NFSA CEO Jan Müller.

The Federal Government will give the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) $5.5 million over the next four years to support its digitisation efforts, including the creation of a new hub where audiovisual artefacts will be preserved and shared with audiences.

The NFSA has more than 3 million items in its collection. Around 400,000 items are in original analogue formats, such as magnetic tape, and are at risk of deterioration and permanent loss.

The institution has made digitisation its key priority for the last few years. In 2015, it published Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk, warning that cultural heritage held on magnetic tape will in most cases be lost forever unless it is digitised by 2025. The government’s funding designed to speed up efforts so that this date can be met.

The funding will also support the modernisation of the NFSA’s existing digitisation technology and ongoing storage of the increasing volume of digitised material, and the equipment purchased with some of this funding will also enable the NFSA to assist the ABC and National Archives of Australia to digitise their own at-risk material.

Further, it will facilitate the creation of “hub for the digitisation of audiovisual hertiage across Australia”, to be dubbed the National Centre for Excellence in Audiovisual Digitisation.

The NFSA also notes it will use the funding to:

  • Acquire multi-channel video ingest workstations, which will increase its capacity to digitise at-risk video by five times.
  • Upgrade its audio digitisation suites to double their existing capacity.
  • Acquire a state-of-the-art film preservation scanner to continue its digitisation efforts for at-risk 16mm and 35mm film.
  • Increase its digital storage and infrastructure.
  • Create new work opportunities for audiovisual profession

The NFSA will receive $2.9 million in 2020-21, $1 million in 2021-22 and $800,000 each in 2022-23 and 2023-24.

“The government funding announced today will help address issues of material longevity, fragility and equipment maintenance, enabling the NFSA to digitise at-risk video five times faster – as well as doubling the digitisation rate of audio and film material,” said Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher.

NFSA CEO Jan Müller said: “I can’t express how excited we are about this significant investment in our cultural history.

“With this funding we will be able to save thousands of hours of radio, television and music, before the tapes that contain them become unplayable. By digitising the collection, we are not only preserving it for future generations; we are also making it more easily discoverable, accessible and re-usable.

“We will also be able to establish the National Centre for Excellence in Audiovisual Heritage – a hub for digitisation across Australia. We will share our skills, knowledge and equipment to safeguard the national audiovisual heritage held by other institutions. On behalf of all Australian collecting institutions, we are grateful for this funding boost and the opportunity to meet Deadline 2025.”

NFSA collection content held on magnetic tape and yet to be digitised includes:

  • Iconic Australian TV programs such as Young Talent Time and A Country Practice.
  • Decades worth of news and current affairs, representing all of Australia’s public and commercial broadcasters.
  • Coverage of key sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup.
  • Television and radio content produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media organisations such as the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) and Imparja TV.
  • Awards ceremonies including the Logies, Astra Awards and Koori Music Awards.
  • Thousands of hours of radio serials and broadcasts of significant historical events.
  • Master tapes by many of our greatest musicians, as well as other unreleased and live performances.