As part of a move to make its vast film and television collection more accessible to the public, the British Film Institute (bfi) has launched a new website featuring footage from its archives.

Clips of films dating back to the late 19th Century can be viewed on the site, which is called Screenonline and has been developed over two years at a cost of £2m. The website also features comprehensive biographies of key players in the British film and television world, stills and articles.

It is the first time the bfi has given the public access online to its collection of film and television material.

Because of the difficulty in clearing copyright for the material, the full service will only be available free of charge to schools and libraries in the UK. However, a text and stills based version will be globally accessible.

There is currently material from more than 300 films and TV programmes on the site, 1,000 pages of information and 100 hours of streamed moving image material, from Hitchcock's English films to Ealing comedies.

National Lottery distributor the New Opportunity Fund contributed almost £1.3m of Screenonline's budget.

BFI director Amanda Nevill said Screenonline was 'a flagship project' for the BFI.

The site can be found at

The bfi National Film and Television Archive collects, preserves and makes accessible the UK's moving image heritage. It includes over 50,000 feature films, 100,000 documentaries and non-fiction titles and 200,000 television programmes dating from 1895 to 2003.