70 years of television

Ina preserves the television programmes produced by France’s public television channels since just after the Second World War. In addition to these initial archives, in 1995, Ina began to manage the legal deposit of both radio and television collections, formed by the continuous recording of over 100 channels.

Public television since 1945

In 1975, Ina was entrusted with the management of the ORTF archives and has preserved the archives created since the beginnings of television in France, just after the Second World War.

This “inheritance”, the memory of the greatest hours of television, and particularly the pioneering period, is made up of fiction, documentaries, magazine and news programmes, entertainment, talk shows and retransmissions.

The programmes are produced by the following channels:

  • The first channel of French Radiodiffusion (RDF), French Radiodiffusion-television (RTF, as of 1945) then the Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française (ORTF, as of 1964), then TF1 (as of 1975, privatised in 1987).
  • The second channel (launched in 1963), then Antenne 2 (1975), and France 2 (1992).
  • The third channel (1972) then FR3 (1975) then France 3 (1992).

The preservation of television programmes in archives was born from the channels’ need to re-broadcast certain documents to illustrate the news or to show them again. The collection of the first “film reels” marked the beginning of a film library from 1952 onwards. With the launch of the second television channel in 1963, the service had to deal with a plethora of programmes. It was not until the end of 1970 that ORTF addressed the issue of archiving and set up a Central service for the preservation of audiovisual archives.

During the early years, given the lack of recording processes, only films were preserved. The invention of the kinescope, in the early 1950s, allowed for the preservation of programmes broadcast live. The only traces of certain programmes are photos taken on the set.

A vast preservation and digitisation plan, introduced in 1999, began to transfer these archives from their original formats, which had become obsolete, to digital formats. The operation, which will continue until 2021, not only ensures their survival, but enables Ina to multiply the ways in which they are used, both by professional users and the general public. 

The main stages of legal deposit since 1995

From 1995, the programmes of the seven national Hertzian channels were preserved as part of the legal deposit of radio and television”, introduced by the Law of 20 June 1992, and entrusted to Ina.

In the strict sense of the word, the legal deposit obliges broadcasters to submit all their programmes of French origin broadcast for the first time, as well as a daily sample of television news, and an annual sample of games and sports retransmissions. The legal deposit also requires all channels to submit seven sample days, every year, providing an entire day’s programming.

The programmes collected as part of the audiovisual legal deposit have gradually been extended to include cable and satellite channels, the free service known as TNT and regional channels.

This scope has been broadened several times in line with the increase in the number of channels.  

  • From 1st January 1995 to 1st January 2002, the legal deposit processes and methods for the seven Hertzian channels were launched and established.
  • From 1st January 2002, all channels have been archived 24/7: Ina has captured and recorded all channels 24/7, importing metadata, and preserving files already in digital format; These developments have made it possible to extend recordings to the 12 historic cable and satellite channels, and in September 2003 to an additional 22 new TV channels, three peripheral radios and eight FM radio stations.
  • As of 2005: the recording of eight new TNT channels as soon as they were launched, then eight additional channels in 2012.
  • Over the same period, documentation processes have evolved.
  • As of 2007, the service was extended to regional media: 24 France 3 regional channels (2007), and nine overseas channels, Outre-mer 1ère (2015).

Today, 103 television channels are recorded every day: general, theme-based, continuous news, sports, music and for younger generations, etc.

The collection carried out as part of the legal deposit is not designed for the professional use of Ina archives; Ina does not hold the rights for the archived programmes. Their consultation is reserved for researchers and students working in the audiovisual sector.

The Programme Observation Service

Ina also manages the Programme Observation Service, now the CSA, which covers the entire recordings of national Hertzian channels from 1986 to 2001 for TF1, France 2 and France 3, and from 1992 to 2001 for Canal+, Arte and M6. This collection represents some 500,000 hours of programmes conserved in digital format.  

Regional public metropolitan channels

The regional collections, which reflect the wealth and diversity of life in the French regions, are made up of news bulletins, news magazine programmes and programmes recorded in regional languages, such as Alsatian, Breton, Occitan and Basque.

These archives group the programmes shown on the regional channels of RTF, ORTF, FR3 and then France 3. The earliest archives date from the beginnings of the 1950s.

Since December 2007, France 3 Régions’ 24 channels have been included within the scope of the legal deposit

Public Overseas regional channels

Programmes produced in France’s overseas departments and territories have been part of Ina’s professional archives for over 50 years (under the aegis of RTF, FR3 DOM-TOM, then RFO, today known as the Outre-mer 1ère network) and have been preserved on the premises of the different stations (nine in all, in addition to the Malakoff head office).

Since 2006, when a first expertise was conducted in six stations, Ina highlighted the dangers of deterioration and loss of content if preservation was not launched immediately for the older collections.

From 2008 to 2009, the “historic” formats or carriers (film, 1-inch taps and ¾ inch cassettes) covering the years from 1975 to 1985, have been brought back to metropolitan France to be digitised.  

In 2012, a safeguarding operation of “recent” collections (Beta cassettes and DVC Pro) was launched. These collections, most of which had been kept in the nine overseas stations, are regularly used again. These 200,000 documents, which represent some 135,000 hours, not counting new programmes and all the Malakoff head office productions, are processed on site.  

From 2013 to 2018, the digitisation of this exceptional audiovisual resource has been and will be continue to be carried out in each station over an average period of nine months.

France Ô, a channel of the France Télévisions group, was brought within the scope of the legal deposit at the end of 2007, along with the nine overseas stations as of January 2015.  

International channels

Since 2006, three international news channels have been recorded to provide researchers with new context: BBC World, CNN International and Al Jazeera.


Ina’s advertising archives represent some 330,000 French television commercials starting on 1st October 1968, the date of the first broadcast of a brand advert.  These archives comprise three different collections:

  • the RFP collection (Régie Française de Publicité), 25,500 commercials, including some general interest campaigns and collective ads (known as “compensated adverts”). This collection covers the period from 1968 to 1984;
  • the SECODIP collection of some 33,300 commercials, shown between 1985 and 1994;
  • the documents collected as part of the legal deposit since 1995, which includes all the French-produced ads collected from ARPP (formerly BVP), to which are added some 20,000  ads every year.

Advertising archives between 1968 and 2006 can be consulted on ina.fr

Video clips

As part of the legal deposit, Ina has also preserved the first broadcasts of French music clips since 1st January 1995 to the present day, a total of some 5,000 clips.

Ina productions

Ina’s collections are enhanced by its own productions, over 2,400 documentaries and fictional programmes since 1975. These are documentaries directed by some of the world’s finest film directors, including Jean-Luc Godard, Benoît Jacquot, and Raoul Ruiz, as well as Robert Bober, Dominique Gros, Chantal Akerman, André S. Labarthe and Rithy Panh, who all agreed to try their hand at experimenting for television, exploring their imagination or reporting on news in the performing arts and contemporary art.

Ina has also performed certain assignments formerly conducted by the ORTF Research Service including many “heritage interviews” with eminent figures, on themes such as television, the performing arts, historiography, music and dance. A collection of testimonials of around 100 survivors from the Shoah was produced in 2006. Their number includes Roman Polanski, Georges Kiejman and Marceline Loridan-Ivens.

More recently, 1,000 short interviews with victims and witnesses of the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015 were produced as part of the “13 November” project undertaken by France’s national research centre, CNRS, and National Institute of Health and Medical Research, INSERM.

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