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Protecting the archive by Tony Taylor, TMD O ver the last 20 years or so we have all become accustomed to the expression “asset management” and, as ever, familiarity has bred contempt. In this case, the expression has become a loose descriptor for almost anything with a bit of a database in it. We need to stop and think about what we are trying to achieve. In any media enterprise, the content itself is the most important asset. You need to know what you have, where it is, and what you can do with it. Assets represent the value in a business, and the asset management system should be, in large part, about realising that value. That, in turn, has two elements: protecting the asset for long-term availability, and providing access to the asset. 56 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE A lot of vendors offering systems to the broadcast industry talk about “digital” asset management, and DAM is a common abbreviation. I like to think that those who talk about DAM are still living in the era when to describe something as digital was cool, but maybe I am being a bit harsh. We have always had asset management, of course. In the old days it was a room with a large amount of shelving, a card index, and a librarian – usually with a comprehensive knowledge of what was in the archive – who would only hand a tape or a film can over the counter if the production assistant signed for it in blood. When we moved to automated playout we needed to put the card index on computer, so that the robot knew which tape to pick up and load. Later, content stopped being in physical form at all and became files on a server, so we needed the database and disk management system simply to retrieve the content when we needed it. This simplistic view of asset management still prevails among some vendors: it is a database to help you navigate the disk filing system to put content on air. That is an important requirement, of course, as far as it goes. But for virtually all broadcasters, production companies and facilities I would suggest that it needs to be much more sophisticated if it is to fulfil a worthwhile role. Physical First – and this is a point which is often neglected – it only applies to digital content, stored on the server. What about assets which are either not yet ingested, or cannot be treated in the same way? A broadcaster or production company that has been in existence more than a decade or so will almost certainly have some assets on tape which have not been “digitised”. Many will