NYTimes.com Article: Old British Newsreels Find New Life

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Fri, 10 Jan 2003 11:30:51 -0800 (PST)

>Old British Newsreels Find New Life Online
>January 9, 2003
>Downloading free music and film clips from the Internet has
>become more difficult lately. But there is a new diversion,
>offered straight from the source: free news clips.
>British Pathe, whose news reports helped form the worldview
>of British moviegoers for decades, has put more than 3,500
>hours of its old newsreels online at <a
>allowing users to receive low-resolution clips at no
>The company says its digital archive, initially created as
>a cheaper alternative to storing 35-millimeter film reels,
>is the largest historical news collection online. The free
>clips, with a Pathe watermark, are intended to entice the
>visitor to license and download higher-quality versions.
>The newsreels, opening with Pathe's inquisitive-looking
>cockerel and jaunty theme music, were shown in theaters
>before the featured movie. Most are about two and a half
>minutes long.
>The archive includes mostly British and international news
>stories, although "it also has an extraordinary amount of
>American news," said Peter Fydler, British Pathe's
>commercial director. Indeed, the first clip is from New
>York City in 1896. The final clip in the archive is from
>Paris in 1970, when British Pathe produced its last
>newsreel. Today its business is licensing historical images
>to advertisers, corporations and broadcasters. "It wasn't
>television that brought the death of the newsreel," Mr.
>Fydler said. "It was color television."
>Much of Pathe's own collection, to be sure, predates color
>film - or even talking pictures. A search engine enables
>visitors to find clips of Christmas celebrations in London
>in 1955, for example, or King George V's 1923 visit to meet
>the Italian royal family in Rome. If you are not sure what
>you are looking for or just want a sampling, a Lucky Dip
>button on the home page randomly selects 20 items for a
>In the first month after the site made its debut in
>November, there were 168,000 video downloads from the site
>and more than 250,000 visitors. British Pathe decided to
>offer all the clips free in a low-resolution format to
>stimulate interest in history, Mr. Fydler said, and for
>users who wanted to see what they were buying before
>purchasing higher-resolution files. The free files can be
>shared by e-mail or within small educational groups under
>British copyright law, Mr. Fydler said.
>All told, 90,000 news clips are available. High-resolution
>clips for limited audiences can be licensed for one year
>for about $80; files that will be posted on the Web are
>licensed for about $160. VHS or DVD versions can be
>purchased for $16 a clip.
>The offer of free files has not slowed sales of the
>high-resolution files, Mr. Fydler said, though he declined
>to provide sales figures. He said that he hoped that the
>free samples from British Pathe's archives would spur
>"It's a loss leader for us because it draws people to the
>site," he said. "The low-resolution files are of good
>quality, but they're not good enough for people to abuse
>the system."
>A two-minute low-resolution clip takes about four minutes
>to download with dial-up connection and can then be viewed
>with Windows Media Player.
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Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley