Local Press: Access

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 16th November 2021.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department is taking to improve access to local newspaper records.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department is taking to (a) digitise local newspaper records and (b) improve access to archives.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what funding her Department provides for the digitalisation of local newspaper records.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Work on improving and maintaining access to local newspaper records and archives is led by colleagues at the British Library and The National Archives respectively, using funding from their core budgets.

The British Library collects physical newspapers and online news sites under legal deposit. The additional work the British Library does in this area makes newspapers as accessible as possible at no cost to the taxpayer. It holds a newspaper collection of over 60 million issues (450 million pages) dating from 1619 to the present day, and since 2010 has been working on a strategy to preserve and protect newspapers for researchers and the general public. This includes working in partnership with Findmypast to produce the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), an online subscription resource enabling online access to historic digitised newspapers while creating preservation files for the British Library’s Digital Library Store. The BNA is free to access in British Library Reading Rooms.

The task of digitising archived physical material is substantial, but progress is being made both through central projects, with c. 46 million pages digitised since 2011, and through partnerships between the British Library and local libraries such as Birmingham, Wexford, Jersey and Shropshire. Projects undertaken with local libraries and councils allow local services to benefit from the expertise of the British Library on a cost recovery basis (i.e. not for profit).

In terms of improving access to archives, The National Archives has been delivering against its Archives Unlocked strategy since 2017. In order to achieve this, The National Archives works to support the Archives sector to develop digital capacity, build resilience and demonstrate impact through innovation and by building new audiences. Officials from The National Archives have collaborated with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the Culture is Digital project, to highlight where the archives sector can demonstrate leadership (such as digitisation) as well as develop and grow alongside other cultural bodies.

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