press release
Published: 23 October 2017

The University of Surrey to help BBC break new media ground

The Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) at the University of Surrey has joined forces with the BBC to take part in a major five-year research partnership that will help the corporation create better content for its audience. 

Media control room

The Data Science Research Partnership will be at the forefront of machine learning in the media industry, helping to create a more personal BBC that can inform, educate and entertain in new ways.

CVSSP will provide world-leading expertise in the audio and visual analysis of media to enable the BBC to understand the content and provide its audience with new ways of accessing and interacting with it. For example, recent research in CVSSP achieved a Gold Medal in the Google/YouTube challenge of annotating over 8M YouTube videos – this type of technology will enable the BBC and its audience to search and experience the vast archives of media footage as well as providing rich annotation of new content.

The partnership will also collaborate with media and technology organisations from across the UK, Europe and internationally on a range of projects. These will focus on the following four areas, all combining anonymised BBC data with cutting-edge algorithms and analytics. The aim is to create a body of research, insights and prototypes that can start making a real impact on the BBC and its audiences.

The research will assist with:

  • Understanding audiences: Use data to better understand what audiences want from the BBC, why they want it, and what impact these programmes or services have on them
  • Understanding content: Explore what machine learning can teach the BBC about its programmes and services, and what it stands to gain from it
  • Curation and personalisation: Create a more personal BBC, designing tools and algorithms to help programme makers with editorial and commissioning decisions
  • Content of the future: Design future audience experiences, based on BBC R&D’s object-based broadcasting concept, and new forms of data journalism

Alongside this will be a range of educational opportunities to help improve the skills  needed in a data-driven future. This will include tailored courses ranging from entry-level to advanced, MSc Data Science apprenticeships, and secondments between the BBC and all the research partners.

Professor Adrian Hilton, Director of the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing at the University of Surrey, said: “Advances in Machine Learning and AI will revolutionise the way we produce, access and experience media over the next decade. The BBC Data Science Partnership drawing on our leading research will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the media industry providing the very best content internationally.” 

Matthew Postgate, the BBC’s Chief Technology and Product Officer, says: “The BBC has always been at its best when it combines creativity with technology. As we reinvent the BBC, we can see the opportunities that data and machine learning are opening up for us, our creative talent and our audiences. This partnership will help us break new ground and ensure we continue giving audiences the very best in public service broadcasting well into the future.”

Samantha Chadwick, Head of Partnerships, BBC R&D, says: “Machine learning is going to play an increasingly important role in the world. Together with our partners and funding bodies, we want to apply these advances in data science to the media industry and make a real difference to people’s lives. The partnership will also train a new generation of data scientists on real media problems to create new audience experiences that don’t even exist yet.”

The partnership brings together industry experts from across the BBC and world-leading UK data scientists from the Universities of Surrey, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, Ulster University and University College London.

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