The BBC is to begin a six month trial next month, giving 20,000 viewers access to radio and TV programmes from the corporation's archives. The trial is expected to replicate the BBC iPlayer trial which took place last year and be aimed at both online and digital TV viewers.

"The purposes of the trial... is to inform the BBC's future proposition for a public service on-demand archive service on bbc.co.uk, which will require approval from the BBC Trust , and to see where we should draw the line between a licence fee funded service and a commercial service," says Ashley Highfield, BBC director for Future Media and Technology.

The trial will make around 1,000 hours of content available to a closed group of 20,000 trialists, with another 50 hours available to anyone to watch or listen to.

The BBC says the trial will also give people access to written material like scripts, programmes notes and correspondence from presenters such as David Attenborough.

The trial is open to anyone, and the BBC has asked people to register their interest at http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive . However it looks as if the site has already fallen victim to its own success as the server is currently down.

The trial announcement came during at keynote speech at the MIPTV featuring Milia conference in Cannes - the event is an annual shindig for broadcasting types who use the 4-day event to hammer out deals, examine new broadcasting technology and make visionary speeches.