BBC promises to build ‘public-service’ recommendation algorithm


UK public-service broadcaster the BBC is hoping to jog people out of their algorithmic comfort-zones with recommendations in its BBC Sounds app. The broadcaster’s director of radio and education James Purnell announced the plans at the Radio Festival 2019 conference in London.

“The BBC rests on three foundations: to entertain, yes, but also to inform and educate. Most algorithms do the former, but not the latter. That’s why we are developing our own: a public service algorithm,” said Purnell. “This is not an algorithm that just gives you more of the same, but an algorithm built to surprise you, to direct your attention to new information, to different points of view, to pop your bubble. Algorithms are made in the image of their designers and can be biased against people who are different. But when they are designed with a public service purpose, they do not have to be biased and they do not have to create echo chambers – they can open them up.”

The BBC Sounds app currently has 1.3 million weekly users. The news follows recent reports that the BBC is also working on its own voice assistant, codenamed ‘Auntie’ after a colloquial term used to describe the broadcaster in the UK.

Stuart Dredge

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