It's a massive project to undertake but the BBC has unveiled plans to digitise its entire archive and put it on its website.

Speaking at the Banff Television Festival in Canada, the director of BBC Vision, Jana Bennett, announced the plans and revealed that the archiving process had already started.

Vast archive

Initially the service will be information-only. Every BBC show – including classics like Fawlty Towers and old-school Doctor Who – will be given their own web presence, which will include facts and information about every single episode.

Once this groundwork has been put into place, the BBC will look into archiving actual video.

Bennett had this to say about the launch: "Eventually we will add our programme back catalogue to produce pages for programming stretching back over nearly 80 years – featuring all the information we have on the richest TV and radio archive in the world.

"The BBC is committed to releasing the public value in that archive."

There’s no word as of yet how the video will be accessed but it looks likely that the BBC’s iPlayer will be utilised and so will Kangaroo, an on-demand service developed in conjunction with ITV and Channel 4. There is also talk of certain classic shows being added to iTunes.

It was also announced that this 'playback' plan will be developed within the current BBC online budget, which was recently in the news after an overspend of £36 million.

Years in the making

It was initially in 2003 that plans for a digital archive was announced. Speaking to the BBC, Greg Dyke, then director general of the channel, announced that: “For the first time there is an easy and affordable way of making this treasure trove of BBC content available to all.

“I believe that we are about to move into a second phase of the digital revolution, a phase which will be more about public than private value; about free, not pay services; about inclusivity, not exclusion.” It looks like, in 2008, this plan is finally coming to fruition.