The BBC is to make its extensive television and radio archives available online.
The move, announced by BBC director-general Greg Dyke, will make selected material for which the BBC owns the rights available for private, non-commercial use in the UK.
This resource has remained locked up until now because there has not been an effective mechanism for distribution, but digital technologies and broadband communications are changing that situation, Dyke said.
The project, known internally as the BBC Creative Archive, will allow viewers to adapt content for their own use under a simple licensing system, Dyke said.
The idea is still in its early stages, according to a BBC spokeswoman, so few additional details are available, but said it would focus principally on factual programming.
Dyke suggested the archive would be used by schoolchildren preparing presentations for their classes. They will be able to download video clips using the broadband connections found in libraries, schools or in their own homes, and incorporate them into project work.
The archive project is a way of giving back to the public what already belongs to them, he said, as the BBC's programmes are developed with public money.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service