Strategic priority three

Access to screen heritage is integral to the BFI’s ambitions to develop British film and talent, and to provide a programme which attracts new audiences, public and professional, to a richer experience of film.

Alongside a flourishing film culture we also aim to stimulate economic growth by increasing revenues across the industry.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

About this priority

The digital challenge

Much of our own film heritage isn’t accessible. Although many British works are available on DVD or to download, most of our screen heritage is not, and audiences are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of access. And as the cinema industry completes the transition to digital, a significant part of this heritage will become ever more inaccessible, stranded in the analogue domain.

Our ultimate goal is therefore to digitise and make accessible to the public all of our screen heritage.

Selecting the material

We will start by digitising 10,000 works in the next five years. Selected by an expert panel, we will also ask the public to nominate films they would like to see digitised. We will ensure:

  • Significant British features are made available as Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) for theatrical release.
  • Films reflecting our diverse heritage can be seen on digital platforms, to inspire a wider appreciation of film.
  • People can watch films illustrating their history and cultural identity.
  • Films are made available for teaching, learning and re-use.
  • 5,000 of the works will be selected from the BFI National Archive. Funds will be available to digitise a further 5,000 works, open to archives and rights-holders.

We will enter into rights agreements with rightsholders and work in partnership with them to enhance the value of any material made jointly available. We will also work for changes to copyright law to allow use of orphan works, and to introduce extended collective licensing to facilitate mass digitisation.

Preservation and digitisation

We will protect our analogue legacy by investing to ensure collections are safely stored in optimum conditions, and by maintaining the skills and capacity to handle obsolete formats.

We will invest in digitisation capability — both equipment and skills — and build a digital preservation infrastructure to ensure that archives can continue digitisation into the future, and ensure preservation of contemporary productions. A digital National Television Archive will be created, in partnership with Ofcom and broadcasters, and we will work to secure arrangements for archiving in the next Communications Act and BBC Charter.


We will create and host a service on that uniquely identifies all British works, and shows users where they can be viewed and where source materials are held.

On this foundation we will present the story of British film, showcasing both unknown gems and the greats of British cinema. We will seek to programme channels for adoption across VoD services and device platforms, and work with broadcasters to package material for co-production.

We will continue to make films available in venues across the UK, and work to increase primary access to collections and information.

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  • BFI National Archive

    BFI National Archive

    We care for one of the greatest collections of film and television in the world.

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