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Wiping, also known as junking, is a colloquial term of art for action taken by radio and television production and broadcasting companies, in which old audiotapes, videotapes, and telerecordings (kinescopes), are erased, reused, or destroyed. Although the practice was once very common, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, wiping is now practiced much less frequently.
Older video and audio formats were both much more expensive (relative to the amount of material that could be stored) and took up much more storage space than modern digital video or audio files, making their retention more costly, and there was more incentive to recycle the media for reuse or (in the case of film media) any silver content than to preserve the content, thus increasing the incentive of discarding existing broadcast material to recover storage space and material for newer programs.
The advent of domestic audiovisual playback technology (e.g., videocassette and DVD, and particularly with the rise of digital media in the 1990s) has made wiping less beneficial, as the cost of producing and maintaining copies of telecasts dropped dramatically. In addition, broadcasters also later realized how much commercial potential from home video, cable television, and online streaming usage of their archived material was possible and that served as a strong economic incentive to preserve all recordings. Over time this came to include scenes not originally broadcast due to time constraints and outtakes not originally used whether due to mistakes on the part of the cast and/crew or for some other reason - once producers and distributors realized there was significant demand for such content especially from devoted fans of their programs, they preserved the content to be marketed later (especially on home video releases).
To the extent that wiping still exists, it is primarily only used to erase ephemeral content with little to no intrinsic value.
Australian broadcasters did not gain access to videotape-recording technology until the early 1960s, and as a result nearly all programmes prior to that were broadcast live-to-air. Very little programming survives from the earliest years of Australian TV (1956–1960), as kinescope recording to film was expensive and most of what was recorded in this way has since been lost or destroyed. Some early programmes have survived, however; for example, ATN-7, a Sydney station, prerecorded (via kinescopes) some of their 1950s output such as Autumn Affair (1958–1959), The Pressure Pak Show (1957–1958) and Leave it to the Girls (1957–1958); some of these kinescopes have survived and are now held by the National Film and Sound Archive, with soap opera Autumn Affair surviving near-intact, likely one of the earliest Australian series for which this is the case.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) erased much of its early produced output. Much of the videotaped ABC programme material from the 1960s and early 1970s was erased as part of an economy policy instituted in the late 1970s in which old programme tapes were surrendered for bulk erasure and reuse. This policy particularly targeted older programmes recorded in black-and-white, leading to the loss of many recordings made before early 1976, when the real reason is that Australian television converted to colour. The ABC continued erasing older television output until the late 1970s.
Programmes known to have been produced then lost include most studio segments and stories from the 1960s current affairs shows This Day Tonight and Monday Conference, hundreds of episodes of the long-running rural serial Bellbird, all but a handful of episodes of the early-1970s drama series Certain Women, an early-1970s miniseries of dramatizations based on Norman Lindsay's novels, and nearly all of the pre-1978 episodes of the weekly pop-music show Countdown.
Many produced episodes of popular Australian commercial TV series are also lost. In the 1970s, Network Ten had an official policy to reuse tapes; hence, many tapes of Young Talent Time and Number 96 were wiped. To this day, Network Ten still only keeps some of its programming. Other notable losses from the Ten archive include hundreds of episodes of the Melbourne-based pop music shows commissioned and broadcast by ATV-0 Melbourne in the 1960s and early 1970s—The Go!! Show (1964–1967), Kommotion (1964–1967), Uptight (1968–70), and the Happening 70s series (1970–1972).
The Nine Network discarded copies of some of their programs, including the popular GTV-9 series In Melbourne Tonight starring Graham Kennedy. Though it ran five nights a week from 1957 to 1970, fewer than 100 episodes are known to survive, and many of the surviving episodes are edited prints made for rebroadcast across Australia. Early episodes of breakfast show Hey Hey It's Saturday do not exist because the programme was broadcast live and did not begin live videotape recordings until a number of years later.
From 1964 to 1967, all TV programs were recorded on film in what was then East Pakistan (until 1971). Then in 1967, VTR recording was introduced to record their TV programs in high quality. Bangladesh Television rarely practiced wiping since its Archive was carefully being maintained.
From 1968–1969, Rede Tupi produced new episodes of the soap opera Beto Rockfeller by recording over previous episodes; as a result, few episodes survive. After the closure of TV Tupi in 1980 the 536 tapes at its São Paulo studios were transported to a warehouse in the São Paulo suburb of Cotia and were simply left to deteriorate there until they were recovered by the Cinemateca Brasileira in 1985 and subsequently restored by TV Cultura in 1989. Only two Rede Tupi O&Os are known to have any preserved videotapes; TV Itacolomi's archives are now owned by the unrelated TV Alterosa, affiliated with SBT, whereas the few remaining tapes belonging to TV Piratini are stored privately in a museum in Porto Alegre, albeit in a heavily deteriorated state. Also, all the tapes at the Rede Tupi studios in Urca, Rio de Janeiro were later found to have been massively degraded by vinegar syndrome, hence they were unable to be restored.
Rede Record also lost much footage from the 1960s due to wiping, fires, and deterioration; most of the MPB music festivals no longer exist, and the sitcom Família Trapo (pt) has only one surviving episode, featuring Pelé. Until 1997, Rede Record had no policy on archiving videotapes; since then, at least 600 videotapes that were previously believed to be lost have been recovered with the help of the Instituto Ressoar (pt).
Rede Globo lost the first 35 broadcasts of both Fantástico and Jornal Nacional, in addition to many segments of their other soap operas as a result of wiping, and also due to three fires that occurred in 1969 (at its São Paulo studios), 1971 and 1976, (the latter two at its Rio de Janeiro studios) where in the 1976 fire, an estimated 920 to 1,500 tapes were destroyed.
Most of Rede Excelsior's output was damaged in a fire in 1969; however, in the late 1990s about 100 tapes of Rede Excelsior programming were discovered in the archives of Rede Globo and Rede Gazeta and these tapes were restored by the Faculdade Cásper Líbero and subsequently donated to the Cinemateca Brasileira in 2001.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation never practised wiping of programs they produced themselves. This was undoubtedly in large part to its status as a state-owned broadcaster, which allowed it access to government funding to archive its content without having to justify the expense to private shareholders. As a result, the CBC now maintains a nearly complete archive of all programming produced by them that was recorded. A rare exception, however, is the 1984-93 music video series Video Hits, which the CBC says footage of said show does not exist in their archives, apart from a handful of short clips posted online.In the case of Video Hits, it is presumed that the recordings were wiped for legal reasons since the show used content licenced from record producers.
The CTV Television Network has admitted to wiping many programs during the 1970s. Because of Canadian content requirements, the need for Canadian-produced programming led to more preservation of the shows they produced, and even very poorly received programs (such as the infamous The Trouble with Tracy) were saved and rerun for several years after their cancellation. Furthermore, Canadian rebroadcasts have been a source of some broadcasts that are otherwise lost in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Republic of Ireland was a latecomer to television, Telefís Éireann launching at the end of 1961. Although early news broadcasts were recorded on kinescopes, almost all broadcasts from the first fifteen years (i.e. up to 1977) are lost. Of the soap opera Tolka Row (1964–68) only the last episode survives, while only a handful of early episodes of The Late Late Show (1962–present) are extant. Even when shows were sent abroad — The Riordans was sent to Australia for rebroadcast — the tapes were often returned to Ireland and reused.
Some TV stations in Japan practiced wiping, this example included the original 1973 anime adaption of Doraemon. In addition, some programs released during the Tokusatsu boom of the 1970s were accidentally wiped following re-runs, as was the case with Toho's televised stageshow series Assault! Human!! (1972), which was lost in the 1980s after Nippon TV accidentally overwrote the master tapes.
Due to its multiple studio facilities, namely its Chapultepec and San Angel studios, Televisa preserved most of its scripted series for broadcast years after the preserved programs had ended their original runs. Some Televisa programs, however, were lost not due to wiping, but due to the 1985 Mexico City earthquake that destroyed part of the network's archive. However, smaller channels, such as XEIPN-TV and XHDF-TV, did not begin to preserve their recorded broadcasts until the early 1980s. Monterrey's Multimedios Televisión keeps most of its programming, though some special historical programming dealing with its flagship station's history clearly shows that some footage has been either donated by viewers recorded from its original broadcast, or uses footage of its programming recorded by fans and archivists and uploaded to websites such as Dailymotion, Vimeo and YouTube.
In the early days of PTV, a few test transmissions were broadcast, but the majority of programming was live. Since at the time PTV did not have the tools needed to create backups, the programming was considered lost as soon as it aired.
Pre-recorded shows started airing in 1971, stored mostly using Video Tape Recorders (VTR) and later shifting to VPRs. Both were stored in spools.
Final archive cuts of aired shows were stored in a near-freezing room, which was the standard storage requirement. However, sometime in the early 1980s, the air conditioning for archives was turned down too much, causing the spools to succumb to the heat and fuse together.
When the industry finally realised in early 1990s that transfer to digital video was imminent, the equipment needed to play back the old spools was no longer in working condition and replacement parts were almost nonexistent.
The spools were stored at the Shalimar recording company, and PTV has been able to play segments for retrospective programs.
Additionally, viewer home recordings also exist and are the only source of video for some shows.
The Center for Media Psychology Research Pakistan website gives a different story, stating that after the switch to colour broadcast, the recording medium in the 1970s was the one inch spool format which recorded sound and electronic moving pictures as a combined stream on a magnetic recording medium. However, due to the one inch magnetic spool containing all old archives was eventually lost.
Episodes from 1979 to 1982 of the longest running noontime show, Eat Bulaga!, have been lost.
Another example of the wiping of TV archives in the Philippines was when martial law was declared, soldiers raided the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center and placed it under military control. As a result, ABS-CBN's pre-martial law archives, dating from 1953 to 1972, were lost.
The BBC, the United Kingdom's first public service broadcaster, had no policy on archiving until 1978. Much of the corporation's output between the 1930s and 1980s has been lost. Rationales behind this policy include:
The BBC's television service dates back to 1936 and was originally a nearly live-only medium. The hours of transmission were very limited and the bulk of the programming was transmitted either live from the studio, or from outside broadcast (OB) units; film was a minor contributor to the output. When the first television broadcasts were made, there were two competing systems in use. The EMI electronic system (using 405 lines) competed with the Baird 240-line mechanical television system. Baird adopted an intermediate film technique where the live material was filmed using a standard film camera mounted on a large cabinet which contained a rapid processing unit and an early flying spot scanner to produce the video output for transmission. The pioneer broadcasts were not, however, preserved on this intermediate film as the nitrate (celluloid) stock was scanned while still wet from the fixer bath and never washed to remove the fixer chemicals. Consequently, the film decomposed very soon after transmission; nothing is known to have survived. No studio or OB programmes from 1936 to 1939 or 1946 to 1947 have survived because there was no means of preserving them. Historical 'firsts' from this era, the world's earliest television crime drama Telecrime (1938–39 and 1946) or Pinwright's Progress (1946–47, the world's first regular situation comedy), only remain visually as a handful of still photographs.
The earliest recording method for television was telerecording, which involved recording the image from a special television monitor onto film with a modified film camera. Early examples made by this method include the first two episodes of The Quatermass Experiment (1953), transmitted live while simultaneously telerecorded. The visual quality of the second episode's recording was considered so poor—a fly entered the gap between the camera and monitor at one point—that the remainder of the series was not recorded.
Although 2-inch Quadruplex videotape recording technology was utilised in the UK from 1958, this system was expensive and complex; recorded programmes were often erased after broadcast. The vast majority of live programmes were never recorded at all. Videotape was not initially thought to be a permanent archivable medium – its high cost and the potential reuse of the tapes led to the transfer of programme material to film via telerecording whenever sales of overseas screening rights were possible or preservation deemed worthwhile. The recycling of videotapes, coupled with savings made on the storage of the bulky 2" tapes, enabled the BBC to keep costs down.
Drama and entertainment output was studio-based and followed the tradition of live theatre. Conventional filmmaking was only gradually introduced from the 1960s. The Sunday Night Play (a major event in the 1950s) was performed live in the studio. On Thursday, because telerecording was of insufficient broadcast quality, another live performance followed, the artists returning to perform the play again.
Today, most programmes are pre-recorded and it is relatively inexpensive to preserve programming for posterity; even so, the BBC Charter makes no mention of any obligation to retain all of them.
All television programmes have copyright and other rights issues associated with them. For some genres of programmes—such as drama and entertainment—the actors, writers, and musicians involved in a production all have underlying rights. In the past, these rights were defended rigorously—permission could even be denied by a contributor for the repeat or re-use of a programme. Talent unions were highly suspicious of the threat to new work if programmes were repeated; indeed, before 1955 Equity insisted that any telerecording made (of a repeat performance) could only "be viewed privately" on BBC premises and not transmitted.
The introduction of colour television in the United Kingdom from 1967 meant that broadcasters felt there was even less value in retaining monochrome recordings. Such tapes could not be re-used for colour production, so they were disposed of to create space for the new colour tapes in the archives, which were quickly filling up. The increased cost of colour Quadruplex videotape—approximately £1,000 per tape at today's prices—meant that companies still often re-used the tapes for cost control. Negative attitudes to a programme's value also persisted. For these reasons, many programmes survive only as monochrome film recordings, if at all.
Some colour productions were telerecorded onto monochrome film for export to countries which did not yet have colour television. In some cases, early colour programmes only survive in this form.
Significant wiped programmes
High-profile examples of programme losses include many early episodes of Doctor Who (97), The Wednesday Play, most of the seminal comedy series Not Only But Also, all of the 1950s televised Francis Durbridge serials (further, the first two serials were never recorded), the vast majority of the BBC's Apollo 11 Moon landing studio coverage, all but one of the 39 episodes of The First Lady, and all 147 episodes of the soap opera United!. There are gaps in many long-running BBC series (Dixon of Dock Green, Hancock's Half Hour, Sykes, Out of the Unknown, and Z-Cars). The Beatles' only live appearance on Top Of The Pops in 1966, performing the single "Paperback Writer" is believed to have been wiped in a clear-out in the 1970s. An off-air recording of 11 seconds of footage made on an 8mm film camera was discovered in April 2019.
There is lost material in all genres — as late as the early 1990s, a large number of videotaped children's programmes from the 1970s and 1980s were irretrievably wiped by the BBC archives on the assumption that they were of "low priority", without consulting the BBC children's department itself.
Other lost material
Virtually the entire runs of the corporation's pre-1970s soap operas have been lost. In the 1950s and 1960s, the BBC soap operas The Appleyards, The Grove Family, Compact, The Newcomers, 199 Park Lane, and United! produced approximately 1,200 episodes altogether. There are no episodes of either United! or 199 Park Lane in the archives, while only one episode of The Appleyards, three episodes of The Grove Family, and four episodes each of Compact and The Newcomers are known to exist. Three episodes of Dad's Army are missing, all from the second series.
Also vulnerable to the corporation's wiping policy were programmes that only lasted for one series. Abigail and Roger, The Airbase, As Good Cooks Go, the 1960 adaptation of The Citadel, the 1956 adaptation of David Copperfield, The Dark Island, The Gnomes of Dulwich, Hurricane, For Richer...For Poorer, Hereward the Wake, The Naked Lady, Night Train To Surbiton, Outbreak of Murder, Where do I Sit?, and Witch Hunt have all been wiped with no footage surviving while four out of seven episodes of the paranormal anthology series Dead of Night were wiped.
An edition of Hugh and I ("Chinese Crackers"), starring Hugh Lloyd, Terry Scott, John Le Mesurier and David Jason was located by Kaleidoscope Publishing in 2010 in the archives of UCLA, and brought to general public attention in February 2011.
Early episodes of the pop music-chart show Top of the Pops were wiped or never recorded while they were being transmitted live, including the only in-studio appearance by The Beatles. Clips of the Beatles miming "Can't Buy Me Love" and "You Can't Do That" on an episode from 25 March 1964 were found online by missing episode hunter Ray Langstone in 2015. The last lost edition dates from 8 September 1977. There are only four complete TOTP episodes surviving from the 1960s, while many otherwise-missing episodes survive only as fragments. Only two episodes still exist of The Sandie Shaw Supplement (a music-variety show hosted by the eponymous singer), recorded in 1967.
Finding missing BBC programmes
Since the establishment of an archival policy for television in 1978, BBC archivists and others over the years have used various contacts in the UK and abroad to try to track down missing programmes. For example, all BBC Worldwide customers—broadcasters around the world—who had bought programmes from the corporation were contacted to see if they still had copies which could be returned; Doctor Who is a prime example of how this method recovered episodes that the corporation did not hold itself. At the turn of the 21st century, the BBC established its Archive Treasure Hunt, a public appeal to recover lost productions, which has had some successes.
The BBC also has close contacts with the National Film and Television Archive, which is part of the British Film Institute and its "Missing Believed Wiped" event which was first held in 1993 and is part of a campaign to locate lost items from British television's past. There is also a network of collectors who, if they find any programmes missing from the BBC archives, will contact the corporation with information—or sometimes even the actual footage. Some examples of programmes recovered for the archives are Doctor Who, Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Dad's Army, Letter from America, The Likely Lads, and Play for Today.
For many years the pilot episode of Are You Being Served? survived only in black and white, appearing in this form on the 2003 DVD release of the show. In 2009, a colour version was reconstructed when it was realised that the black and white film reel had actually recorded sufficient colour information as a dot crawl pattern to allow colour recovery.
The BBC was not alone in this practice – the commercial companies that formed its main rival ITV also wiped videotapes and destroyed telerecordings, leaving gaps in their archive holdings. The state of the archives varies greatly between the different companies; Granada Television holds a large number of its older black-and-white programmes, the company having an unofficial policy of retaining as much of its broadcast material (albeit by telerecording) as possible despite financial hardship in its early years. This includes the entirety of the soap opera Coronation Street which is now held at the Yorkshire Television archive, which itself possesses largely intact archives, although some early colour shows from the late 1960s and the early 1970s such as the entire output of the drama Castle Haven, the first two series of Sez Les and the children's variety show Junior Showtime are missing and believed wiped. The former ITV company Thames Television also has a significant library.
These cases tend to be the exception, however; the former nature of the ITV network, in which private independent companies were awarded licences to serve geographical areas for a set period of time, meant that when companies lost their licences their archives were often sold to third parties and became fragmented—and/or risked being destroyed, as ownership and copyright remained with the production companies rather than with the network. The archive of networked programmes made by Southern Television, for example, is now owned by the otherwise-unconnected Australian media company Southern Star Group but Southern's regional output is in the hands of ITV plc. The few surviving tapes of Associated-Rediffusion belong to many different organisations as the majority of Associated-Rediffusion's tapes were recorded in monochrome and therefore deemed of no use upon the arrival of colour broadcasting; as such they were disposed of by London successor Thames Television, although in recent years there have been occasional discoveries, such as a 1959 episode of Double Your Money, and the remaining missing episode of Around the World with Orson Welles, found by Ray Langstone in 2011. Many master tapes belonging to ATV have since deteriorated due to bad storage and are unsuitable for broadcasting. In particular, the ATV version of the popular soap Crossroads is missing 2,850 episodes of its original 3,555. Also often largely lost are quiz shows; few editions exist of the 1970s version of Celebrity Squares with Bob Monkhouse, or Southern's children's quiz Runaround.
Furthermore, responsibility for archive preservation was left to individual companies. For example, ITV has no record of its live coverage of the 1969 Moon landings after the station responsible for providing the coverage, London Weekend Television, wiped the tapes. Of the 96 British inserts to the 1980s franchised Anglo-American-Canadian children's show Fraggle Rock, only 12 are known to exist as the library of the British producer (TVS) has been sold and subsequently split up.
In recent years, the trend of preserving material has started to change. The archives of Westward Television and Television South West are now held in trust for the public as the South West Film and Television Archive, whilst changes in legislation mean that ITV companies which lose their franchises must donate their archives to the British Film Institute. However, the change of ITV from a federal structure to one centralised company means that changes of regional companies in the future seems highly unlikely.
Most material from the 1960s also only survive as telerecordings. Some early episodes are also believed to be damaged or in poor quality, whereas much of the output of other broadcasters – such as many early episodes of The Avengers which were shot in the electronic studio rather than on film, produced by Associated British Corporation – have been destroyed.
No copies of The Adventures of Francie & Josie exist, as most of Scottish Television's early shows were destroyed in a fire in late 1969 (although some sources state 1973). The Adventures Of Francie & Josie was made from 1961 to 1965 by STV.
Recovery of missing programmes
Since the BBC library was first audited in 1978, missing programmes or extracts on either film or tape are often found in unexpected places. An appeal to broadcasters in other countries who had shown missing programmes (notably Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and African nations such as Nigeria) produced "missing" episodes from the archives of those television companies. Episodes have also been returned to broadcasters by private film collectors who had acquired 16mm film copies from various sources.
- Two Series 1 episodes of The Avengers (an Associated British Corporation production) which were thought to be missing were recovered from the UCLA Film & Television Archive in the United States.
- It emerged in September 2010 that more than 60 recordings of BBC and ITV drama productions originally sent for broadcast in the United States by the PBS station WNET (which serves New York City and New Jersey) had been found at the Library of Congress.
- The BBC sitcom Steptoe and Son is completely intact, although approximately half of the colour episodes only exist in monochrome; this was after copies of episodes thought to be lost were recovered in the late 1990s from early non-broadcast standard video recordings made for writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson by BBC technicians.
- A few audio recordings of Till Death Us Do Part have been recovered, as well as an extract of the pilot and two episodes from series three.
- In the various sales of rights for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Series 1-4 from the UK edition were assumed to have been lost forever. However, in 2015, Challenge TV—a British channel broadcasting classic game shows—announced they had been found and were rebroadcast, though some episodes in that set remain missing and unfound.
Copies of several compilations from the British 1960s comedy At Last the 1948 Show, held by many to be a forerunner of Monty Python's Flying Circus, were discovered in the archives of the Swedish broadcaster SVT, to whom the producers Rediffusion London had sold them upon the companies' loss of its broadcasting licence. The master tapes, along with much of Rediffusion's programming, were wiped or disposed of by London successor Thames Television. Their recovery enabled the reconstruction of otherwise missing original editions of the programme, meaning most of the series exists in visual form.
Off-air home audio recordings of various television programmes have also been recovered, at least preserving the soundtracks to otherwise missing shows, and some of these (particularly from Doctor Who) have been released on CD by the BBC following restoration and the addition of narration to describe purely visual elements. Tele-snaps, a commercial service of off-screen shots of programmes often purchased by actors and television directors to keep a record of their work in the days before videocassette recorders, have also been recovered for many lost programmes.
Preservation of the current archive
Advances in technology have resulted in old programmes being transferred to new digital media, where they can be restored or (if they are damaged or otherwise cannot be restored) kept from decaying further. In the United Kingdom, the archives of both the BBC and those available of ITV, along with other channels, are being switched from the cumbersome older 2-inch quadruplex videotape and 1-inch Type C videotape formats to digital formats. This is an extensive and expensive process and one that will take many years to complete.
Live broadcasts in Britain are still not necessarily kept, and wiping of material has not ceased. According to writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet, there are "big gaps in the record of children's television of the Nineties."
In the United States, the major broadcast networks also engaged in the practice of wiping recordings until the late 1970s. Many episodes were erased, especially daytime and late-night programming such as daytime soap operas and game shows. The daytime shows, almost all of them having been taped, were erased because it was believed at the time that nobody would ever want to see them again after their first broadcast. In the early 1970s, the passage of Financial Interest and Syndication Rules barred the networks from syndicating their own archival programming; intended to encourage more local and independent content, it had the unintended consequence of prompting the networks to discard tapes that syndication companies had no interest in distributing (especially those in black and white).
The success of cable television networks devoted to reruns of these genres proved that this was not the case, as the large number of episodes that were required for a daily program made even a short-run game show an ideal candidate for syndication. By this time, however, the damage had already been done.
Preservation by institutions such as museums
Some museums and other cultural institutions, such as the Paley Center for Media, have taken steps to discover and preserve old recordings previously thought to have been wiped or discarded, lost, or misfiled.
Hosting sequences on videotape, nearly always featuring celebrities, were sometimes made for telecasts of family films, notably for the first nine telecasts of MGM's The Wizard of Oz. It is not known if those made for Oz survived since they have not been seen since 1967. One hosting sequence from that era that does survive is the one Eddie Albert made for the 1965 CBS telecast of The Nutcracker, starring Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, and Melissa Hayden. It has even been included on the DVD release of the program.
Many of Ernie Kovacs's videotaped network programs were also wiped. During different times as comedian, writer, and performer Kovacs had programs on all four major television networks (ABC, CBS, DuMont, and NBC). After Kovacs's death, the networks wiped many programs. Kovacs's widow Edie Adams obtained as many programs and episodes as she could find, donating them to UCLA's Special Collections.
Though most soap operas made the transition from live broadcast to videotaping their shows during the 1960s, it was still common practice to wipe and reuse the tapes. This practice was due to the high cost of videotape at the time. While soap operas began routinely saving their episodes between 1976 and 1979, several soaps have saved recordings of most or all their episodes. Days of Our Lives has recordings of all its episodes; its first two episodes exist on their original master tapes, and were aired by SOAPnet in 2005. The Young and the Restless, Dark Shadows and Ryan's Hope saved most of their episodes, despite the fact that they debuted during the 1960s and 1970s, before retaining tapes became common practice. Episodes of The Doctors began to be saved no later than December 4, 1967; this is where reruns of the series began when picked up by Retro Television Network in September 2014, and distributor SFM Entertainment claims to have roughly 95% of the series' episodes intact in its library. Episodes of other soaps broadcast during the 1950s to 1970s do exist in different forms and have been showcased in various places online.
Procter & Gamble started saving their shows around 1979. Very few pre-1979 color episodes of the Procter and Gamble-sponsored shows survive, with most extant episodes preserved as monochrome kinescopes. Exceptions include two episodes of The Guiding Light from November 1977 and another from 1973, which have been released on DVD. As the World Turns and The Edge of Night aired live until 1975, the year The Edge of Night moved to ABC and As the World Turns expanded from a 30-minute broadcast to one hour. Both shows began taping episodes in preparation for the move of The Edge of Night to ABC. The Edge of Night's ABC debut is believed to have survived. Overall, the number of surviving monochrome episodes recorded on kinescope outnumber color episodes for these programs.
Agnes Nixon initially produced her series One Life to Live and All My Children through her own production company, Creative Horizons, Inc., and kept a complete archive of monochrome kinescopes until ABC bought the shows from her in 1975. When the network decided to expand All My Children from 30 minutes to a full hour in the late 1970s, Nixon agreed on the condition that the network would begin saving the episodes. ABC complied, and full hour broadcasts began on April 25, 1977. However, different sources indicate that a warehouse fire destroyed the vast majority of the early-1970s kinescopes, or that erasures of the episodes continued. As a result, a few early episodes from these early years survive.
Virtually all episodes of General Hospital, from its premiere in April 1963 through to August 1970, are archived at UCLA. The UCLA Film & Television Archive holds a large number of daytime television airings that were spared from the wiping practice. Also archived there are handfuls of episodes of each soap opera that was on the air from 1971 and 1973, including A World Apart, Where the Heart Is, and Return to Peyton Place.
It is believed that almost the entire archive of the DuMont Television Network, covering its whole history from 1946 to 1956, was either destroyed in 1958 to recycle the film's silver content or sits at the bottom of New York City's East River. Around 1975, according to sworn testimony, one of DuMont's corporate successors dumped what remained of the substantial DuMont archive into the East River to clear room at the New York City warehouse where it was previously being stored. As of 2018, there has been no effort to locate or recover the discarded films.
Of the over 20,000 shows carried by DuMont in its ten-year existence, approximately 350 or so episodes of DuMont programming are known to exist today, less than two percent of its total output. The remainder were either never recorded (e.g., NFL on DuMont) or were dumped in the earlier purges. At least one of DuMont's shows were archived on its own: professional wrestling from the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (the direct predecessor to WWE), whose footage of wrestling matches from Madison Square Garden III as well as many matches of 1950s wrestling star Gorgeous George survive as part of WWE Libraries.
The Tonight Show
Almost all of The Tonight Show with Jack Paar and the first ten years hosted by his successor Johnny Carson were taped over by the network, with Carson's blessing, under the assumption that the broadcasts were of no real value. This is part of the reason why Carson's late 1960s shows had poorer picture quality compared to his competitor Dick Cavett on ABC; NBC was using the Tonight Show tapes repeatedly. Another reason for their poorer quality is that many of the 1960s Tonight Show episodes only survived in the kinescope format. (Cavett's ABC shows were also taped over by his network in favor of other shows produced at ABC's studios in New York.)
Early sporting events
National Football League (NFL)
Super Bowl I was aired by both CBS and NBC (the only Super Bowl to be aired by two networks), but neither network then felt the need to preserve the game long-term; CBS saved the telecast for a few months and re-ran it as filler programming at least once before wiping it. A color videotape containing the first, second and fourth quarters of the telecast from WYOU (the CBS affiliate for Scranton, Pennsylvania, which was then WDAU-TV) was found in 2005 and is in the process of being restored. On January 15, 2016, the NFL Network re-aired the first Super Bowl, featuring audio from NBC Radio and most of the TV network broadcast and newly discovered NFL Films footage of the game. Super Bowl II was aired exclusively by CBS and was long believed to have been erased, but it was later found that the entire telecast fully exists and rests in the vaults of NFL Films. Though NBC's telecast of Super Bowl III exists entirely in color, only half of the CBS broadcast Super Bowl IV broadcast does (the rest was preserved via Canadian simulcasts in black-and-white). The first three quarters of Super Bowl V broadcast by NBC Los Angeles' O&O station KNBC exist, but the fourth quarter is missing, though the Mike Curtis interception and Jim O'Brien game-winning field goal were recovered via news highlights from CBC in Canada. Super Bowl VI also exists in its entirety. It was not until Super Bowl VII that a continuous archive was established, with all Super Bowl telecasts from that point onward existing in their entireties.
Similarly, all of the telecasts of the NFL Championship Games prior to the Super Bowl are believed to have been lost, with all surviving footage of those games coming from separately produced film. The status of most regular season and playoff games from the early years of television up to the immediate years following the 1970 AFL–NFL merger are also unknown. Among the footage that has survived include at least some of NBC's coverage from the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders that featured the Immaculate Reception, as well as the inaugural telecast of Monday Night Football from 1970 between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets, though several Monday Night Football games in the ensuing seasons were lost. A 1974 game that featured John Lennon being interviewed by Howard Cosell in the booth only survived due to a home video recording of the game; the game itself was wiped by ABC. CBS kept coverage of a 1978 matchup between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles that would feature the now-infamous Miracle at the Meadowlands, although the existence of many 1978 games on CBS by private collectors shows that the networks by that point started keeping recordings of regular season games. There are rare exceptions of CBS games from 1977 back, but by 1978 the library of most teams is almost fully complete. NBC is another story.[clarification needed]
The NFL had its own filmmakers, NFL Films, filming the game with its own equipment. Thus, preserving the telecasts on tape was not seen as a priority by the networks when another source was available – though the sportscasters' play-by-play comments, as a result, were lost.
World Football League
Most of the telecasts of the World Football League, which had aired nationwide on TVS Television Network in 1974, were destroyed by its syndicator, TVS Television Network. Very little broadcast-quality footage survives; fragments of the World Bowl and playoffs have been saved, as have a few regular season games, including the league's inaugural national telecast, which existed (as of 2000) only on a fourth-generation copy of a VHS tape.
NFL Films compiled as much footage as it could find from the league for a 2000 episode of its series Lost Treasures, which included segments from most of the broadcast-quality footage and home-recorded kinescopes of very poor quality (mainly used as game film to assess performance) that serve as some of the only footage of the Charlotte Stars. The WFL did not have an in-house films division, but cinematographer Lewis Bice did shoot several highlight reels for promotions and television newscasts; when NFL Films found some of Bice's surviving work, they were surprised to see it was at or near their own quality.
The Rose Bowl
World Series telecasts
- 1952 (Yankees–Dodgers) – Games 6–7 are intact.
- 1955 (Yankees–Dodgers) – Only the first half of Game 5 is known to exist.
- 1956 (Yankees–Dodgers) – Only the last three innings of Game 2 are known to exist. Game 3 is intact minus the second and third inning. Game 5 (Don Larsen's perfect game) is intact minus the first inning, and was aired on January 1, 2009, during the MLB Network's first broadcast day.
- 1957 (Yankees–Braves) – Game 1 is intact by way of a print from the United States Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. Game 3 is intact, minus a snip of Tony Kubek's second home run in the top 7th inning. Games 6 (most of the first six innings) and 7 reportedly exist as well.
- 1960 (Yankees–Pirates) – Game 7 (with Bill Mazeroski's series winning home run) was found intact on kinescope in December 2009 in the wine cellar of Pirates' part-owner Bing Crosby, who had the game recorded at his own expense. MLB Network aired it in December 2010.
- 1961 (Yankees–Reds) – Half-hour segments of Games 3 (the first two innings), 4 (the 4th and 5th innings), and 5 (open and top of the 1st inning) are known to exist.
- 1963 (Yankees–Dodgers) – Game 3 is intact.
- 1965 (Twins–Dodgers) – All seven games were preserved by the CBC on kinescope.
- 1968 (Tigers–Cardinals) – All seven games were preserved by the CBC on kinescope.
- It is likely the 1965 and 1968 Series were preserved by the CBC due to the Twins' and Tigers' proximity to Canada; the country would not get its own MLB team until the Montreal Expos began play in 1969.
- 1969 (Orioles–Mets) – Games 1–2 were preserved by the CBC on kinescope, while Games 3–5 exist on their original color videotape from "truck feeds".
- 1970 (Orioles–Reds) – Games 1–4 were preserved by the CBC on kinescope, while Game 5 exists on its original color videotape from the "truck feed". Color fragments of the first 4 games exist as well.
- 1971 (Orioles–Pirates) – Games 1–2 and 6–7 are intact, while Games 3–5 only partially exist and Game 4 (the first World Series night game) is near-complete.
- 1972 (A's–Reds) – Game 4 is intact, along with nearly all of Game 5 and a fair chunk of Game 2. Fragments exist for Games 1, 3, and 6, while Game 7 was missing until it was found in September 2017 with the 7th inning to the end intact.
- 1973 (A's–Mets) – Game 1 is intact, Game 2 is missing the last inning and a half (including both Mike Andrews plays), Game 3 is complete minus the last inning, Game 4 is intact from the pregame show to the top of the 4th inning, and Game 5 has fragments of the first seven innings and the entirety of the last two innings. About 30 minutes of excerpts from Game 6 survive, while Game 7 cuts off with one out at the top of the 9th inning.
- While the last inning and a half of Game 2 is missing from the Major League Baseball/NBC copy, the Andrews plays (totaling about 60 seconds of coverage) survived because, after the World Series, NBC put together a 20-minute presentation tape narrated by Curt Gowdy to submit to the Peabody Awards in order to get consideration for an award for their coverage by the committee; the tape includes the two Andrews plays with Gowdy and Tony Kubek's calls and analysis of them. The presentation tape is held by the Peabody vault, creating a case where "reconstructing" a game in an incomplete format would require going to two different outlets.
- 1974 (A's–Dodgers) – Games 1–4 are complete. Game 5 is near intact, but the top of the 9th inning is missing and only exists on the original radio broadcast.
League Championship Series telecasts
For the League Championship Series telecasts spanning from 1969 to 1975, only 2 games survived, one is Game 2 of the 1972 American League Championship Series (Oakland–Detroit) is known to exist; however, the copy on the trade circuit is missing the Bert Campaneris–Lerrin LaGrow brawl. The other is Game 1 of the 1973 National League Championship Series that was covered by New York's then called WOR-TV and it featured the game all the way up to 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning.
There are some instances where the only brief glimpse of telecast footage of an early LCS game can be seen in a surviving newscast from that night.
- Clips of Game 5 of the 1972 National League Championship Series featuring the then-Cincinnati Reds announcer Al Michaels calling the two crucial plays of the game, the game-tying home run by Johnny Bench and wild pitch bringing home George Foster with the series-clinching run, are available.
- The last out of the 1973 National League Championship Series as described by Jim Simpson was played on that night's NBC Nightly News, but other than that the entire game is gone.
- On the day the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles wrapped up their respective League Championship Series in 1969, a feature story on the CBS Evening News showed telecast clips of the ALCS game (albeit with no original sound). This is all that likely remains of anything from that third game of the Orioles–Twins series.
While all telecasts of World Series games starting with 1975 are accounted for and exist, the LCS is still a spotty situation through the late 1970s:
- 1976 ALCS – Games 3 and 5 are intact, from the ABC vault.
- 1976 NLCS – Game 3 is intact, albeit an off-air recording taped in the Portland market. Apparently, this copy is the only extant version because the ABC vault copy has no sound.
- 1977 NLCS – Game 3 is intact, from the Philadelphia Phillies' local NBC affiliate. A copy is held by Major League Baseball, who also appears to have Game 4 as well.
- 1977 ALCS – Game 5 is intact, with both the WPIX and NBC versions existing through off-air recordings.
- Clips of these games may be seen in highlight shows such as Yankeeography. It is believed that incomplete tapes of the ALCS exist. It is possible these games are not shown in part because the audio quality is poor. A common method of getting around such deficiencies would be to overlay a radio telecast or narration by a player or commentator where gaps exist.
- 1978 ALCS – All four games (ABC version) are intact via off-air recordings.
- 1978 NLCS – Game 4 is intact, again from off-air recordings.
- 1963: Celtics–Lakers — Game 6 is intact.
- 1965: Celtics—Lakers — only half of the second quarter and the early portions of the third quarter of Game 1 exist.
- 1969: Celtics–Lakers — only the entire 4th quarter of Game 7 exists.
- 1970: Lakers–Knicks — Game 7 is intact.
- 1971: Bucks–Bullets — only nearly all of the second half of Game 4 exists.
- 1972: Knicks–Lakers — Game 5 is intact with the exception of the last 3–4 minutes of the game
- 1973: Knicks–Lakers — Games 1–4 are missing, while the entire Game 5 wasn't found until 2013 and some of which was shown in the 30 for 30 documentary When The Garden Was Eden.
- 1974: Bucks–Celtics — only the 4th quarter and 2nd overtime of Game 6 and the 4th quarter of Game 7 exist.
- 1975: Bullets–Warriors — all 4 games are intact.
- 1976: Suns–Celtics — all 6 games are intact.
- 1977: 76ers–Trail Blazers — all 6 games intact.
- 1978: Sonics–Bullets — Games 1, 5, 6 and 7 are intact.
All NBA Finals games from 1979 to the present exist in their entirely.
Early live shows
Many programs in the early days of television were live broadcasts that are lost because they were not recorded. Most prime-time programs that were preserved used the kinescope recording process, which involved filming the live broadcast from a television screen using a motion-picture camera (videotape, for recording programs, was not perfected until the late 1950s and was not widely used until the late 1960s). This was also a common practice for broadcasting live TV shows to the west coast, as performers often performed a show back-to-back, but never three times in succession.
Daytime programs, however, were generally not kinescoped for preservation (although many were temporarily kinescoped for later broadcast, episodes recorded in this way were often junked). Many local station and network newscasts were prone to wiping.
Some early news programs, such as Camel News Caravan on NBC, are largely lost.
Moving images of Walter Cronkite reading the news in his studio every night for six years (1962-August 2, 1968) are mostly gone. Exceptions are his coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and the November 1963 tragedies in Dallas, Texas: the JFK assassination, the shootings of police officer J. D. Tippit and Lee Oswald and all three funerals, as well as his introduction of the Beatles and his criticism of the Vietnam War.
Douglas Edwards anchored the live five-minute segment The CBS Afternoon News five afternoons a week between 1962 and 1966. He started the segment immediately after the half-hour broadcast of the Goodson-Todman game show To Tell The Truth. Not one second from four years' worth of The CBS Afternoon News was preserved in any way.
Vanderbilt University has kept all evening national news telecasts since Monday, August 5, 1968. Only newscasts that lasted a half-hour were saved. During that era until the 1980s, all three networks continued featuring news updates that lasted five minutes or less and were inserted during commercial breaks. As late as the 1980s, long after the invention of the VCR, very few were preserved. When anchorwoman Jessica Savitch appeared under the influence of drugs while anchoring NBC News Digest in 1983, total running time of one minute, NBC employees made no effort to preserve it. When her sudden death in a car accident, three weeks after the live telecast, made people curious about her appearance in the segment, it was discovered that an employee of an NBC affiliate had saved it without knowing its value. The affiliate was far away from New York City where Savitch worked.
As of 1997, CBS had saved 1,000,000 videotapes of news reports, broadcasts, stock footage, and outtakes according to a report that year from the National Film Preservation Board. The same report added, "Television stations still erase and recycle their video cassettes", referring to local news programs. Many local stations contract with outside companies for archiving news coverage.
Little of the first sitcom, The Mary Kay and Johnny Show, remains today. It was initially live and not recorded, but later in its run kinescopes were made for rebroadcasting. Fragments of episodes and one complete installment are known to exist.
Game shows, more than any other genre, were prone to wiping. Many games between 1941 and 1980 lasted for time periods that were so short (some measured in a span of weeks or even days) that the networks felt it unnecessary to keep them for posterity, whereas recycling the tapes would be more profitable and less of an effort than attempting to sell the series in reruns, in an era before cable television.
Mark Goodson–Bill Todman Productions (and to a lesser extent, Barry-Enright Productions, Chuck Barris Productions, Jay Wolpert Productions, and the post-1980 Merv Griffin productions) and to an even lesser extent Heatter-Quigley Productions had the foresight to preserve many of their games for later reruns; for years, these shows dominated the USA Network's game show block, then the Game Show Network (GSN) line-up and now make up a major portion of Buzzr TV's lineup. You Bet Your Life was saved from destruction only because host Groucho Marx allowed NBC to give him the recordings they were otherwise going to throw out.
Most other game shows from that era were not so fortunate. All of the Bob Stewart (except Pyramid), Heatter–Quigley except for PDQ which aired in syndication as well as many episodes of Hollywood Squares, Hatos–Hall (except for a large portion of Let's Make a Deal), Ralph Andrews, Carruthers Company (except for Press Your Luck), the pre-scandal Barry & Enright, Jack Barry (except for The Joker's Wild), Ralph Edwards and pre-1980 Merv Griffin (which includes most of the Art Fleming version of Jeopardy and the Chuck Woolery version of Wheel of Fortune) have been destroyed, with the exception of a few rare pilots and "cast aside" episodes. The few remaining episodes have therefore become collectors' items, and an active tape trading circuit exists among collectors.
NBC and ABC continued the wiping process well into the 1970s; while ABC ceased in early 1978, NBC continued to wipe some shows into 1980, leaving much of their daytime game show content lost forever. CBS abandoned the wiping process by September 1972, largely as a result of their collaboration with Goodson-Todman; as a result, even the network's shorter-lived games (such as Spin-Off and Whew!) still exist in their entirety. Incidentally, all three networks ended their wiping practices during the time Fred Silverman led their respective networks.
As late as the late 1970s, long after the invention of the videocassette reduced the storage space that was necessary for a vault, American companies that syndicated game shows, such as Odyssey Productions, were more likely to wipe all their videotapes than the three networks were. The syndicated game show Dealer's Choice, which ran throughout 1974 and 1975 in syndication throughout the United States, is believed to have been almost entirely destroyed. (In contrast, because syndication required dozens of copies of a given episode to be produced to be sent to individual stations, that also increased the possibility that "syndication prints" would survive the wiping process by not being returned to the syndicator.)
For the several years it remained in business, officials of the DuMont network wished to keep its programs as intact as possible. However, the network ceased to exist in 1956 and its archive, as previously noted, was discarded in the 1970s. The corporate successor to DuMont, Fox, not only has never aired any daytime programming (other than its Fox Kids block from 1990 to 2001) but debuted in 1986, well beyond the wiping era.
Several award shows from the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards, only survive in kinescope format. From 1957 to 1965, the Academy Awards were taped in black and white, but only survive in kinescope format for overseas distribution, especially for the European TV audiences, which used another system (625 lines as opposed to 525 lines), as the tapes used for late broadcasting were reused. All of the taped broadcasts of the Academy Awards from 1966 onward (the first to be broadcast in color) remain intact.
Yugoslav Radio Television (JRT) practiced wiping until the 1970s when it gained access to newer and cheaper methods of recording, which allowed it to regularly archive programming.
- Doctor Who missing episodes
- British television Apollo 11 coverage
- Missing Believed Wiped
- Lost film
- List of lost television broadcasts
- Film preservation
- List of surviving DuMont Television Network broadcasts
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