Archive spat keeps film history offline

Long, long ago, before most Swedes had televisions, SF and others made newsreels. As in many other countries, you could get a taste of the breaking stories of the day before the feature film. SF stopped production of SF-journalen in 1960, and four years later sold their enormous newsreel archive to Swedish Radio. Today, it is owned by Swedish Television.

Thanks to a cooperation between Swedish Television and the good people at the National Sound and Image Archive (as well as a bit of cash from the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the Knut and Alice Wallenbergs Foundation), those films have now been digitized. You can’t see them, though, unless you’re willing to get up and get on over to the Archive on Stockholm’s Karlavägen.

It seems that Swedish Television is, for the moment anyway, calling a halt to the Archive’s plans to make the materials freely available on the internet.

Swedish Television is making a little website of its own, and there might be some problems if SF-journalen is available in both places. There might, in fact, be some problems if SF-journalen is made available at all.

Unfortunately, a spokeswoman for Swedish Television wasn’t given much room to elaborate in DN’s recent article, titled “SVT stops free newsreels on the net”.

The National Sound and Image Archive has so far digitized 5,554 films as a part of their Journal Digital project. The oldest film (the first made on Swedish soil!) dates from 1896. Unfortunately, the better part of the material belongs to Swedish Television, and they aren’t budging.

As a result, the Archive’s homepage for the Journal Digital project is a little bleak at the moment.

Swedish Television just launched a new interactive platform, SVTi, and apparently the Journal Digital site and SVTi were a little too closely related. Swedish Television is, for the moment, keeping their films to themselves; after the new year people should be able to view bits and pieces of Swedish Television’s productions on the site.

Sven Allerstrand, the head of the National Sound and Image Archive told DN that the Archive’s position is a simple one: “Put it all out free on the internet for the Swedish people; it’s our common historical memory.”

The films have all been digitized and are available on a few hard drives in the Archive. So if you get an itch to find out, say, how the Swedish media portrayed World War One, you might want to get over to Karlavägen. Otherwise, just keep checking both websites, and something might come up eventually.

The National Sound and Image Archive

Sources: Dagens Nyheter