- How do I search?
- Are there any special characters I can use in the search box?
- Why is there no “play” button on my programme?
- How can I access programmes that are not available to watch or listen to on the Programme Index?
- Are the listings accurate?
- I have a programme which I think is missing from the BBC Archive. How do I return it?
- Can I look at the Radio Times magazine on the Programme Index?
- How do I get in touch?
- Why is there some offensive material on the site?
- What regional variations are included in Programme Index?
- Why are there missing listings and what are you doing about it?
- What is OCR?
- How do I get involved?
- Span of the data
- Have the Radio Times listings been altered?
- Where are the non-BBC listings?
- Why can I see future listings?
How do I search?
To find all listings, do a completely empty search.
To find something specific, add your search term – a name, programme title, or any other word - and hit enter. You can also refine your query with a variety of filters to narrow the results. You can also search by using just the filters, without any search terms, e.g. to show everything on a particular channel or day.
Are there any special characters I can use in the search box?
In the search box you can use the following special characters:
- signifies an AND operation
- signifies an OR operation
- excludes the following search term
- matches an exact phrase
- matches the start of a word
- ( and )
- groups search terms for precedence
- use after a word to indicate the fuzziness of the match
- use after a phrase to indicate how fuzzy the word ordering is
To use one of these characters literally type a backslash (\) before it.
Search by Channel
To search by Radio or TV Channel, enter the Programme Index site via the 'Explore Channels' button on the homepage.
Search by Radio Times Issue
To search by Radio Times issue, enter the Programme Index site via the 'Explore Radio Times' button on the homepage. You can view scans of the actual magazine, including articles and photographs from 1923-1959, or search the listings by issue from 1960 onwards. Note: you cannot search using this method for data when Radio Times was not published, up to the end of 2009, or after that date when the data is obtained from the PIPS system.
Search by Title
To search for a programme title (or partial title) use the @title keyword followed by the word or phrase you are searching for - e.g. @title "saturday kitchen" will only return results with Saturday Kitchen in the title.
Search by Programme ID
If you have a PID for a BBC programme, you can enter this into the search to find that specific programme broadcast. You can also find these alphanumeric Programme ID values in the URL of any programme found in the main 'BBC Programmes page'.
Using Search Filters
Media Type filter:
Limit your search to either TV or radio using the radio buttons. Results will show both by default.
Genre and Accessibility filters:
Add or exclude search terms using the add and exclude filter icons.
Date and time filter:
Search a timespan or a specific date and time. Click on the broadcast date of your selected programme and you will be able to see the schedule pages at the top of the results page.
When you've chosen your filters, hit enter or use the 'Apply Filters' button.
Once a search is returned, add or exclude further terms from the results page and search again.
You can filter results according to relevance, or select first or last broadcast. For playable programmes that are nearing their expiry date, select "availability ending soon".
Why is there no “play” button on my programme?
More than 200,000 programmes are linked to from individual listings. These are free to watch or listen to on the BBC website [iPlayer/Sounds app].
However, not all the programmes listed in the Programme Index are available to play. This is particularly true of the BBC’s oldest broadcasts – many of which no longer exist. It is only possible to see the original listings for these programmes in the Programme Index.
Find out more about why not every BBC programme is available.
How can I access programmes that are not available to watch or listen to on the Programme Index?
Some programmes may be available in the BBC Archive but are not currently on general release. There may be other methods of accessing these programmes – for example for research purposes, or if you or a relative contributed. Find out more here.
Are the listings accurate?
Radio Times data and the BBC's online data show the planned broadcast schedule of BBC radio and television. Schedules, then as now, were subject to change for various reasons meaning what was listed may not always be accurate.
At the moment we are only featuring the published schedules, although the BBC does have records of what was actually broadcast.
I have a programme which I think is missing from the BBC Archive. How do I return it?
Please let us know about any BBC recordings you have which you think may be missing from the archives. We can pass on the information to colleagues who can assess whether they are required for the BBC Archives.
Can I look at the Radio Times magazine on the Programme Index?
The Programme Index incorporates the BBC Genome site, including the full Radio Times magazine pages from 1923-1959 – which are available to view.
Hard-copy editions of Radio Times are held at some local reference libraries. They are also available for research by academics, researchers and writers at the BBC's Written Archives Centre at Caversham, near Reading, Berkshire.
How do I get in touch?
If you have a question or a complaint, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is there some offensive material on the site?
Material on the programme index site stretches as far back as 1922, when the BBC began broadcasting. The world has changed since then and Radio Times in particular reflects those changes in its language and depiction of society. However, it is a public record of the BBC's broadcast history and as such, it is of historical and cultural interest, which the BBC has not sought to rewrite.
If your search returns any results with the most offensive language (as defined by Ofcom), you will be shown a warning before you see the listing. Warnings will also appear before you can view original Radio Times magazine facsimiles – four decades of which are available on the Programme Index.
What regional variations are included in Programme Index?
The programme information data from 2007 onwards contains the full range of regions and nations broadcasts, but Radio Times data from 1923 to 2009 is not so comprehensive.
Radio Times was published in regional versions since 1926, and these changed over the years. The variations which have been included in Programme Index from Radio Times represent the single edition we could access, which sometimes includes basic information from other regions. If you visit the issue page you can see which edition has been scanned, though in the majority of cases this is the London/South East version. If you visit the issue page you can see which edition has been scanned.
Some regional services may appear to have intermittent broadcast histories, for example, Newcastle (5NO) appears to have no transmissions from 1928-30 and 1932-33, but this is due to the issues of Radio Times which have been scanned and does not reflect the actual transmission history.
If you want to look at a particular BBC service, select the 'Channels' button on the Programme Index homepage and click on the icon of your selected channel or station. This will take you to the listings of the first-ever broadcast of that channel or station.
Why are there missing listings and what are you doing about it?
In the data derived from Radio Times there are some missing listings, caused by scanning, OCR and processing errors. The scanning process created 'zones' within Radio Times pages, based upon various 'rules' which tried to identify discreet chunks of text and the gaps between them; and 'patterns' that would describe how Radio Times usually laid out programme information.
These rules and patterns changed as the design, content and layout of the magazine evolved over the decades, so the algorithms were 'tuned' to enable a reasonably consistent level of accuracy. However, due to unusual text layouts (such as boxed-out section) or fonts, the algorithms sometimes failed to identify that a block of text as a listing (as opposed to an article or advertisement) and therefore didn't include it.
There are also examples where several programmes were erroneously 'glued together' and published as a single programme listing. Also, some listings are duplicated as a result of the same day being printed in consecutive Radio Times editions, for example at Christmas and New Year.
We welcome it when any errors, gaps or anomalies are pointed out using the 'edit' function or by emailing us, because it helps ensure we are picking up all the problems.
What is OCR?
Listings between 1923-2009 are mostly derived from information printed in the Radio Times magazine. To extract this information, each page of the Radio Times was scanned and a high resolution TIFF image was produced. The programme listings were then zoned in blocks and optical character recognition (OCR) techniques applied to the zones. OCR is the mechanical or electronic translation of scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text.
How do I get involved?
As a result of the OCR process, some Programme Index listings derived from Radio Times can contain typos or other text errors. If you spot any of these, there is an “edit” function that allows you to correct mistakes. Each edit will be approved by a member of the BBC Programme Index team.
Please note that we cannot accept additions to the data, as the listings derived from Radio Times must reflect what was originally printed in Radio Times (but see “Have the Radio Times listings been altered?” below). We also cannot alter the data from the PIPS system, as these are compiled externally, although there are some occasions where there are factual or other errors included.
Span of the data
The data in the BBC Programme Index reaches back to 1922. The Radio Times was first published in autumn 1923. Most of the listings up to 2009 are drawn from Radio Times. From 2009 onwards, the main data source is the BBC’s own digital data (drawn from “PIPS” or programme pages information). It reaches up to the present day and is regularly updated. There is an overlap between 2007 and 2009 when both data sets are used, and occasionally this also happens with older programmes.
While most of the data in the BBC’s Programme Index is drawn from Radio Times and BBC programmes pages, a minority of some listings have been compiled using the BBC’s own historical documents and early BBC listings printed in contemporary newspapers. These include the first year of listings in 1922 (before Radio Times was created) and the 11 weeks when Radio Times printing was suspended. This data was sourced using the services of an external professional researcher and a member of BBC Archives Content and Partnerships, the department which monitors the Programme Index website.
Have the Radio Times listings been altered?
Non-BBC addresses have been taken out to prevent users writing to an out-of-date address, attempting to donate to charity appeals which have now closed, or trying to purchase tickets and merchandise which are no longer available.
Telephone numbers, text numbers and email addresses have been edited out for reasons of privacy and to prevent users wasting personal funds contacting numbers or addresses which may no longer be valid.
Some names and trademark terms have been removed for legal reasons. A small number of Radio Times listings have been the subject of a previous complaint. Where the complaint has been upheld on the grounds of incorrect data or a breach in standards, the information has been extracted for legal reasons.
Where are the non-BBC listings?
From 1991, Radio Times published listings for non-BBC TV and radio channels. The BBC does not have the rights to reproduce these listings and so only listings for BBC channels and stations are available.
The following websites offer listings for BBC and other radio and TV channels:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
Why can I see future listings?
The BBC Sounds and iPlayer data is refreshed on a regular basis to include information about forthcoming broadcasts. These are also reflected in Programme Index.