Under proposals made public yesterday, Spice Girls CDs, television sitcoms and CD-Rom games would be ranked alongside Jane Austen and the classics of English literature by a legal obligation that they be stored for posterity.
At present there is a legal requirement that every new book be deposited with the British Library. But there is no obligation on record companies, CD-Rom producers, film makers and commercial television channels to deposit their products. Yesterday the Government signalled its intention to change this because of the explosion in electronic information, admitting it would be necessary to build massive storage spaces.
National heritage minister Iain Sproat regretted that some early episodes of Dad's Army had been lost because of the lack of a legal requirement to keep them. He had no problems with the work of the Sex Pistols being stored for posterity.
"Our descendants should be exposed to the Sex Pistols," he said. "All these things should be kept, because it's extremely important looking at the sociology of the United Kingdom today. The other reason why we must store Oasis, or Blur, or the Spice Girls, is for the pleasure of future generations, who will gain entertainment and instruction by hearing or watching what we enjoy today."
Even one-hit wonders should have their one album legally deposited, he said: "The reason why a one-hit wonder was a success, but never a success hereafter, would be of interest to future sociologists."
He cited the example of the poet Robert Herrick, who was not widely read or appreciated for 200 years after his death. "Who are we to say something is rubbish?" Mr Sproat asked.
While he advocated the mass storage of pop records and CD-Roms, Mr Sproat questioned whether too many books were being kept. "We might want to ask if the British Library should be keeping every new edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice," he said.
At present, there are voluntary arrangements for the deposit of films, videos and sound recordings. All BBC output is archived, but only about 30 per cent of the output of commercial channels.