BBC Putting Historical Video Clips Online

Landmark BBC television reports of major world events from the past half-century will be available free online to British computer users.

Footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, protests in Tiananmen Square and the famous 1984 dispatch detailing famine in Ethiopia, which prompted the Live Aid charity concerts, are included in a trial project being tested on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Web site.

Users will be able to view an initial 80 packages in their original state or download and edit the material, but only if they use computers within Great Britain.

The public service broadcaster has had to restrict access under the terms of its funding through the 126.50-pound ($219) annual license fee levied on British TV owners.

The BBC will check the numeric Internet addresses of users to make sure they are coming through a British Internet service provider. It's similar to a mechanism used by content providers such as Major League Baseball in the United States to limit access by territory.

Users outside Britain get a message explaining why they cannot access the footage and are asked about their willingness to pay for it in the future.

Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, said Wednesday that if the archive proves popular with Internet users over the next 18 months, it will be made a permanent addition to the BBC's Web site and expanded to include more reports.

"This trial is an important step in allowing us to share with our audiences the extraordinary news archive which the BBC has recorded over the years," Boaden said.