Innovation in Bangladesh Betar (Radio) Archive Management: one more step to go
-Tareq Zahirul Haque*
Bangladesh Betar (BB), the only public service broadcasting organization, is the strongest and oldest electronic media in Bangladesh. BB has 12regional stations and 8 units (centrally located) though which it broadcasts over 449 hours programme daily. Transcription service is one unit that functions as central archive,a gigantic storage of audio documents where oldest tape date back to BB’s inception (1939). Currently, archive is composed of audio reel tapes (12,000 tapes), CD and soft copy in computer and server.The archive has an estimated around 6000 hours of sound recordings. It holds documents on rare speeches and interviews of great national and world leaders, recitation of great poets, diverse programmes, music, historical political events etc. It is the largest preservation of country’s history, heritage and culture in audio format. Most importantly, it has many rare documents of our liberation war. The archive grows monthly by about 20 hours of new recordings. It also handles approximately 10 requests every day for supplying audio materials.
With the advent of new information and communication technology (ICT),BB started to modernize its traditional analogue broadcasting system. In addition to the adoption of computer based recording, editing/dabbing, BB emphasized the modernization of archiving system. In this connection, in 2005 government approved a proposal to conver tscarce materials of archive from audio tapes to CD and to maintain backup of the soft version.In line with this proposal, so far, the following three actions are about to complete:a) conversion of audio reel tape to CD, b) developing a computerized catalogue database, c) storage of converted materials into server with necessary backup.This is, however, because of the lack of online networking, units and regional stations have no access to this archive.This modernization of BB archive so far has been made is not innovation.
Successful innovation is the creation and implementation of new processes, products, services and methods of delivery which result in significant improvements in outcomes efficiency, effectiveness or quality. Undeniably, transformation of traditional audio reel tape and manual cataloguing system to a mechanism of computerized cataloguing and digital data preservation has protected valuable audio materials of old audio reel tapes from destruction. However, the way of service delivery is more or less same as it was before. The prevailing communications for transferring audio materials through physical, postal and e-mail are not much effective and efficient to utilize the full potential of archive. Hence, online networking of archive with all Betar units and regional stations for sharing and transferring audio documents is indispensable to enhance the productivity of archive. This online networking will change the mood of traditional service delivery and will provide a low cost, quick and easy service to stakeholders. As such,this online sharing of audio materials would be an innovation of BB achieve management if executed.
Context of BB in fostering innovation:
Heterogeneous human resource:Innovation can flourish in an organization where the human resources are heterogeneous. People from diverse skills, knowledge and background bring contrasting professional and disciplinary perspectives that are conducive for likely innovation. In BB, 4 different wings (programme, engineering, news and administration) with diverse skills and background work as a team in broadcasting. Of these 4 wings, one unit composed of Programme and Engineering wings is fully dedicated to archive management.
Programme wing is responsible for collection, preservation and distribution of audio materials while the Engineering wing performs the maintenance of equipment and providing technical support of archiving. Notably, in 2005, the initial plan of archive modernization was drafted by the concern unit that was later finalized in a common forum of all four wings led by the top management with necessary consultation from AIBD(Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development).
Leadership: Leaderships’ role is fundamental to embed innovation in organization culture. The executive leadership team’s role is pivotal to encourage, recognize and stimulate innovative ideas and deliver power to transform those ideas into reality for flourishing innovation. The likely success of innovation is fostered by the experience and knowledge of the employees closely connected to the work and therefore best understand their challenge and prospect. Thus, leaderships should be encouraged and developed at all key echelons within an organization.
In BB, executive leaderships’ role to foster innovation is encouraging. The top executives of concern ministry and BB are now very much positive to promote innovative culture rather that only confined to day-to-day activities.In practice, innovations in BB are mainly initiated from middle managers or entry level officers that can be labelled as bottom-up innovation. Accordingly, archive modernization is a bottom-up driven approach as it was designed and drawn attention to the authority by the mid-level and entry-level officers.
Notably, the work nature of broadcasting facilitates to develop leadership. The programme production is basically a team work where varied people are engaged and the success/failure of programme predominantly depends on the team leader. Therefore, team building, leadership development are highly emphasized in the working culture of BB.
Research and networking:
Research and networking are two important components that underpin innovation. Research plays critical roles in successful planning, execution, monitoring and assessment of innovation projects. And, networks make better utilization of internal and external information, knowledge and skills by means of communications, coordination and interactions between experts, teams or institutions that facilitate organizational innovations.
With regards to research and networking, BB has an inherent advantage as it has separate entities of research and networking such as research and reception cell and Liaison and Listeners Research cell. These cells conduct research; maintains coordination with national and international actors; exchanges information and knowledge; and facilitates training. These activities contributed a lot to archive modernization. For instance, being an executive member of AIBD, BB received free consultations and staffs’ trainings from them in archive modernization. Similarly, the information and knowledge generated from research about radio archive innovation contributed to make successful project.
Despite the above mentioned innovation potential of BB, following barriers must be overcome in order to develop the culture, processes to encourage innovation and its diffusion across the BB.
Bureaucracy:Bureaucratic cumbersome working procedures derived from strict rules-regulations stand as barrier of innovation in BB.Despite ministerial and organisational support in place, the archive innovation project took almost two years to be approved finally due to bureaucratic complexity. It is argued that formal administrative processes in public service kill innovation rather than breed which is also partly true in the case BB as it is the public service broadcasting organisation.
Cooperation and Coordination problem:The necessary cooperation and coordination between all concern actors are inevitable for successful implementation of an innovation work. Though the four wings of BB is strength of innovation, the lack of necessary cooperation and coordinate often create problem. The Programme and Engineering section who collectively maintain archival activities have separate budget and administrative order. Thus, the inadequate cooperation and coordination between them often lead to the system errors that undermine the archive activities.
Finance: Though archive innovation project finally overcame the financial problem from ministerial support, like any other government organisation BB also usually faces financial constraint in taking innovative activities. Being a public service broadcasting organisation the primary concern of BB is not making profit. Consequently, the figure of finance BB generates through advertisement is ten times less than its expenditure. Therefore, finance is a critical limiting factor of innovation.
In conclusion, all above analyses around innovation of BB archive resemble that BB has both potential and shortcomings for generating and implementing innovations.Regarding archive innovation, the shortcomings could be vastly outweighed by the potential innovation friendly environment. Thus, the initial success of BB archive modernization can essentially be the starting point of archive innovation.Now, what becomes more important, only one more step regarding online networking of archive with all units and regional stations needs to be taken for bringing innovation in BB archive management. So, now it is high time thought about and take necessary actions without further delay.
*The writer of this article is working as Deputy Director in the Head Office of Bangladesh Betar (Radio).