The BBC could ask listeners to write programme information about its radio news bulletins in order to make its vast archives more accessible to future generations of licence payers.

Under the Annotatable Audio project, radio listeners would be able to mark and add descriptive keywords to segments of programming they want to flag for bookmarking or sharing with others. It means they could highlight a specific item within a lengthy bulletin stream and return to that particular point later.

Inspired by Flickr and Wikipedia, the project is a private, early-stage pilot of social software produced at BBC Radio and Music Interactive that lets listeners slice programmes into chunks that can be identified by using tags.

Influential blogger Tom Coates, who oversaw development at the BBC, showed a demonstration in which a user marks individual headlines within a Radio 4 bulletin then adds descriptive text that can be used to make segments searchable.

"Over the next few decades, it's pretty clear that the massive archives of content that every broadcaster in the world has accrued over the last 70 or 80 years will start to appear on-demand and on the internet," he wrote.

"How are people supposed to find the specific bit of audio or video that they're looking for? What if what you're looking for is not a complete, coherent half-hour programme, but a selection of pertinent clips [such as] features on breaking news stories?

"We decided to look towards the possibilities of user-created annotation and metadata... that might allow the collective articulation of what a programme or speech or piece of music was about and how it could be divided up and described."

Searchable data is already added by journalists to radio and television clips that are posted to the BBC News site and an earlier prototype let readers tag stories on the site. Annotatable Audio project concepts may be used in future services, Mr Coates said.

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From BeachBum, 11:27 10 November 2005

As a Brit that now lives in the southern hemisphere the Beeb site is an handy resource to keep up with the political and cultural shifts of the mothership. The idea of giving something back by way of helping out with annotating BBC content is something with which I'd be more than willing to help out. However, there is a problem...

The Beeb noo meeja folk, in their finite wisdom, block much of their internet multimedia output from crossing the White Cliffs of Dover to the former colonies and beyond [1]. The UK ex-pat communities around the world that, I'm sure, would be the backbone of the annotation enterprise can't help out until this stupid policy is reversed. The Beeb's reasoning is that we don't pay licence fees. Ironically, any Aussie backpacker that does my journey in reverse in order to serve beer in the pubs of London can access all of the BBC's content despite never having paid a penny towards it while my 20 year contribution means nothing at all.

[1] I have a solution for this problem; If the currency in any given country still features a picture of the Queen then the BBC output should flow there unfettered :-)

Peter, the whinging Pommie bastard.

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