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EBU warns fear of technology could leave traditional media behind

Commissioned a new report looking at the power of artificial intelligence in public service journalism

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has commissioned a new report looking at the power of artificial intelligence in public service journalism.

The report investigates the need for public service media (PSM) to scrutinise what it calls “algorithmic-influenced decision making” and rebut false news through trusted, evidence-supported reporting.

It warns that, while humans remain integral to news operations, no job involving the practice of journalism will remain the same. PSM organisations are urged to support urgent culture change within newsrooms, enabling journalists to adopt critical technical skills and new ways of working.

The report also stresses the need for PSM organisations to not allow a traditional fear of technologies to cause legacy media to fall behind the progress made by big tech companies.

Other key themes in the report include:

  • AI has the potential to underline the traditional values of PSM
  • PSM must move to metrics that measure real connection with people – instead of simple reach
  • PSM can create value by personalising their offering individually, as the move to many-to-many communication is the major paradigm to address
  • The need for strategic investment. The report makes clear that AI, done properly and in certain areas, is an expensive – though necessary – investment. Investments in operational automation may also be worthwhile, but aren’t necessarily strategic, because they don’t contribute to PSM distinctiveness
  • The need for PSM to work together. One of the strengths of the PSM network is a tradition of working collaboratively and sharing good practice. This is crucial for developing AI-focused newsrooms, where the experiences of other organisations can aid with investment priorities and because scale is often needed for AI projects
  • The adoption of AI is not optional – and it needs to happen now
  • This is not the end of humans in journalism. On the contrary. Humans are more vital than ever, particularly for judgement skills, but virtually all journalism roles will need to change

Noel Curran, director general, EBU, said: “As public service broadcasters, we have a responsibility to understand these technologies, harness their potential, mitigate their dangers and ensure that journalism in the public interest remains accessible to all. We also need to ensure that we still maintain the extremely high ethical and quality standards. By working together as a community, sharing expertise, supporting innovation and partnering where necessary with others, we can make a real difference in this space.”