Frontline Television News Archive secures funding to go digital

May 23, 2011

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The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has recently granted the Frontline Club its support to digitise the Frontline Television News (FNTV) archive. Not only will the HLF funding help to preserve 1,000 hours of footage covering all the major wars from the late 80s onwards, but it will ensure the involvement of volunteers to compile oral histories with former members of the agency and their families.

In 1989 a small group of young British men and women created a pioneering international news agency for freelance video journalists that was 20 years ahead of its time. In 2003 the agency closed, half of its camera-people having been killed while filming around the world. The dramatic story of the agency is told by David Loyn of the BBC in his book, recently brought out in paperback, Frontline: Reporting from the World’s Deadliest Places.

Frontline’s cameramen were the first to pick up small format, consumer, cameras and aimed to use this technology to do to television journalism what the French photo-agency, Magnum did to photojournalism 50 years earlier. Frontline’s successes included getting the first interview with Bin Laden in the western media, the first film of the stinger missiles that altered the course of the 1980’s war in Afghanistan, the key footage of the Romanian revolution, the only uncontrolled footage of the ground conflict in the first Gulf War, key footage of the Kosovo conflict that led to British and NATO involvement…the list goes on.

John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor is recorded as saying "Frontline will be remembered as one of the high peaks of journalism. Martha Gellhorn certainly thought so, and she was a pretty good judge"

The footage, around 1,000 hours in total, covers the period from 1989-2003 and needs to be converted into digital format urgently to save it from degrading. The Imperial War Museum and the British Library have both expressed an interest in using the footage for research and exhibition purposes. The footage will be made available online in low-resolution format for the public to view, though FNTV will retain the rights to the footage.

An Oral History portion of the project will give volunteers the opportunity to interview the remaining Frontline journalists and those who knew them to compose a lasting record of the adventures and misadventures that the members of the Frontline Television News agency undertook in pursuit of some of the most vivid and truthful accounts of war. It will add to an existing set of recordings made by David Loyn for his book.

If you are interested in volunteering over summer to help research the material, assist in the digitisation and cataloguing process and take oral histories from former contributors to Frontline Television News then please send a CV to Flora Carmichael, the project coordinator: [email protected] Deadline for applications: 10th June- earlier applications welcomed.