For generations television has been closely regarded as the poor relation of film. Indeed, it could be argued that the disrespect which was shown by hours and hours of wiped television illustrates a historical lack of care by broadcasters for preserving Britain’s cultural heritage. Then during the 1970’s, vintage television began to gather interest from a wide section of the public and suddenly the footage which once thought was disposable was now solid gold. Yet of course by this time, a majority of the BBC archives had been wiped. It seems somewhat pertinent here to note that even throughout the seventies programmes were still under threat from being cast aside. So it fell to TV historians and campaigners to somehow get it back.
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In 1993 a joint campaign was launched between the BBC and BFI to appeal for lost TV and among the founders of such a project was television consultant Dick Fiddy. A former television scriptwriter, Dick realised the significance in trying to trace the lost material and hopefully return it to its rightful place. Yet he did uphold one reservation in that the corporation may perceive the whole appeal as a witch hunt against them for erasing the tapes in the first place. But for Dick and the BFI, this was never what Missing Believed Wiped was about – they were just concerned with reuniting lost footage to its rightful owner and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Now in its twenty fourth year, Missing Believed Wiped goes from strength to strength and dozens of fans still gather each December to watch the results of their discoveries.
Beyond Missing Believed Wiped, Dick remains one of the BFI’s leading consultants and regularly chairs forums with the great and good of entertainment. I recently attended a screening of the BBC’s Granada From The North whereupon afterwards Dick chaired a discussion about the influence of the network alongside three esteemed panelists. His laid back approach to interviewing makes him the perfect compère for these events and although this was never his intended career path, there is no doubt that he is extremely good at what he does.
Since my time at university, Dick has always been extremely supportive to me and my many projects so it was nice to finally be able to turn the tables on him and interview someone who I’m lucky to class as a friend. Whatever Dick and the BFI decide to do next I’m sure will be a success and just hope you find this interview as fascinating as I did.