Budget 97 on BBC.co.uk

 by Martin Belam, 28 March 2005

I've often worried about whether the BBC, and indeed the wider media landscape, is effectively archiving web sites. The Wayback Machine is great and the Google cache a useful short-term fallback, but I can't help having a nagging feeling that the online world is heading into the same territory as early television - a few screengrabs, some memoirs, and a lot of wishful "if only we'd kept that".

This is one of the reasons I've always loved it when you could find a very old site still sitting on the BBC's live servers, even if it wasn't linked to and nobody claimed it. I'm crushed that the Andrew Neil site has gone. When I first joined the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/andrewneil was shown to me as one of the earliest examples of a BBC site still available to the public.

A few months ago BBC Broadcast introduced a 'site owners database', which looked at the directories on the live site, and attempted to gather contact information for every area of BBC.co.uk. It is very useful in my day-to-day work, but even more useful because it provides a facility to look for orphan sites - top level directories on BBC.co.uk which nobody has claimed. Some of these turn out to be very old sites that are still available to the public, as long as you know where to look.

I've tried to piece them into a narrative of the development of the site, and each day this week I'll be going back in virtual time to expose some of the hidden archive gems of bbc.co.uk. First up is the Budget 97 site.

The BBC's Budget 97 site

This was Gordon Brown's first budget since Labour came to power, and he was clearly the main man for the BBC's coverage - hence the Reservoir Dogs style animated GIF of him marching towards the screen.

Animated Gordon Brown gif from the BBC's Budget 97 site

The BBC logos are from the pre-straightened era. The analysis consists of two one page articles - one from Evan Davis, and one from Huw Edwards. The site has a very newspapery feel to it - even including a political cartoon - something which the BBC seldom, if ever does today.

BBC Budget 97 political cartoon

The site had carried live coverage of the Budget in Real Video, and there is something charmingly personal about the appeal for feedback:

Thanks to all of you who watched and listened to our coverage.

I would be interested in your comments.

Watch the Live page for news of future RealVideo and RealAudio presentations.
The BBC's Budget 97 site

There is consistent navigation in the footer of the page, but I note that in the early days the BBC was more relaxed about linking to external sites, in this case the IFS, without any kind of disclaimer. There is no search functionality available to the user.

My favourite thing about this site though is the credits embedded in comments at the top of the HTML document:

<!--HTML by Richard Angell of BBC Online News and--> <!--John McAndrew of BBC Specialist Research Unit-->

Tomorrow I'll turn my attention to a site that predates Budget 97 by a mere couple of months.

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