Sunday, 19 May 2024

Media industry turning to blockchain tech and AI

Making small payments for watching a video or reading an article online can soon be done through blockchain technology.

Blockchains have long been linked to cryptocurrencies but the media industry has been exploring ways to tap this technology too.

Some uses of blockchain in media are emerging that will help the industry solve some of its problems, said speakers at a media forum hosted by the China Global Television Network (CGTN) and video news agency CCTV+, both outfits of state-run broadcaster China Central Television.

Mr Jacobo Toll-Messia, chief executive officer of Hubii, a Norwegian news aggregator-turned-blockchain company, spoke on Wednesday, the second day of the two-day forum.

Blockchain, he said, was an infrastructure software for “storing data for all kinds of purposes, on top of which you can implement all kinds of solutions”. Records kept on blockchains cannot be changed in any way by anyone.

Mr Toll-Messia said his firm has developed a protocol that solved two problems with blockchain, over speed and cost. Blockchain transaction speeds are slow and costs tend to be high.

Micro-payment using blockchain technology is going to be implemented as soon as the coming year, he later told The Straits Times

Another area in which blockchain can be used is the tracking of media organisations’ digital products like videos and images through their lifetimes, including for the purpose of copyright protection, he said.

This is beginning to be done by Baidu Baike, a Web-based encyclopaedia owned by Chinese search engine Baidu.

Said Ms Yang Minglu, product architect of Baidu Baike: “Last year, 2017, was the turning point. Starting in 2017, every product manager was talking about blockchain.”

She said blockchain can solve a lot of design issues for her organisation. This is because with the technology, information can be shaped such that the copyright of an encyclopaedia entry can be protected, and its authenticity maintained.

She said the company has some projects that use blockchain as an aid, including Baidu Tattoo, in which the technology is used to protect the copyright of images.

“We store the information of the image in blockchain so that, from the very beginning, we can initiate protection efforts.

“Also, we combine blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) technology and data processing technology in this project so that we can compare the information of the image with information of other images available on the Internet so that in cases of intellectual property rights being infringed by others, we can take legal action,” she added.

She noted too that blockchain can be applied to the authentication of content. Right now, she said, the cost is low for disseminating rumours online as one does not have to take responsibility for doing so.

Another new technology being explored for use by the media industry is 5G – or the fifth generation of cellular communication – in particular by Japanese broadcaster NHK for disaster reporting.

Mr Genichi Inabe, deputy director of global IT innovation in the news department of NHK, said 5G could enable the broadcaster to start disaster reporting faster. For instance, if its over 7,000 remote cameras throughout Japan are replaced with 5G-powered high-resolution remote cameras, AI monitoring can be made available. “If unusual things like landslides or flooding are captured by the high-resolution cameras, AI can detect those incidents and issue an alert,” he said.

On Tuesday, the forum, which had more than 500 participants from 65 countries, looked at the potential use of AI in the newsroom.

Ms Mei Yan, deputy director of CGTN Digital, was of the view that AI can help news professionals understand users better, and this will in turn guide content production.

While some newsrooms are experimenting with AI writing, “in terms of creative journalistic writing, I think it still has a long way to go and I’m sceptical it will reach that stage”, she said.

However, an innovation, described by another speaker, to reduce the workload of journalists brought up the question of ethics.

Mr Benny Fu, international business development manager of iFLYTEK, a Chinese firm known for its speech recognition technology, spoke of how his company collaborated with CCTV on a documentary in which the voice-over was a simulation of a celebrity’s voice using AI.

However, a member of the audience raised the problem of ethics, such as when a celebrity’s voice is used to say something that he or she might not have wanted to say.

In the case of the CCTV documentary, the celebrity’s consent was sought in advance, said Mr Fu.

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