Australia's tape history NFSA

The National Film & Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) have issued a stark warning that the nations rich audio visual collection is at risk of extinction unless urgent action is taken immediately.

Unfortunately all tape based formats created in the 20th Century are now obsolete and any tapes not digitised before 2025 will in most cases be lost forever. At the current rate of digitisation, only about 30% of magnetic tape will be saved in time, tens of thousands of hours of much loved programming will be beyond saving.

The NFSA currently have 80,000 radio shows and 60,000 television programmes which need to be digitised, and this figure will continue to grow as more material from the golden era of broadcasting is acquired retrospectively. All is not lost however, at least not yet. The NFSA are now looking to outsource some 37,000 hours of analogue videotape for bulk digitisation, allowing them to concentrate on the material which needs specialist in-house restoration.

Australia’s television, radio and audio archive can still be saved if we act now but the additional funding required is estimated to be A$10 million. It should be noted that the loss of this collection not only affects Australian’s, as it holds tens of thousands of hours of programming which is loved the world over including episodes of Neighbours, The Young Doctors, Prisoner: Cell Block H, and Number 96.

The National Film & Sound Archive headquarters in Canberra. NFSA logo.

I have personally dealt with the NFSA for many years and have had the privilege of touring their facility in Canberra. It is a magnificent institution, run by a dedicated team who are doing their upmost to preserve and make accessible Australia’s rich film, television and audio archive.

The time for action is now. Whether you work in the entertainment industry or are a fan of the legendary productions which have come out of Australia, you can make a donation to help save these shows from oblivion by heading to:

Remember, once these tapes are lost, we will never have the chance to see the shows we love ever again and neither will future generations. I would argue that saving this audio visual collection is just as important as preserving the paintings which hang in national galleries and the treasures which are housed within countless museums.

ATV Elstree Centre: Quadruplex (Quad) 2" inch tapes in storage (1970s)

Pictured top: Deadline 2025 – Collections at Risk Logo, Pictured middle: The National Film & Sound Archive headquarters in Canberra with the NFSA logos inset and Pictured bottom Two-Inch (2″) Quad (Quadruplex) tapes as seen in the 1970s at the ATV Elstree tape archive.

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