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BBC hands over Caribbean archives to UWI

Published:Wednesday | November 9, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Professor E. Nigel Harris (right), removes a compact disc from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Caribbean Archive being held by Jennifer Joseph (second left), during the official handover of the BBC Caribbean Archive to the UWI in the Multifunctional Room, Main Library, Mona Campus, recently. Looking on are Debbie Ransome (left) and Leona Bobb-Semple. The material, an endowment from the BBC World Service to the UWI, for research and study purposes, captures the day-to-day political, economic and other pan-Caribbean development of more than two decades up to the closure of the BBC Caribbean Service in March 2011. - Ian Allen/Photographer

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Archival material from the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) Carib-bean Service programme has found a new home at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

The catalogue, which comprises 3,000 hours' text of audio of Caribbean Service programmes from 1988 to 2011, was officially handed over recently at the UWI's Mona campus.

A statement from the UWI said the archive includes three of the Caribbean Service's popular features: BBC Caribbean Magazine, BBC Report and BBC Caribbean Specials.

Debbie Ransome, who headed the Caribbean Service for its last 12 years, presented the material to UWI vice-chancellor, Professor E. Nigel Harris.

She told The Gleaner that staff at the BBC agreed it was important for the Caribbean Service's archives to be placed in the hands of a regional landmark such as the UWI.

"I've received a lot of emails from our former stringers in the Caribbean who are glad that their work will be preserved for posterity," Ransome said.

Digitised programmes

The Caribbean Services' pre-digital archives (1998-2004) have been stored on compact disc and are currently at the UWI's St Augustine campus in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

Content from 2004 to its final programme on March 25 this year is currently being digitised and is expected to be posted on the UWI's website in 2012.

The BBC cited economic challenges for closing its Caribbean department.

During its 23-year run, Caribbean Service focused on current affairs in the West Indies, as well as issues affecting Britons of African heritage. With the end of Caribbean Service, it is the first time since the mid-1970s that Britain's most famous media organisation will be without programming dealing solely with West Indian affairs.

The BBC first launched programming for Caribbean listeners in 1939. That show, 'Calling The West Indies', gave West Indian soldiers in the British army an opportunity to read letters on air to family in the Caribbean, during World War II.

'Calling The West Indies' evolved into 'Caribbean Voices', which ran from 1943 to 1958. 'Voices' was a channel for rising literary talents like Trinidadian V.S. Naipaul and George Lamming of Barbados.

The BBC temporarily pulled its Caribbean affiliate during the 1970s, but relaunched it in the 1980s as Caribbean Service. It was headed by Jamaican Hugh Crosskill from 1988 to 1996, when he was succeeded by Ransome, a Briton of Trinidadian parentage.