The rise of unreliable information on the internet has raised issues of trust and distrust for the media throughout the developed world - and is a subject that will be examined in detail at IBC2018 in Amsterdam.
Technology has always been a friend and ally of television news and broadcasting in general.
It has enabled the latest news in pictures and sound to be gathered from virtually everywhere on earth and circle the globe in seconds.
Yet for the first time technology has become something of a double-edged sword. Thanks to the endless growth of the social media giants the instant distribution applies not just to news but fake news, or as it should more precisely be called, misinformation or disinformation often used for deliberate political manipulation.
The concept of fake news may have become devalued by politicians who use the term to describe anything they dislike, but the problem whatever you call it, is real enough.
The rise of unreliable information on the internet, and its probable use in both the election of President Trump and the Brexit vote in the UK referendum on the EU, has raised issues of trust and distrust for the media throughout the developed world.
Some have even argued that the threat is so great that democracy and the functioning of society itself are in danger of being undermined.
Issues of trust, technology and how to protect the real news will be examined in detail at IBC2018 in Amsterdam with the help of three distinguished news business professionals.
They are Deborah Turness, President of NBC Universal Media who also oversees content for Euronews NBC, Mohamed Abuagla, Chief Information and Technology Officer of Al Jazeera, the Arab world broadcaster, and Lisa Tobin, Executive Producer for the audio output of the New York Times.
They will be debating issues that are engaging politicians and media executives on both sides of the Atlantic.
Facebook has been so rattled by the increasingly negative reactions to what it does that publications have been awash in recent months with Facebook advertisements arguing that for Facebook “fake news is not a friend.”
More than 20,000 monitors have been hired by the company to weed out fallacious and unacceptable material and for the first time there has been an acceptance that it is in part a publisher rather than a mere technology platform.
“We’ve cut the chord with the big cameras and the satellite trucks – our correspondents will report exclusively on iPhones Live View app.” Deborah Turness, NBC Universal Media
And in a move suggesting that technology could be part of the solution it has created, artificial intelligence (AI) has been unleashed on the problem.
Unfortunately the algorithms may still be in need of further tweeking.
Facebook’s attempts to prevent its advertising being manipulated during elections ended up, in the words of New York Times chief executive Mark Thompson, unintentionally “supporting the enemies of quality journalism.”
An ad promoting a news article about President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un was labelled unacceptable political content. Another for the New York Times cooking site was banned for unexplained reasons.
At the same there have been calls from broadcasters such as Jeremy Darroch, Chief Executive of the Sky Group and Dame Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive of ITV, that the social media should have a more even playing field imposed on them in terms of both taxation and regulation.
A similar message came in July from Damian Collins who chairs the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Collins, who believes that fake news amounts to a “crisis in our democracy”, recommends, among other measures, tougher social network regulation and a new tax on the social networks to pay for digital literacy programmes in schools.
Then there is the financial threat. As social networks hoover up advertising on an industrial scale will the mainstream media have adequate funds to pay teams of professional journalists and expensive investigative reporting in future?
Deborah Turness clearly believes that if technology is part of the problem then technology and innovation are certainly an important part of the solution.
At Euronews, Turness wants to use the power of technology and platforms, and smartphones in particular, to produce more authentic news from where the stories are breaking.
“We’ve cut the chord with the big cameras and the satellite trucks – our correspondents will report exclusively on iPhones Live View app. This liberates them incredibly as journalists where they will be reporting from the front line of Europe’s biggest stories,” Turness told IBC.
And if you can’t beat social media join them – in a good sense.
Turness has introduced #The Cube to Euronews, a social news hub that will bring in a diversity of views from the internet while at the same time debunking fake news.
Trust, the executive believes, is the hardest thing to build and the easiest to lose and such a loss is not down to just an occasional fake news story.
Turness concedes that the mainstream media failed to address the rise of nationalism and populism and reported the world journalists wanted to live in rather than the one that actually existed.
“There has been a systemic failure in how we are operating, we are losing trust among those people,” Turness believes.
In the end though, for the NBC executive, it is good journalism that will win the day whatever the technology.
For Mohamed Abuagla, Chief Information and Technology Officer for Al Jazeera, the Doha based broadcaster which runs 10 channels in Arabic and other languages in over 100 countries, the challenge is different.
It is to keep just about every aspect of Al Jazeera channels up and running in sometimes politically challenging circumstances and to keep the organisation up to date with rapidly changing technology.
“When I think about what we can accomplish to transform the TV business by integrating it into the future plans for AI and cloud solutions, that’s what gets me excited,” Mohamed Abuagla, Al Jazeera
The necessary transformation, for Abuagla, involves paperless, and cloud and mobile first, and a key priority is to ensure that journalists and storytellers are among those who buy into the process.
Far more important than buying the latest kit is ensuring that everything is working together.
Al Jazeera is at work developing apps that allow increasing collaboration between editorial, archivists, journalists and storytellers.
“When I think about what we can accomplish to transform the TV business by integrating it into the future plans for AI and cloud solutions, that’s what gets me excited,” says Mohamed Abuagla.
There’s a different form of excitement for Lisa Tobin whose job is to take the “old” media world of The New York Times into first audio and then radio.
Tobin is executive audio producer for the NYT and has already attracted more than 4.6 million unique monthly listeners to The Daily, the NYT’s podcast.
The Daily, which can draw on the expertise of 1,450 journalists worldwide, was the most downloaded new show last year on Apple Podcasts.
This year The Daily went further and was launched as a radio show on America Public Media and Tobin has plans to go further.
The possibilities include on-demand audio, including short-form news offerings on new platforms such as Alexa and Google Home.
”Many readers have already told us that they want the option to hit ‘play’ on our morning briefing,” says Tobin.
Small innovations in the greater scheme of things but a significant step for the New York Times and ultimately perhaps a new stream of revenue to help finance authenticated, real news.
Three speakers with very different backgrounds but with a common belief in news as opposed to fake news and equal determination to use the latest technology in the cause of creating the best possible journalism and the greatest possible trust.
IBC2018 Raymond Snoddy will chair the Global Gamechanger: Trust and Technology, Telling the (Real) News session on 13 September.
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