can pull snippets of video and audio.

In a few years' time, this secret fortress will hold virtually everything created or aired by CBC since its first radio broadcast in 1936 (TV launched in 1952), from The Wayne & Shuster Hour to Take 30, Mr. Dressup to Morningside to Maamuitaau, As It Happens to the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals.

It will be transferred to LTO-7 digital tape (capacity: six terabytes) from more than 850,000 individual storage units that span about 15 different formats.

Those include DAT (digital audio tapes), 2-inch, 1-inch and 1/4-inch audio tapes, VHS and Betacam tapes (both professional and consumer grade).

But though a mammoth and more than $15-million digitization project promises to increase access to CBC archives for inhouse producers and curious members of the public, some critics are upset with the broadcaster's intention to then destroy the current versions it has of the material.

"We're doing what [the Islamic State] is doing in the Middle East.

We're destroying cultural treasures," said Kealy Wilkinson, the executive director of the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation (CBMF), in an interview with The Globe and Mail. The not-for-profit organization hopes to find a way to save the storage units known as carriers. Last year, it suggested that an old NORAD bunker in North Bay could be refitted to house the CBC archives and other audio-visual material at risk of being junked.

Wilkinson said that, while making digital copies is a laudable way to increase accessibility, those copies should not be seen as equivalent to the programs stored on older formats.

"You can make copies of everything. It's kind of like saying to the chap who runs the National Gallery, 'We could save a lot of space, why don't we just make digital copies of all the paintings, send them around to people and close the building?' " In April, the CBMF issued an alarming press release declaring that CBC had "quietly launched a systematic process that will destroy a vital component of Canada's cultural and broadcast heritage. And the Canadian public knows virtually nothing about it."

Backed by the actors union ACTRA, and others, the organization demanded CBC adhere to the standards set by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA), which calls for the preservation of all original carriers. It cited the BBC's Archives and the German Broadcasting Archive as examples.

"On the face of it, in the archives world, it looks really bad," said Toby Seay, the president of the IASA and an associate professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He noted that he could not offer a comprehensive opinion of CBC's decision since he had not spoken with the broadcaster to probe the reasons behind its move. Still, "We stand on the principle that you maintain the original carriers, and then - if you can't, find a way to donate them so someone else can take care of them. Destruction is your absolute last choice."

In response, CBC initiated a public-relations campaign, firing off a statement in late April taking aim at the CBMF and insisting, "our archives are not being destroyed. They are being transformed into digital, file-based formats to ensure preservation."

As part of that campaign, three CBC staff recently gave a Globe and Mail reporter and photographer a 90-minute tour of its tape, film and still photography archives, a snaking walk through a series of climate-controlled vaults (with a few chilly minutes spent at 7 C in the film vault).

The tour began on the second floor of the Broadcast Centre, where a corps of workers were methodically moving through piles of tapes recently arrived from regional centres such as St.

John's, hand-entering into a database information about what was on each carrier. Their bounty overflowed: Russ McMillen, the co-ordinator of digitization and video preservation, had spent 11/2 weeks in Newfoundland with two other staff, packing up about 50,000 units to ship back to Toronto. Fredericton had remitted about 35,000 assets and Charlottetown about 25,000.

For the past eight years, an inhouse "ingestion centre" on the basement level had been operating 24 hours a day, transferring eight channels of video simultaneously into digital formats. At that rate, it was getting through about 600 units a week. Impressive, but not enough: After 170,000 units had been processed, with another 700,000 to go, it halted its in-house project and contracted with MediaPreserve, an industrial-sized transfer operation in Pennsylvania.

There, about 2,500 units a week are being processed and sent back digitally via a dedicated internet pipe to the Broadcast Centre, where they are then housed in what is known as a Redundant Array of Independent Disks, or RAID: multiple copies, to ensure security. (CBC's Frenchlanguage counterpart, RadioCanada, will undertake its own digital transfer initiative in the future.)

During the tour, Marc Lefebvre, CBC's director of content management and preservation, revealed that they would wait three years before beginning the program to destroy the original carriers. "To make sure we didn't miss anything," he said.

CBC staff overseeing the project seem indignant at the suggestion they are destroying the country's cultural heritage. They note that its film stock - 82,000 cans holding about 20,000 hours of raw news footage, movies of the week and even the Canadian segments of Sesame Street which were shot on film - is not part of the current digitization project.

The projected shelf life of film is about 400 years, so there is no rush to save it.

They insist that the tapes on which the material is currently stored are degrading and the machines used to read them (and, for that matter, the technicians who fix those machines) are nearing the end of their functional life.

And it is certainly not a moneysaving initiative.

"The cheapest thing, to do," Lefebvre said, "would be to do nothing."

Associated Graphic

The CBC is in the process of making digital copies of its video production library.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Russ McMillen, top, and Brian Knott, of the CBC mass digitization project, are working on transferring the CBC archives from a variety of formats into a more easily accessible digital system.

PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Lorne_Rubenstein Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page