Digital & Online

BBC Beefs Up Website and Archive Search Tools


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The BBC has made more than 200,000 radio and TV programmes from its archive more accessible with a new online tool called Programme Explorer.

The perfect tool for curious fans of BBC programmes, Programme Explorer scours existing radio and TV programmes from across BBC online – including Sounds, iPlayer News, Sport, Weather and more – to find every available programme relating to a search.

Most programmes are from recent years, but some stretch back several decades. Curious types can explore particular passions, or use this new search tool as a learning resource to discover a selection of the vast range of material in the BBC archives. All the programmes already exist on BBC online platforms, Programme Explorer tool makes it easier to find them.

This includes a wealth of cultural series from Radio 4, such as In Our Time, Bookshelf and The Reith Lectures; for those who may be spending more time in horticultural pursuits, nearly 600 episodes of Gardeners’ Question Time can be easily searched for specific topics and themes; people stuck at home can travel the world with thousands of World Service programmes, including Witness, Science in Action and One Planet, and children suffering from lockdown boredom can search the archive of Horrible Histories or In the Night Garden.

The search tool enables people to do simple text searches to find programmes they’re looking for, for particular people, themes or topics.

For example, a simple search for QI presenter Sandi Toksvig brings up every episode of that show that’s currently available to watch, but also an array of other programmes she has featured in, including Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Radio 3’s My Classical Favourites, and Jessie Ware’s BBC Sounds podcast Table Manners.

The tool also enables the audience to use a variety of search filters to narrow the results, enabling people to explore niche interests and find exactly what they’re looking for. For example, a search for tomatoes returns results that span programmes that include recipes on how to cook with them, science on genetic modification, even programmes that explore the history of the humble tomato. However, if you’re interested specifically in how to cultivate tomatoes you can narrow the search to find every episode of Gardener’s World that covers how to care for and grow tomatoes.

Peter Rippon, executive editor of the BBC Archive, says: “Programme Explorer is a real treasure trove for anyone with a niche passion about virtually anything, and an invaluable informal learning tool. There are over 200,000 programmes available for people to watch or listen, and until now it’s been difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. This tool also makes it easy to find things you didn’t know you were looking for – sending you down a rabbit hole, following your curiosity through a wide range of brilliant BBC programmes from across the archive.”