Letter: Loss of TV archive programmes

Sir: Comedy producer Harry Thompson describes as "cultural vandalism" the loss of episodes from the Sixties Peter Cook and Dudley Moore series Not Only ... But Also (report, 21 August).

But was keeping local news really given any greater priority? I understand that when BBC Manchester moved to their new headquarters on Oxford Road in the Seventies, their local news library was taken in by the North-West Film Archive at Manchester Polytechnic.

Are programmes being preserved as well as they could be today? I first became alarmed about these disappearing programmes in 1980. Since then, I have built up a collection of off-air recordings on VHS. A couple of years ago, when I heard a story that episodes from the first series of Blackadder had been destroyed, I contacted the BBC Film and Television Library.

They denied that any of this series was missing. I mentioned some of the other recordings that I have. When I asked about the Carla Lane comedy Butterflies, the reply was "yes, I think we have most of those". I asked if the library would like a list of my material and was told I could send one if I wanted, but not to go to any trouble.

VHS may not be broadcast quality, but surely it is better than nothing. And those Australian Steptoe and Son recordings that BBC2 screened were hardly good quality.

As your article points out, we do seem to see the same old, limited range of clips from a number of series. It is high time that more was done to safeguard our TV heritage.


Belford, Northumberland