A New Approach To Understanding War Through Television News: Introducing The TV News Visual Explorer & The Belarusian, Russian & Ukrainian TV News Archive

For more than 20 years, the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive has monitored television news, preserving more than 9.5 million broadcasts totaling more than 6.6 million hours from across the world, with a continuous archive spanning the past decade. Today just a small sliver of that archive is accessible to journalists and scholars due to the inaccessibility of video at this scale: fast forwarding through that much television news is simply beyond the ability of any human to make sense of. The small fraction of programs that contain closed captioning, speech recognition transcripts or OCR’d onscreen text can be keyword searched through the TV Explorer and TV AI Explorer, but for the majority of this global multi-decade archive, there has until now been no way for researchers to assess and understand the narratives of television news at scale, especially the visual landscape that distinguishes television from other forms of media and which is so central to understanding many of the world’s biggest stories from war to pandemics to the economy.

As the TV News Archive enters its third decade, it is increasingly exploring the ways in which it can preserve the domestic and international response to global events as it did with 9/11 two decades ago. As a first step towards this vision, over the last few months the Archive has preserved more than 46,000 broadcasts from domestic Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian television news channels, including (in the order they were added to the Archive) Russia Today (part of the Archive since July 2010 but included in this collection starting January 1), Russian channels 1TV, NTV and Russia 1 (from March 26) and Russia 24 (from April 25), Ukrainian channel Espreso (from April 25) and Belarusian channel Belarus 24 (from May 16).

Why preserve television news coverage in a time of war? For journalists today it makes it possible to digest and report on how the war is being framed and narrated, with an eye towards how these narratives influence and shape popular support for the conflict and its potential future trajectory. For future generations of scholars, it makes it possible to look back at the contemporary information environment and prevailing public information, perspectives, and narratives.

While there are myriad options for the general public to watch these channels today in realtime, there is no research-oriented archival interface designed for journalists and scholars to understand their coverage at the scale of days to months, to scan for key visuals and events and to comment, discuss and illustrate how nations are portraying major stories.

To address this critical need, today we are tremendously excited to unveil the Television News Visual Explorer, a collaboration of the GDELT Project, the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive and the Media-Data Research Consortium to explore new approaches to enabling rapid exploration and understanding of the visual landscape of television news.

The Visual Explorer converts each broadcast into a grid of thumbnails, one every 4 seconds, displayed in a grid six frames wide and scrolling vertically through the entire program, making it possible to skim an hour-long broadcast in a matter of seconds. Clicking on any thumbnail plays a brief 30 second clip of the broadcast at that point, making it trivial to rapidly triage a broadcast for key moments. The underlying thumbnails can even be downloaded as a ZIP file to enable non-consumptive computational analysis, from OCR to augmented search.

Machines today can catalog the basic objects and activities they see in video and generate transcripts of their spoken and written words, but the ability to contextualize and understand the meaning of all that coverage remains a uniquely human capability. No person could watch the entirety of the Archive’s 6.6 million hours of broadcasts, yet even just the 46,000 broadcasts in this new collection would be difficult for a single researcher to watch or even fast forward through in their entirety. Television’s linear format means coverage has historically been consumed a single moment at a time like a flashlight in a darkened warehouse. In contrast, this new interface makes it possible to see an entire broadcast all at once in a single display, making television news “skimmable” for the first time.

The Visual Explorer and this new research collection of Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian television news coverage represent early glimpses into a new initiative reimagining how memory institutions like the Archive can make their vast television news archives more accessible to scholars, journalists and informed citizens. Beneath the simple and intuitive interface lies an immensely complex and highly experimental set of workflows prototyping both an entirely new scholarly and journalistic interface to television news and entirely new approaches to rapidly archiving international television coverage of global events.

Over the coming weeks, additional channels from the TV News Archive will become available through the new Visual Explorer, as well as a variety of experiments with the new lenses that tools like automatic transcription and translation can offer in helping journalists and scholars make sense of such vast realtime archives.

Get Started With The Television News Visual Explorer!

About Kalev Leetaru

For more than 25 years, GDELT’s creator, Dr. Kalev H. Leetaru, has been studying the web and building systems to interact with and understand the way it is reshaping our global society. One of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013, his work has been featured in the presses of over 100 nations and fundamentally changed how we think about information at scale and how the “big data” revolution is changing our ability to understand our global collective consciousness.

9 thoughts on “A New Approach To Understanding War Through Television News: Introducing The TV News Visual Explorer & The Belarusian, Russian & Ukrainian TV News Archive

  1. Roger G Macdonald

    Imagery tropes are readily apparent when using the Visual Explorer – even without knowing the language.

    For example: this segment on “60-minutes” (60 минут) Russia-1 TV program on June 1st frames following discussion of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s June 1st pledge to increase support to Ukraine with air-defense and other military systems by likening him to Adolf Hitler

    Discovered at 5:31 by visual exploration of this 2 1/2 hours of programming

  2. دانلود آهنگ

    I expect the news archive to be able to distinguish the most accurate old news from other similar ones. but special thanks for archive sound and video for a long time. Now we can see how we are live cross time.

  3. Nottimid

    Every time I watch the news, about politics, economics, the military, food scarcity, earth temperature, any of Nasa’s news, religion, and human groups… something inside tells me is all lies…All were produced and released to catch the blind, stupid, followers, all that is called “cattle”. All that is easily manipulated. All that require other entities to think for them. By doing so, they collect the money from the stupid and get richer by the day, and the believer poorer by the second and more dependent. The Bible says that “there is nothing new under the sun”. History repeats itself, again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.
    But, there is one thing that I think is worth mentioning… and that is humans are getting stupider by the minute, and easier to manipulate as the ages go by.
    People like me and you that think for themselves will cease to exist, and stupidity will prevail, and then kill itself…

    1. Turtle

      Your are very well expressed. I am curious to know, however… What information in the media are you referring to specifically? And why do you believe such specific information in the media is being used as a form of manipulation?
      Thanks 🙂

  4. David Brockschmidt

    You cannot awaken somebody, who ‘pretent’s to be asleep.! (Edward Snowden)
    Its easier to fool People, then to convince them, that they have been Fooled.! (Mark Twain)
    People love to be deceived, swollowing up the official Lies, then adding their own homemade Lies, sucking them both up, like Cocaine and believe’s all of them, as long it makes them feel GOOD for a Day or two.!! (David Brockschmidt)
    The Philosophies of one Age, have become absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of Yesterday becomes the “Wisdom” of
    Tomorrow.( Sir William Osler),. All are “Lunatic’s” but he/she, who can”analyse” his/her Delusions, is called a “Philosopher” (Ambrose Pierce) The Artist is not a different kind of Person, but every Person, is a different kind of Artist (Eric Gill) In a consumer Society, there are inevitable two kind of Slaves: The Prisoners of Addiction and the Prisoners of Envy. (Ivan Illich) Those who are able to see beyond the Shadows and Lies of their Culture, will never be understood, let alone believed by the Masses. (Plato) The Neurotic is the Person, who build’s a Castle in the Air. The Psychotic is the Person, who lives in it., and the Psychiatrist, is the Barstard who collects the Rent. (Anon) In rich Country’s today, consumption consist of people spending Money they dont have (Credit) to by Goods they don’t want and don’t need, but must have, in order to “impress” People they don’t like, even Hate, and then call it “Retail Therapy” but it is in reality “Over – Consuming” Idiocy (Anon/Brockschmidt) Dept is the Slavery of the “Free”(Publius Syrus, Roman aphorist 42BC.)
    Truth comes in three Stages: First it is ignored, then it is laughed at, and then it becomes self – evident.! (Arthur Schopenhauer)
    “If they miss you, they’ll call. If they want you, they’ll say it. If they care , they show it. and if not, they aren’t worth YOUR time.!
    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you WIN.!! {Mahatma Gandhi)
    Everything has been said before, but since NOBODY listen, we have to keep going back, and beginning all over again.! (Andre’ Gide) Nobody is more enslaved than the one who believes, that He/She is FREE.! (J.W. Goethe)

    My late Father may’ He rest in Peace, always said:


    My late good old Sergeant Major, may he rest in Peace too said:



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