NEWS published on 29 Sep 2016

EBU Big Data Initiative Workshop highlights how recommendation systems can support values of PSM

On Friday 23 September, an EBU Big Data Initiative workshop addressed the role and challenges raised by the use of algorithms for public service media (PSM). The workshop was kindly hosted by France Télévisions in Paris.

Using algorithms to enable audiences to expand their horizons, discover new experiences and navigate through the abundance of information and data available online has emerged as a key theme for the EBU Big Data Initiative.

The workshop featured speakers from France Televisions, BBC, RTBF, RTS, Canal Plus and the EBU offering advice based on their own practical experiences. Their intervention covered the practical aspects of recommendation systems as well as the strategic and ethical aspects of using audience data.

France Télévisions’ Director of Future Media Eric Scherer set the scene by underlining the key role recommendation systems and algorithms have to play to help audiences find PSM programmes in a convergent media landscape. The issue is central for PSM to remain relevant and to maintain their relations with the increasingly fragmented public while staying true to their ethical principles and values.

In their presentations, Canal Plus and the BBC drew upon their own experience to highlight why a cross-departmental and collaborative approach to big data within a PSM organisation is crucial. Even if there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ recommendation system for PSM, good collaboration between data scientists, editors, creators, developers and marketers is a central part of any functional and successful big-data strategy.

Canal Plus Chief Data Scientist Maxime Paul gave an overview of the various ways recommendation systems can be set up and stressed the need to constantly re-adapt and confront them to the broadcasters’ evolving strategies and audience needs.

Mark Sheldon, Head of Product Recommendation at the BBC, showed that big data can not only help PSM reach out to wider audiences; it can also help audiences discover a wider variety of programs, genres, type of content and channel brands. This opened a wider discussion on media diversity and on the role of algorithms as a tool to support the values of PSM.

The afternoon session, moderated by Michael de Lucia (RTS) and Micheal Barroco (EBU), gave participants the possibility to engage in a practical case-study on how to best offer a personalized service for users. Discussions focused on how to design the necessary organizational structure and how to build a roadmap to support such projects.

Pierre-Nicolas Schwab (RTBF) invited the workshop participants to reflect on the role of PSM in today’s digital environment and how this can be translated into ethically-driven data strategy, ahead of forthcoming EBU Big Data Initiative workshops, which will take place in Helsinki (25 October) and in Brussels (12-13 December).