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Brussels, 3 May 2005

Improving and extending the use of ICT to make the most of Europe’s cultural and audiovisual heritage

The European Commission today announced that it is to boost its policy of preserving and exploiting Europe's written and audiovisual heritage. At a time when the internet and the digital technologies available on many technical platforms are an everyday part of the life of European citizens, tapping the potential of our written text, image and sound archives is of major importance in economic terms as much as in cultural terms. The Commission plans to issue a communication by July outlining the stakes involved and identifying the obstacles to using written and audiovisual archives in the European Union. The communication will be accompanied by a proposal for a Recommendation aimed at enlisting all the public players concerned and facilitating public-private partnerships in the task of digitising our heritage.

“Our libraries, our films, our historic television and sound records not only need to be preserved; we also need to make better use of them in the fields of culture, education, information and research. The message addressed to the Presidency of the European Union and the Commission by six EU heads of State and government is a positive sign of increased awareness of the need to bolster our policy in this field,” commented Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding, adding that “digitising this heritage is also a marvellous opportunity which our industry should grasp.”

Action already completed, in progress or planned ranges from developing search engines to formulating common standards and helping to digitise content. The communication and the Recommendation announced by the Commissioner will provide a framework and supportive context for this action.

Action to be continued and expanded

  • Developing techniques for standardisation and search methods geared towards exploiting written and audiovisual archives in the digital environment. Since 2001, the European IST programme of research in the field of ICT has supported the exchange of good practice, definition of benchmarks and dialogue between the players concerned (the MINERVA, MINERVA Plus and DIGICULT Forum projects) and has launched a process to identify standards and tests for reciprocal access between public libraries (the European Library (TEL) project, currently managed by the Dutch National Library, with access to 90 collections).
  • For audiovisual archives, the PRESTO and PRESTOSPACE actions (allocated €9 million), funded by the IST programme, support the development of fast, high-quality techniques to digitise television archives, while the European Union’s MEDIA programme supports the establishment of film catalogues in digital format. Promoting the use of digital technologies by the European audiovisual industry will be one of the priorities of MEDIA 2007, for which the Commission is requesting a budget of €1.055 billion for 2007-2013.
  • A Recommendation (currently being adopted) on film heritage, promoting in particular the standardisation of film catalogues and the interoperability of audiovisual archive databases.

New action

  • €36 million will be earmarked for research projects in this area – including the development of search engines for the general public – at the next call for proposals under the Community’s information society technologies research programme (IST programme), which will be published in May, and the Commission wishes to see the budget for this sector increased further in the 7th RTD Framework Programme, as of 2007.
  • €60 million will go to digitisation of and access to content within the eContent Plus programme for the period 2005-2008, (next call end of June 2005) which will support action to network archives in

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