Our television collection is the largest accessible archive of British TV programmes in the world, collected since the 1950s from broadcasters, television companies and individuals.

We’ve gathered TV programmes from various sources, but mainly from broadcasters themselves. We’ve even found and restored TV footage thought lost forever.

We are designated as the National Television Archive and most of our TV is recorded ‘off-air’. This means that we preserve it as it was originally viewed, complete with commercials, trailers, announcements and station identifications — it’s a priceless reference tool for researchers and a record of national broadcasting.

Since 1985 we’ve recorded independent terrestrial channels from public service broadcasters for preservation in the Archive. In 1985 we started with ITV and Channel 4, and we began recording Channel 5 from its launch in 1997. Owing to changing technology, these recordings used to be selected examples and programmes from the output of the channels, but since 2016 we have recorded channels all day every day through an automated system. 

The BBC Archive preserves and cares for BBC materials, but we work in partnership to make BBC programmes available to researchers, academics and students for research purposes. Our BBC Access collection includes complete recordings from BBC1 and BBC2 since 1990 and BBC3 and BBC4 since they began broadcasting. 

We currently capture 17 channels off-air for the Archive.

We have a huge and representative range of programmes that tell a fascinating story about TV production and viewing in Britain over 70 years, and we hold unique collections from the early days of ITV, including the Associated-Rediffusion collection, the first 12 years of current affairs flagship This Week, and the Jack Hylton collection of 1950s light entertainment.