Keynote: Brian Hocker, KXAS-TV, NBCUniversal

MARTIN HALBERT: [Slide 1, 00:00] I’m Martin Halbert, dean of libraries at the University of North Texas. It’s my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, who I advocated for very hard. Brian Hocker is vice president for digital media production and research at NBC 5 / KXAS in Dallas-Fort Worth. Let me tell you why I was so interested in having Brian come talk to this group.

A little bit about the background of our relationship at the University of North Texas with NBC 5: NBC 5 / KXAS, it’s important to understand the history of it in Texas. It’s the oldest television station in Texas and one of the oldest in the country, and has a really long, rich body of material that’s been reported on over the decades of its existence, since the early ‘50s.

First, let me give you a little bit about Brian because he has a great background for informing this discussion. Brian has been involved in a lot of different efforts nationally over the years. He was the president of the American Marketing Association. Also, he was a former member of the Nielsen company’s national policy guidelines committee, which if you know anything about it, advises on policies and practices for the television ratings industry.

Brian thinks big, and he thinks about innovative kinds of practices. When NBC acquired Telemundo, the Spanish television network, Brian was the one that implemented and integrated it into all the Texas markets. He also really thinks a lot about new media and new approaches to the news. He has led the company’s efforts in things like TV Everywhere and Sony Vue, the Cozi TV effort most recently. And we got to know Brian at UNT recently when he approached us — and he’ll give you more background, I think, about the history of this project — but I first was introduced to him by our archives staff, who said, “Well, there’s this incredible opportunity for UNT to be the archive and the place to provide access to decades of material from NBC 5.” And I said, “Wow, how did this come about?” “Well, there’s this great guy there, Brian Hocker, who really understands cultural legacy, cultural memory, and really wants to talk to us as a partner.” When I met Brian, I was immediately struck by his knowledge of the network news but also his understanding of the broad issues in preserving access to the legacy of the news. With that, let me turn it over to Brian.

BRIAN HOCKER: [04:03] All right. Well, if nothing else, Martin, I feel much better about myself this morning. [laughter] Thank you very much for that kind introduction. I will tell you, if you had asked me in January of this year where I might be speaking in the course of 2015, speaking to a group of academics, librarians — I’m not even sure what you call yourselves — would not have come to mind. But nevertheless, here I am. I will tell you I’m a bit intimidated. I’m a little bit nervous. It was nice that Katherine [Skinner] said we’re not experts; none of us are experts. I’m certainly not an expert in your field. But with the support of Katherine, Martin and Edward McCain, here I stand before you. I’m probably relieved you don’t have coffee so you can’t ask me too many questions. [laughter]

But with that, what I’m told would be most helpful is if I just relay to you the story of how our archive — NBC 5 / KXAS in Dallas-Fort Worth — has ended up at UNT. I’m very proud of the history of the station, which Martin was alluding to, so I want to share that with you and then segway into this problem I realized that we had, a wanting to preserve, and how we got it to make its way to UNT, and then leave you with just a few thoughts, which are perhaps mundane and redundant to you, but they were enlightening to me because, again, this isn’t my field. So, does that sound OK? Well, that’s good. If you had said no, I’d be in big trouble. [laughter]

[Slide 2, 06:14] This is NBC, this is WBAP-TV, which signed on the air in 1948. It was “We Bring A Program” — how uncreative is that, that they came up with those call letters. [Slide 3, 06:33] The founder of the station was a gentleman by the name of Amon G. Carter. I’m curious: Have any of you heard of him?



HOCKER: OK, you have. I don’t know if that’s through North Texas or where, but Amon G. Carter was just the perfect spokesperson because he was one of these guys who was all about Fort Worth — and I will specify, Fort Worth. He was not about Dallas. The legend goes that when he would go to Dallas for a business meeting, he would carry a sack lunch because he didn’t want to patronize the establishments in Dallas. That was just Amon Carter, friend of the presidency. He was a West Texas oil man, pretty much accredited with founding Texas Tech University. He was the owner and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; he brought the Telegram and the Star together in a merger. He owned the city, if you will. In 1948, he decided he wanted one of those television things and got his people to build him one in Fort Worth.

[Slide 4, 07:30] We were built to serve the Fort Worth community, which I think was typical back then in the ‘40s and ‘50s. We carried the NBC television network — we’ve always been an NBC affiliate — producing quality, local, live entertainment programming. And I’ve gotta tell you, when you have feel-good moments …

I got here late yesterday because of the storms in Dallas, and I just wanted to see this room to make sure this would work. So I get down here, and Jane Johnson is, in fact, who’s helping us; as was pointed out before, she’s our library person. She sees this slide and says, “I’ve been there.” And I said, “You’re kidding.” I stopped down everything. She grew up in Dallas, left at a relatively early age, but her mother, she and her sisters — they thought they’d be the next Lennon Sisters — the three sisters, to this day, to appear live on “Johnny Hay,” a telecast. This morning, Jane greeted me at the door. She brought me a picture of she and her two sisters in front of WBAP. I have it on my iPhone; I’m sorry I can’t work it— I just did work it into the presentation. [laughter]

EDWARD MCCAIN: See, that’s the value of a librarian; she can find that picture. [laughter]


HOCKER: An excellent example. So, we’ve always been an NBC affiliate; in ‘98, we were purchased by the network. The network owns 10 stations across the country in relatively major markets; Dallas-Fort Worth is now the fifth-largest media market in the country. We also own and operate 17 Telemundo stations in some of those markets. And that’s the case of Dallas-Fort Worth. So I’m above the operation of NBC and Telemundo in North Texas.

Jane said, “That was live programming back then; they didn’t have any way to record it.” And I have that in my notes today, which, as many of you know, that was the case: live programming. There wasn’t the tape technology. It was not filmed, so we used to bring … this happens to be the Clydesdales coming through our studio. When the circus came to town, they’d come off the train and through the television studio live on the air so everyone could know it was in town. That’s the type of stuff that my station did that several of us are very proud of. I’ve said we’ve had multiple owners through the years. Several of us have stuck around and really love the history of WBAP.

You know, the other thing about the building is — I point this out to some youth today who come on tours — this building was built to send moving pictures through the air. OK? What a concept. I mean, I can pick up my iPhone, take a picture of this group today, and it can be around the world in a second. That’s often lost, I think, on the youth of today. This building, in 1948, it was the idea that we can send moving pictures in the air. I think that’s pretty cool.

[Slide 5, 11:05] We signed on on Sept. 27, 1948, two days before our FCC authorization. I would lose my job if we did something like that today. That happened because Harry Truman was coming to Fort Worth for a whistle-stop tour on his campaign. Amon Carter said — Amon Carter’s a huge Democrat — “I want that man on my television station. Fire the sucker up.” And we did that. I talk about that like I was there, hoping you realize I wasn’t there. [laughter] I’m into this history stuff. So we got Harry Truman on the air on Sept. 27, two days before we were supposed to.

We have a lot of things through the ages that have been interesting that have happened the station. I thought I would share with you one from November of ‘63. It’s just a short clip.

REPORTER (IN CLIP): [12:08] That, then, in brief, is the situation. We’re waiting here in the basement — with the other reporters, the cameramen, photographers, police, FBI agents — for Lee Oswald, the accused killer of President Kennedy, of a Dallas police officer, charged with the attempted murder of Texas Gov. John Connally. He will be transferred very shortly from here to the Dallas County Jail. … Let me have it; I want it. … He’s being led out by Capt. Fritz. … There’s the prisoner. There is Lee Oswald— [gunshot] He’s been shot! He’s been shot. Lee Oswald has been shot. There’s a man with a gun. It’s absolute panic, absolute panic here in the basement of Dallas police headquarters. Detectives have their guns drawn. Oswald has been shot. There is no question about it; Oswald has been shot. Pandemonium has broken loose here in the basement of Dallas police headquarters …

HOCKER: [13:23] That was, in fact, a WBAP cameraperson who was operating the pull feed that day, back in November 1963. It was a network correspondent that you saw there talking, and of course we had the front of that and the back of that. It’s very fascinating and valuable stuff to our culture. And I’m sure you know that many believe that weekend changed the course of history for many of us, and certainly broadcast news, television history. The networks were on the air for 72 hours straight that weekend; I believe it was the first time they were on for that extended period of time. WBAP was a part of that then.

[Slide 6, 14:18] Local and state stations experimented with the news back when we were signing on in the late ‘40s and the early ‘50s. At WBAP, we developed “the Texas.” It was a news reel format where we sent photographers and reporters into the field, and the photographers would use 16 mm film, shoot that, bring it back to the facility. We had a processing plant in the back; we processed the film that afternoon and then spliced it together into stories that were then read by anchors on air. The early news reels were anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, generally. Most of them did not have sound with them; it was the anchors reading over the news reels.

[Slide 7, 15:06] So, for us, these news reels, which there you can see some of them, were dropped into a cardboard box. The scripts that the anchors read — so the actual paper, the newsprint, it was typed on newsprint — were filed chronologically in metal file cabinets in another part of this room. The film was not placed in canisters. Most were labeled with the date — I can see here 1967 on that one, on the end of the film — to fasten. This went on until the late 1970s, when we began to convert to digital tech — or not digital tech, to tape format. UNT estimates that there are approximately 10,000 reels of film like this and 219,000 pages of scripts. It was all stored in the basement. The station was built in the basement, which is something pretty unique to our part of the country, actually. The film was shelved in a relatively dark room. It survived; it survived the Texas heat, it survived some random building fires — not to scare you — and some other various things that happened over the years.

In 2013, KXAS was kind of at a crossroads. We had been in the same facility now for 65 years in 2013, and obviously the rate of technological change … every time we needed to upgrade the building, it was becoming increasingly costly to do that, to remodel it and take on the new technology. It was becoming rundown as well. Geographical location was a factor, too. We are located, this building is located in east Fort Worth. Of course, the market has just exploded in north Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth; our viewing area’s now 32 counties in north Texas. We operated a 16,000-square-foot office over in Dallas for years that had a news bureau out of there and a sales force. It was time to combine the facilities, build a new state-of-the-art facility, and we did that, actually just south of the DFW airport. We started that process in late ‘12 and moved into there in November of ‘13.

So we left, and we’re leaving this building behind. So, what to do with the film? As I began to scope out the extent of the project, a couple of things became clearer to me. [Slide 8, 17:57] It was going to be extremely costly to properly store the film and tapes in a new location, were we to go that route. We didn’t want to dedicate space in the new facility and more or less just transport the problem, if you, along with us; in fact, the new facility actually utilizes overall less space, just uses it more efficiently than the old place.

There are archivists at NBC who help us with document retention and things such as that. They put me in touch with our outside vendor — happens to be Iron Mountain, if you’re familiar with them, the third party. The estimate that I got from them just for our videotape, let alone the film, was to me astronomical as a broadcast TV operator. It’s going to hit the station’s [profit and loss statement]. There was just no way we were going to go there and work with an outside vendor like that to keep our videotape. Similarly, it was going to be costly and time-consuming to get our film into a usable format, and I know some of you are obviously very familiar with that.

I reached out to NBC News Archives. Have any of you worked with NBC News Archives? [silence] OK, they need to market themselves better. Anyway, NBC News Archives does the archiving for and the marketing of network news footage at MSNBC and CNBC; they’re based in New York. They were very helpful to me in letting me understand the process by which we would need to go through to convert the film into a usable format. They were most valuable to me. And, you know, the other thing is I thought that I was a little tentative in going to them because a bunch of us knew about this, but in some ways, it was our little secret. I was tentative going to them because I was afraid they would say, “Well, you know what, just send it up here.” Their deep storage is over in New Jersey, literally in a warehouse there; I’ve seen this. I thought, if I send that film up to New Jersey, this Texan will never see it again; it will be gone forever. They didn’t say that. They didn’t ask for that, but they did say one very important thing to me. They said, “You can’t let that get thrown away,” which is, I guess, obvious. It was valuable, though, politically for me within the company to have the archives say that because I knew I had a pretty long path through the bureaucracy of NBC, if you will— strike that now from the tape, please. [laughter] I’ve got to remember what I’m saying here. It’s the bureaucracy of a large organization because I can see people over the course of that past saying, “Well, just get rid of this stuff; we’ll discard it.” But having NBC News Archives buy in early on, I felt, was support for the process.

So, I’ve explained it was going to be costly to store and digitize. It’s fair to ask — and I’ve been asked this — would there be an opportunity to make money from the material once it was digitized? We have an arrangement with NBC News Archives where they currently can license our footage on our behalf, and we split revenue 50/50 with them. Outside the 50th anniversary of the J.F.K. assassination, which I was around for just two years ago, the requests for local footage primarily come from what I’m going to call crime drama-type shows; it’s producers looking for these sensationalistic murders that have happened in north Texas through the years. That’s where most of our requests come from. The revenue, we realized from requests such as that, is really very negligible. And frankly, the cost for hassle of finding the footage, getting it transferred, and screeners and things like that — it’s not worth our while, I feel. Now, of course, digitizing the assets would theoretically lower our cost of retrieving them but still, pretty insignificant.

I want to make a point with a real-life example. We have nearly 65 years of footage. I told you various points in our in our archives: the J.F.K. assassination; Delta 191, which was an airplane crash in the 1980s. The Branch Davidians — most of you probably remember that — that was in Waco, Texas, and we covered that extensively. The Columbia space shuttle upon re-entry, which started to break up over the eastern part of our DMA, a very dramatic and tragic day for many of us.

This happens to be from a midday newscast in 2002 I want to play for you. Watch carefully.

INTERVIEW SUBJECT (IN CLIP): [23:45] This is a chicken snake. This is probably the most notorious snake in the Metroplex.

REPORTER (IN CLIP): Can I find this in Arlington?

INTERVIEW SUBJECT (IN CLIP): Oh good grief, yes.

REPORTER (IN CLIP): Oh boy. Let’s see how long it is; let’s hold it up.

INTERVIEW SUBJECT (IN CLIP): This guy is probably close to 5 feet. Texas rat snakes are going to be one of the largest snakes that you find in the Metroplex area.

REPORTER (IN CLIP): [swearing, laughter] Get this thing off me. [laughter, swearing] What is this thing jumping at me for, man?


REPORTER (IN CLIP): Yeah, I can tell.

HOCKER: [Slide 9, 24:25] [laughter] There you go. It never fails to get a laugh. You’re like, do I risk showing that? No, it never fails.

So that happened, I’m live on TV. It was on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno a subsequent four nights after that. Oprah Winfrey has licensed that clip for her show. It has been on innumerable shows. The Japanese had a run on American blooper video for years; we probably licensed it 12 times to Japan. I just think that’s a fascinating example of, you’ve got that 65 years and, I’ve told you, so many events in history, and that’s what people would come to us for. [laughter] That’s a true story. So, the value of the archive, again, to me as a businessperson, I think, is minuscule in the dollars and cents sense. We’ll talk about other ways I might realize it’s valuable.

So, this leads me to an observation. As you go about … and some of you may not be in this particular area, but if you are, again, going and approaching folks like television stations — that’s what I know, so that’s seen in the examples I used today — like ours, what’s the value proposition for the donor? In this case, NBC 5. If what I say is true, and a station’s not able to recognize significant economic value from old tape and film, you might be able to acquire the footage for little to no cost, and that’s obviously a good thing for you. If the stations don’t receive economic value from the material, it could be difficult to get us to focus on the material; that I think is a challenge for you, right? So, I don’t perceive a lot of value in it; you’ve gotta take my attention away from something else to get me to face the issue. If a station doesn’t see a payoff, why would it engage?

Outsiders need to understand the business operating cycle for a television station is extremely short. And by that, I mean we’re in the daily news factory business. We come in the morning, we produce news and then we leave at the end of the day. Even our revenue cycle, the advertisers placed buys with us three to six months out. We operate on a very short cycle, quite unlike, I think, the type of things we’re talking about today, which have a very long tail, very long-term. It’s just a different mindset, if you will, and I think something you want to keep in mind.

I became focused on the basement because we were about to move, as I explained, in 2013, and I was determined not to let the film disappear. So let me talk a bit about how we found a partner. [Slide 10, 27:50] Because of the Kennedy assassination connection, the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas — how many of you are familiar with the Sixth Floor? It’s a great institution dedicated to the assassination and everything about it. They had approached out about borrowing our library. A former employee works with the Sixth Floor Museum, and he was semi-familiar with what we had in the basement. They’re a small organization plainly focused on the assassination, and somehow the breadth of our collection, or what I thought was there — again, I’m not sure what’s there; I just know there are a bunch of reels of film — didn’t feel like the right fit for the Sixth Floor Museum.

I sought out several local universities and spoke to them about the film. There was some curiosity, a bit of back and forth, but overall nothing really caught hold with them; there wasn’t great follow-up. Until we got to UNT, frankly. But how we got to UNT is a bit indirect and I think worth sharing with you.

I mentioned the station founder was Amon Carter: very successful businessman, died in 1955. He left, obviously, a great deal of wealth — or not obviously, but he did leave a great deal of wealth and set up a foundation: the Amon Carter Foundation, which to this day supports many local institutions, including an art museum. I went to them, the executive director of the foundation — partly out of respect for Amon Carter because, in a way, it was his material that was in our basement — to say that we’re at this crossroads; I gotta do something with this. I’m told it’s very costly to convert it. Do you have any ideas? He was a fantastic contact; he was a great guy. He brainstormed with us, and eventually — it didn’t take him too long — he had supported an effort at UNT, funded some efforts there with the Portal to Texas History. He said, “I think you might want to talk with these people,” and he put me in contact with with Martin’s group.

The university archivist and their assistant dean for external relations visited the station. Library staff surveyed the material and gave us the first real estimates I had of the quantity we had there and, more specifically, what it would take to put it into a usable format.

At this same time, the Portal to Texas History celebrated its 1 millionth digitization of a newspaper page at the university, and they invited me there. It was my first time to get inside the facility, the building to see what they were doing.

I’ll give you what may seem like a trivial example, but it was very real, and I know it helped me in my process to partner with UNT. We had these logbooks through the years; they probably stood about this high. Legal-size sheets — type written that show, by newscast, what was on the air that day — sitting in the corner of the basement. When we would get a request from that true-crime drama or what have you, we would need the date to go into those logbooks to backtrack to where that material was in our facility. We could not search by the murderer’s name or things such as that; we had to go to the date. So I knew if I could get that digitized in a searchable format, it would be usable to us, but the idea of sending this delicate stuff down to a FedEx store on the corner and having some high school kid after school take it apart and digitize it — I just couldn’t exactly get my head around that. But when I went to this reception at UNT, they took me into this room where they’re taking 19th-century Texas maps and digitizing them onto a large board. It really connected for me, jeez, those people could handle my lousy logbooks from the 1970s. Again, a simple thing, but a really important connection for me to help me buy in on what UNT was doing.

The other thing, frankly, was none of us, when we started at the station, were familiar with what the Portal to Texas History is. How many of you are familiar with the Portal to Texas History? [pause] OK, well, we’re going to change that before this is over; we’ll get all of you. … We weren’t familiar at the station with what that is, but Martin and his staff introduced me to the portal. If you’re a history buff at all, it’s just extremely fascinating. And I was able to envision how our digitized content could appear there. Granted, it still seemed like a daunting task, but the station, I realized, wouldn’t simply be a beta test for some university project; this was an established portal, an established website that had meaning.

[Slide 11, 33:18] Members of the library came out and gave the first good assessment I had ever seen of how much material we had. They also explained in detail how they would bring staff to pack, label and inventory everything, most of it before it left the building. They even had a mover in mind that they wanted to use. Basically, they made it so turnkey for me that all I had to do was shoot B-roll as this stuff went out of the building; it was just terrific.

Well, it was becoming increasingly clear to me that we had probably found a wonderful new home for the archives. The task of a legal agreement loomed in front of me. Now, I’ve done hundreds of business agreements over the years, but never one for a situation like this. [Slide 12, 34:06] I mentioned earlier my discussion with NBC News Archives. I was grateful that they acknowledged the value of the archive and not to get rid of it. But it also came with another very direct statement: Don’t give up the copyright. I was not surprised at all by this. We all cherish our copyrights, and in broadcasting, we try to protect them very well, so it wasn’t a surprise. But yet again, I don’t deal in the archive world or the university world; I’m thinking, wow, I’m not sure if I can even ask this from the university. So I was a bit nervous going into the discussion with them, but I knew if they were OK with that, I thought it was really downhill from there. Well, in fact, they very quickly said they were OK with that. I walked away from that conversation, and I said to myself, “Jeez, Brian, they’ve got tens of thousands of books in there which they don’t own the copyright to. What were you thinking when you walked in there? It may not be a big deal.”

Anyway, we retained the copyright material. The University of [North] Texas owns the physical assets; they have the right to produce, publish and present anything out there for works they create, and they retain the copyright to those works. Also, and I don’t know if this is unique, UNT may act as a licensing agent for the material; that’s part of the deal. And again, it goes back to the cost per hassle I’ve experienced in this part of the business. I understand, interestingly, we got our first inquiry from Nieman Marcus, who in 1967 … Apparently their premier gift in the Christmas catalog was a camel, and they have reason to believe that WBAP was onsite that December giving away the camel, and they’re interested in licensing it. And I’m thinking, Nieman Marcus? Perfect. Yes, I’d like to negotiate fees with them. Jointly, and this is just in good faith, we will be fundraising partners moving forward as part of the agreement, which leads me to the next area.

[Slide 13, 37:05] Our publicity plan. We decided to focus on one week; it happened to be in January. Good, high viewership level; the holidays are over. January of this past year. UNT, I really wanted them to be the focus. They were in charge of this; I was consulting. You can tell I have strong opinions, so I won’t say I didn’t drive some of this. We work very well with the university press office. So this was a press release on the website but also in the paper that went out, the paper news. Down here, UNT had a specific landing page that told about the collection and tied it into the Portal to Texas History, where the collection actually resides. You can also make a personal donation, which I hope you’re giving me a list — I hope everyone here makes a personal donation [laughter], your little part to digitizing the film archives. From this page, we established a parallax page on This is an example of one of the packages we put together. And then for the seven nights of that week in January — this is one of our anchors — we did a story each night on the archive from a different angle.

I should’ve said before we got here that we were dying to see what was in the archive, so UNT had a history professor who knew of an integration issue that had happened in 1956 in Mansfield, Texas, which is in the DMA, just outside Fort Worth. He was aware of this, and there was reason to believe — we had actually seen a little bit of this before — that there was a video of this incident, the integration of a high school. So the university took some of their funds, sent off four weeks’ worth of film from August and September of 1967, digitized it. It came back fantastic — I mean, pristine, I’m gonna show you something. And we just got really pumped up. I went to the staff. I said, “I want the eminent spokesperson on digitization archiving. Who do we get? Let’s get them on air.” [Slide 14, 39:34] Martin Halbert, right there, who introduced me. Martin and I were on a show; we talked about the archive along with his archivism.

So what I’m going to show you now is, we produced what I call a four-minute “sizzle reel” because we wanted to start to approach funders, people to donate for the effort, and I thought we needed to put something together, go out and make those presentations.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: [40:40] This is history. A step back in time. A peek at the stories that mattered to north Texans.

PERSON 1 ON FILM: I saw the absence of liberty there. I saw the absence of complete religious freedom. I must admit I thought I saw some signs of economic progress in Russia.

PERSON 2 ON FILM: I want to see us work together for the future progress and growth of Texas.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: A glance at what was unique.

PERSON ON FILM: Hello, Mabel? I’m talking to you from the first pay phone in Texas. Boy, this thing is really an antique.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: A closer look at what was important.

PERSON 4 ON FILM: Therefore, for the immediate future, the sports field and any change is premature and instructs the superintendent of schools to continue its segregated school system for the school year 1956-57.

PERSON 5 ON FILM: And for that reason, it is my earliest conscientious opinion that the board has waited too long and given too little.

PERSON 6 ON FILM: [talking to PERSON 7 ON FILM] Any decision yet about enrolling in school here?

PERSON 7 ON FILM: [talking to PERSON 6 ON FILM] No, I haven’t.

PERSON 6 ON FILM: [talking to PERSON 7 ON FILM] Do you know when you will decide?

PERSON 7 ON FILM: [talking to PERSON 8 ON FILM] Well, it’ll probably be tonight.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: From high school football games to visits from politicians and celebrities, these images bring history to life from the early days of the Texas news, as produced by WBAP-TV, Texas’ first television station. And this is just a glimpse at four weeks in 1956.

PERSON 8 ON FILM: Well, the complete sheriff force of Denton County has all been working on it, and the Fort Worth sheriff’s department, Dallas sheriff’s department, and the Department of Public Safety from Austin. Everybody is doing all they can to get some kind of clue.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: NBC 5 and the University of North Texas have partnered to create the largest known online archive of historical local television news.

PERSON 9 ON FILM: Of course I think it’ll be Dick Nixon. I never have thought otherwise, and I see no reason now.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: As part of UNT’s Portal to Texas History, the WBAP-KXAS collection will offer a complete archive containing 30 years of 16 mm film, plus news scripts that provide valuable context for that captivating footage.

SOURCE 10 ON FILM: At John Peter Smith Hospital, Tarrant County Sheriff’s officers question a man found unconscious after an apparent severe beating. He refuses to tell Deputy Bud Alexander who he is.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: Digitization of more than 10,000 reels of film in various stages of decomposition must be done in a real-time process that requires costly cleaning and repair. Once complete, the video files will require 2.2 petabytes of digital storage. UNT Libraries is the only library in the Southwest with the technological capabilities to take on such a project. The streaming footage and original broadcast scripts will be text-searchable and freely available online for individual and scholarly research. The historical news archive will be a rich source of teaching kindergarten through grade 12 throughout the state as well.

VOICEOVER ON FILM: The UNT Libraries are an essential force in teaching and research, providing leadership, innovation and learning. NBC 5 is proud to be Texas’ first television station and continues to convey that today through the Texas Connects Us brand. NBC 5 and UNT are honored to offer access to more than 30 years of the events, the stories and the people that shaped north Texas.

HOCKER: [44:39] That is the video that we had created and are using to go out and raise money for the project. [Slide 15, 45:00] The five nights of packages that we did for on-air are available on the website. Really fascinating stuff.

Now, this was from four weeks in 1956 we were able to pool together packaging. One was dedicated to weather; another was dedicated to fashion; of course, one was dedicated to the civil rights issue; and the fourth one was the future. A Texas state fair was going on, so they had the futuristic exhibits and things. We looked at that from 1956. And then the fifth one was just crazy things, which are always there, right? It’s the gecko video. So those are all on the website, and I have them with me if you want a really exciting date at dinner tonight, I’ll play that for you. [laughter]

So we’re pleased with our success thus far. Working together, we’ve raised just over half a million dollars on a project that UNT estimates will be $2.7 million to get the film converted from three decades. So in my final time, I thought I would offer my short list — and indeed short — and general observations about how if you have someone you want to work with an organization like mine, in pursuit of preserving film, you might consider. This is not rocket science because I came up with it, for one thing. But again, it’s just my observations.

My first thought is that it’s important to act before the crisis. I know I’ve seen that on Educopia’s website. Secure the archive before a business goes under or vacates the premises. As was the case with me; we were vacating the premises, and that’s partly how this came about. The real issue here, as I see it, is the worst time to be dealing with someone who has material is when they’re focused on something else.

The truth of the matter is, though, with all due respect to UNT, no one came and knocked on NBC 5’s door [knocks] and said, “What’s in the basement?” or, “Do you have this stuff?” That’s kind of a problem. I’m sure we’re all working to uncover the assets. How might you do that with a television station? I’m sure a lot of organizations … I know we have relationships for various lengths with universities — it’s internships, faculty experts speaking on our shows — so we’re plugged into universities in several different levels. Should the library folks, the archivists or whatever, also be checking in? Television stations are very simple organizations, frankly; we have a very flat organizational structure, and it doesn’t take long to figure out what they have in the basement if you ask a couple of managers the right question.

I say, be a problem solver. You can be incredibly valuable to the station. I mean, there I effectively had a problem. I wanted to preserve this stuff, but I also wanted to get it out. UNT came in with what I’m calling a turnkey approach to help me do that. They were obviously doing their homework on their end to figure out what my needs were. That’s a really good thing.

The other thing with respect to being a problem solver is, I said the video doesn’t have much monetary, real value, licensing value to me, but image-wise, it’s gold. There we are, 65 years, 68 years of television history in north Texas, and now we’re putting some of that on air. Imagine the viewer comments we got in just doing this project, and some of the goodwill that we bought ourselves with the help of UNT.

Finally, position your insititution as the experts. Let’s say that TV stations are experts in collecting video. Make yourselves the experts in preserving and archiving that video. I will tell you, just simply the scanning and searchability of those logbooks that I told you about that the university has done for us thusfar is invaluable. We use that regularly in our news reporting.

That’s about it. I hope most of that makes sense; I hope some of it was valuable to you. I think your endeavor is tremendous; I didn’t really know about it until a few weeks ago, when I was invited to speak here. They didn’t tell me I was keynoting, by the way, until I got the agenda. [laughs] So if there’s one thankful guy, it’s me up here, that this is over now. But I hope that we’re going to engage over the next couple of days. [applause]

KATHERINE SKINNER: We have time for just a couple questions, and then we have to break.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: What’s your agreement [with UNT] going forward about the born-digital stuff that your station’s producing?

HOCKER: We do not have an agreement with them. I thought I’d get a question similar to this. Last year, 55,000 clips went into our digital archive. So we upgraded to a system, moving into our new building. Fifty-five thousand clips went into that archive. That’s how we did that. The relationship is there; I don’t have an answer on the digital stuff. Thanks for bringing that up and making me nervous about that. [laughter] I didn’t want to let you off easy.

KATHERINE SKINNER: All right, one more question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: So, you’re locally owned and operated, and I know that may be the case for some of North Carolina’s TV news, but for a lot of our newspapers, they’ve been bought out by national entities. Do you have any advice for talking with those groups? Because I know we’ve approached some of them in our institution in the past, and we’ve not really gotten a lot of enthusiasm.

HOCKER: Yes. So here’s, maybe, the good news to you for that: We’re not locally owned and operated. We were, but in 1998, we were bought by NBC. We’re about as not locally owned and operated as you can get, along with other large broadcast networks operating television stations. I’ll think about this, and we can talk, OK? I was at the station long before we were owned by NBC. I think that’s part of this, along with some other people at the station; I have a vested interest in this. That said, I managed to negotiate with NBC to get this done.

Being first in, I think there’s a lot to it; there’s no path for what to do here, there’s not a template. We’re kind of making it up, and I told NBC, “I think this is what we should do,” and I got the checkoffs to the extent that I got them to make a donation toward digitizing the archives, so it can be done.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: So, it’s really about having contacts within the local staff.

HOCKER: I think so. And the other thing is, a big company Is very focused on the costs of dealing with this, right? And the costs are significant, so if there’s a way that you can position it as, this local station will get benefits without the burden of costs, that’s the win.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: My question is about copyright. You said that NBC retains copyright, but it sounds like you’re actually sharing it. Does Texas have a nonexclusive right, and that’s why they get to produce and provide access to the news?

HOCKER: They do. They have the right; we’re not going to charge them for access, and we will allow them to have copyrights for works that they produce.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: But they can provide access to the archives they’ve digitized.

HOCKER: They can provide access online through the portal.

HALBERT: I want to say thank you to Brian again, not only for doing this talk, which I talked him into. He convinced the station to not only donate this archive, but to jumpstart the process of fundraising, not only through those fantastic videos they produce, but they also gave a starter donation of $275,000 for the digitization of this archive. It has been those donations, thanks to the work of NBC Broadcasting, I think it’s now hit $600,000.

HOCKER: A quick thing there: I was going out on a couple of calls with the dean of external relations and special projects for the library. We would sit there, and I was shocked at how everybody would say, “Well, that’s very interesting. I’m very interested in that. Who else has given?” And I’m like, “Well, you can be first!” But no. We’ve got to do something about this. That’s what got me charged up, and I got the money from NBC. We put that out there — we were the first — and then they all started to follow. We went from $275,000 to $600,000.

SKINNER: And that’s happened very quickly. Please join me in giving another round of applause. [applause]


Comments are closed.