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Development of a search engine for the indexing and retrieval of data from the TV production archive of ZDF

The academic study of television, film and radio productions has gown strongly in recent years. This is because AV (audio-visual) media, which have long been culturally very influential, are increasingly attracting the interest of researchers. The public broadcasting corporations have production archives where programmes and features are stored and which constitute an AV cultural asset of Germany. However, researchers working in communication and media studies do not currently have user-friendly online access to these archives.

Leipzig University Library is therefore developing a search engine based application that will catalogue archive data from public-service TV broadcaster ZDF and then make it accessible for academic research, including by generating lists of results and creating graphical visualizations. One key goal of the project is to process broadcast data which is relevant to cultural heritage and make it available for research while ensuring that the data cannot be used for illicit purposes.

The project aims to make the ZDF archive accessible in such a way that as well as exploring individual features and productions, research can be conducted regarding production as a whole. Similar to the German National Bibliography, which solely includes published items, only productions which have been distributed in some form by the broadcaster (e.g. which have been broadcast on one or more occasions or made publicly available in some other way) will be addressed by the application.

The narrow aim is to enable two forms of data retrieval for researchers: a) an archive search, and b) a complex search query using the catalogue data, with research data generated by means of analysis, display and export options. This in turn will open up two possibilities for academic use. For one thing, for the very first time it will be possible for a public broadcaster’s production archive to be searched externally. And secondly, since the index will go beyond the function of a mere inventory, it will create additional added value when retrieving research data.

This can be regarded as a pilot project because the planned application can theoretically be used for other data providers and could thus be expanded into a possible ‘Germanmediography’. The project makes use of the expertise of Leipzig University Library for the development and operation of a media specific search engine. It will also harness the expertise of researchers registered in the ‘’ Specialized Information Service for Media, Communications and Film Studies operated by the library.