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BBC and UCL launch major partnership to unlock potential of data

19 October 2017

BBC Research and Development has announced a five-year research partnership with eight UK Universities, including UCL, to unlock the potential of data in the media.

data science

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

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

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.

  • 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 the BBC and its staff improve the skills they’ll need 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.

“We are very pleased to continue our long-standing collaboration with the BBC as members of the new Data Science Research Partnership. For UCL it offers new opportunities to work with research and production teams at the BBC in order to develop and test novel methods that can potentially improve users’ experience of the BBC’s productions,” said Professor John Shawe-Taylor, Head of UCL Computer Science.

Matthew Postgate, the BBC’s Chief Technology and Product Officer, said: “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, said: “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 to make a real difference to people’s lives. The partnership will also address the scarcity of data scientists in the UK, training a new generation of data scientists on real media problems, to create new audience experiences that don’t even exist yet.”

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  • BBC

Media contact

Bex Caygill

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 3846

Email: r.caygill [at] ucl.ac.uk