In 1984 BBC Network Features under the leadership of Executive Producer, Peter Armstrong, were planning a six part documentary to cover the 900th anniversary of the Domesday Book. The series was intended to provide a then and now comparison, while planning the series the idea of creating a modern day reference presented itself - a Domesday Book for the 80's.
Peter Armstrong approached Andy Finney at BBC Enterprises the commercial arm of the BBC who was producing Video Discs for BBC Video, of particular note was a Laserdisc title called 'British Garden Birds'. Published in 1982 British Garden Birds was the first laserdisc to include rudimentary interactive features in the form of digital data stored as teletext pages which could be read on a television. The pioneering use of a laserdisc to provide data as well as video was instrumental in Peter Armstrong's idea for using the laserdisc as the basis for the Domesday Project.
In June 1984 Peter Armstrong created a detailed proposal that was submitted to the BBC Television Management where it won the backing of Managing Director, Bill Cotton and Head of Network Features, Roger Laughton. It was notoriously difficult to estimate the cost of a project of this type that had never been undertaken before but the initial estimated budget for the project was set at £1.5M based on a team of 43 people. Seeing the potential commercial opportunity of interactive media, with the potential for future sales of additional titles using the same hardware platform developed for domesday £1M finding was secured from Byron Parking, Managing Director of BBC Enterprises. Having secured support within the BBC Peter then took his proposal to the Minister for Technology at the Department of Trade and Industry on the 18th July 1984. Once again the proposal was favourably received and resulted in an agreement from the DTI to provide funding of £500,000 covering the proposed budget of £1.5M The DTI suggested that further funding options from the private sector should be perused as well, being heavily invested in laserdisc technology, Philips Electronics were approached and a further £500,000 funding was secured for the production of the domesday discs. Now that Peter Armstrong had exceeded his initial funding estimate with £2M available funding the project could go ahead.
The BBC Domesday Project was announced in November 1984 by Bill Cotton the then Managing Director of the BBC, the beginning of a two year initiative to compile a new electronic Domesday Book on interactive videodisc.