Head of BBC Caribbean Service Debbie Ransome, University Librarian, Jennifer Joseph and UWI Vice Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris
85,000 minutes or three thousand hours whichever way you describe it or count it that’s a lot of material. It actually describes the amount of material in the BBC Caribbean Service radio and online programming archive. On November 4 2011, there was a ceremony to mark the official handing over of the archives to the University of the West Indies. The event took place at the multi-function room at the University of the West Indies Library, on Mona Campus in Kingston Jamaica, but the archives will be available to researchers and scholars through all of the university campuses and sites across the region.
The BBC Caribbean Service was part of the BBC’s World Service Radio, which broadcasts in English and other languages across the world. In March of 2011, the team Caribbean Service team made the final broadcasts.
The Caribbean Service was a casualty of cuts across the BBC World Service aimed at reducing costs. The cut was final and there was to be no reprieve this time. The University of the West Indies will be the only entity outside of the U.K. and the BBC to have a full copy of the archives.
The material from 1988 to 2011 represents the broadcasts of news and current affairs programme Caribbean Report and the human interest and culture magazine programme Caribbean Magazine, in later years the service expanded with morning and daily versions of the programmes and an online news presence.
The idea for the donation came from the Head of the Caribbean Service Debbie Ransome, and according to the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor E. Nigel Harris, there was no hesitation in taking up the offer.
To make it happen would prove to be quite a task and members of the service and UWI library department worked on compiling the archive in London in the months after the service went off the air. The result, material from 1988 to 2004 is on a large collection of compact discs and digitization of the later material is underway with the hope that it will be completed by January 2012.
What was over the years of the service, part of the cut and thrust of daily news gathering now provides a unique record of the events and the reaction to them from the ordinary person in the region and diaspora to the leaders in business, politics and advocacy.
Given the recent history of the region the material bears witness to coups, natural disasters, elections, achievements and much more.
The BBC Caribbean Service may be no more, but the body of work, a unique and insightful record of the region’s recent past will not be forgotten or locked away gathering dust in a series of shelves virtual or real in the bowels of the BBC but an accessible and tangible resource, for research and scholarship in many areas.