The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) will receive an additional $5.5 million to support digitisation of at risk audio and video in its collection.

The announcement was made by the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety, and the Arts the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP. 

In 2015 the NFSA published Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk, warning that cultural heritage held on magnetic tape will in most cases be lost forever unless it is digitised by 2025. This includes much loved programs such as Young Talent Time and A Country Practice, and thousands of hours of television and radio.

This additional funding will allow the NFSA to achieve the digitisation of all audio and video magnetic tape by 2025.

Chair of the NFSA Board, Gabrielle Trainor AO, said the NFSA was delighted to receive this funding boost which would help save irreplaceable recordings of our cultural heritage.

The NFSA is uniquely positioned at the intersection of Australian culture and digital technology and we thank the Minister and the Government for recognising the importance of rescuing this part of our collection that is at such high risk.

NFSA CEO Jan Müller said she was almost unable to express how excited the HSFA was about such a significant investment in Australia’s cultural history.

With this funding we will be able to save thousands of hours of radio, television and music, before the tapes that contain them become unplayable. By digitising the collection, we are not only preserving it for future generations; we are also making it more easily discoverable, accessible and re-usable.

We will also be able to establish the National Centre for Excellence in Audio-visual Heritage – a hub for digitisation across Australia. We will share our skills, knowledge and equipment to safeguard the national audio-visual heritage held by other institutions.”

The NFSA will receive $2.9 million in 2020-21, $1 million in 2021-22 and $800,000 each in 2022-23 and 2023-24. The funds will allow the NFSA to upscale its digitisation capabilities, such as:

  • Acquire multi-channel video ingest workstations, which will increase its capacity to digitise at-risk video by five times.
  • Upgrade its audio digitisation suites to double their existing capacity.
  • Acquire a state-of-the-art film preservation scanner to continue its digitisation efforts for at-risk 16mm and 35mm film.
  • Increase its digital storage and infrastructure. 
  • Create new work opportunities for audiovisual professionals.
About magnetic tape recording and Deadline 2025

Magnetic tape is the now obsolete technology formerly used by the broadcast and music industries for the recording and storage of audiovisual productions (for example, radio and television programs and master recordings for music) during most of the second half of the 20th century. There are several tape formats that each require highly specialised playback equipment, for which spare parts are no longer available. 

Content stored on magnetic tape is at risk due to three key factors: tape deterioration, obsolescence of equipment and loss of human expertise, as those who worked with these technologies approach retirement age. 

Due to these factors there is consensus among audio-visual archives internationally that there is an imperative to digitise magnetic media before it is lost forever: Deadline 2025.

NFSA collection content held on magnetic tape and yet to be digitised includes:

  • Iconic Australian TV programs such as Young Talent Time and A Country Practice.
  • Decades worth of news and current affairs, representing all of Australia’s public and commercial broadcasters.
  • Coverage of key sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup.
  • Television and radio content produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media organisations such as the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) and Imparja TV.
  • Awards ceremonies including the Logies, Astra Awards and Koori Music Awards.
  • Thousands of hours of radio serials and broadcasts of significant historical events.
  • Master tapes by many of our greatest musicians, as well as other unreleased and live performances. 

More about Deadline 2025: