I read an article in the Telegraph over the weekend which interviewed BBC Director General Tony Hall ahead of the first ever presentation of an annual report for the corporation, a stipulation in the renegotiated BBC charter. The article talks about what the media landscape will look like in 2022 when the BBC celebrates its’ 100th birthday and presents an interesting insight into our future media habits.
According to Tony Hall the primary objective is “a single interface for everything” – this sounds encouraging as I’m a big supporter of technologies like Content as a Service (CaaS) enabling the shift away from multiple embedded graphical user interfaces to flexible services delivered as data. The attractiveness of not having to pay to maintain teams supporting multiple applications with different branding and across different devices is obvious – especially to an organisation of the size of the BBC.
Hall is very keen that the BBC doesn’t turn into another streaming service like Netflix and wants to maintain the power of the schedule – I understand this as it is part of our culture expecting to watch light entertainment at tea time and programmes like the Antiques Road Show on a Sunday evening. My initial reacting was that this is increasingly meaningless to younger media consumers but then I reflected that what the BBC are actually doing is curating content in the way many online channels do. Perhaps this is how we will see the traditional TV schedule in the future – like a curated playlist of great content from an old and trusted friend.
Hall concedes that the days of 17 million watching one programme like Two Ronnies are gone and the focus is now on personalisation – perhaps the future will bring 17 million different versions of the same programme, each of them tailored to the individual’s tastes and preferences. To allow this revolution in personalisation the BBC has implemented a few new things, firstly it is requiring login for it’s excellent iPlayer media app which is used to access content via digital channels such as smart TVs and the web. This caused a healthy debate in the UK recently as may commentators saw this as the corporation cracking down on access and potentially eroding user privacy through mass data collection. The case was made that by implementing personalisation a better user experience could be achieved which benefited all users – a tried and tested argument. Machine Learning is to be used to support the drive for personalisation as the technology increasingly shapes our window on the world – let’s hope they do a better job that Youtube which seems to struggle to maintain serendipity and instead creates the filter bubble described by Eli Pariser in his 2011 Ted Talk and book of the same name. A bubble where me watching light entertainment leads to the presentation of more of the same content – the ever reinforcing effect he describes is one of the real dangers in the new media world we already inhabit. Curated content is great but we chose that – what if we never meet the curator, are never introduced to fresh content, ideas or people. Ideas that might challenge us beyond the chewing gum for the eyes that many consume in the ‘mainstream’ media.
Another theme is voice activation so I look forward to coming home on a Sunday night and shouting “Ok BBC, show me antique furniture!”.
What do you think media will look like in 2022?