Atte Jääskeläinen in his EBU report: AI will change the face of public service journalism and audience reach

LUT University's Professor of Practice Atte Jääskeläinen and Media Consultant Maike Olij interviewed 75 experts for their report. In the future, artificial intelligence will be used, for instance, for the personal targeting of media contents.

AI and the use of data alter public service broadcasting significantly. Future newsrooms will harness data and AI for finding, writing and distributing news items. The change is inevitable, believes LUT University's Professor of Practice Atte Jääskeläinen.

"Public service broadcasting companies must learn to make the most of AI in order to offer value to citizens and respond to competition from international technology titans," says Jääskeläinen.

Jääskeläinen views this development as the fourth wave of digital disruption in journalism. The previous ones were the creation of online and mobile journalism and the adoption of social media.

Release of the EBU report

Jääskeläinen is well versed in this topic. The European Broadcasting Union EBU has published a report entitled "The Next Newsroom: Unlocking the Power of AI for Public Service Journalism", which it commissioned from Jääskeläinen and Dutch media consultant Maike Olij.

Jääskeläinen has a public service journalism background as the former director of news and current affairs of Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, and Olij is an advisor to the Dutch public service broadcasting companies NOS and NPO.

The report was published on 19 November in EBU's 14th News Assembly in Paris, France. Jääskeläinen and Olij examined studies in the field and interviewed 75 experts: "Our report presents 30 cases that successfully utilise AI and data."

Personalised targeting of media contents

In their report, Jääskeläinen and Olij introduced three perspectives on AI:
1.    Operational use of AI
2.    Use of AI in personalised targeting
3.    AI-enabled journalism
 
In the future, media contents will be targeted individually for each person, and mass communication will become personalised. This will also challenge the ethics of journalism.

"Contents will undoubtedly be individualised. Therefore, it is important to figure out how algorithms could promote responsible, high-quality journalistic content. Ignoring the problem in fear of failure is not an option," Jääskeläinen says.

AI-enabled journalism helps to oversee new decision-making and power structures that utilise new technologies.

Jääskeläinen assesses that AI will start to yield its best advantages 15 years after massive investments have begun. The entire reform will take roughly 20-30 years.
"The problem is that all benefits will not be immediate. Old systems operating alongside AI can't be dismantled or abolished."

Changes in management

The changes also challenge the management and culture of media houses. In Jääskeläinen's opinion, the traditional newsroom hierarchy is no longer functional.

"Highly educated, independent experts require freedom and professional objectives they can stand behind," Jääskeläinen explains.

Moreover, news organisations must overcome their fear of technology. In the future, front-page news may be chosen by a machine instead of a person. A great cultural change is taking place and may cause uproar.
"Media houses are forced to analyse their role as a journalistic organisation. The alternative to change is for media to wither away completely."

According to Jääskeläinen, machines should be allowed to do the work at which they are best. This would allow journalists to concentrate on the most demanding and valuable work: journalism.

More collaboration

Jääskeläinen's and Olij's report introduced several concrete development proposals.
To survive the upcoming changes, public service broadcasting companies must increase mutual collaboration. The benefits of AI will emerge only when the amount of data is large enough and the use of systems can be scaled.  
"Individual European public service actors cannot achieve this when faced with competition from commercial tech giants such as Amazon and Google," Jääskeläinen asserts.

In addition, journalists must learn to navigate their new operating environment, as AI will change the society, politics and exercise of power.
"Journalists need to understand what it's all about and what people need to know about it," Jääskeläinen explains.

Atte Jääskeläinen's and Maike Olij's report "The Next Newsroom: Unlocking the Power of AI for Public Service Journalism" is available on the website of the European Broadcasting Union EBU.

More information:

Atte Jääskeläinen, Professor of Practice, LUT University
tel. +358 40 545 4782, atte.jaaskelainen(a)lut.fi
Twitter: @attesakari