Merja Ylä-Anttila – Keynote 06 2023

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21 June 2023 | 10:00 EEST | Main auditorium | Video recording | Transcript
Consolidated programme 2023 overview / Merja Ylä-Anttila, Keynote

Merja Ylä-Anttila, CEO Yle (Finnish Broadcasting Company)

About Merja Ylä-Anttila

Merja Ylä-Anttila is the CEO of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) since 1 September 2018. She has worked in the media sector for 30 years.

Since 2001 she had worked for Finland's largest commercial broadcaster MTV, part of Bonnier Broadcsting, currently owned by Telia.

"Yleisradio is a prime media outlet if you want to work for the good of Finnish society. I am happy, excited and very motivated to take on this task," Ylä-Anttila said when she took the job at YLE, "I have a lot of experience in journalism, but also in media business management during times of transformation and transition."

Ylä-Anttila advocates increased cooperation between the public broadcaster and its private counterparts. "Now that the media in Finland is in the midst of fierce international competition, cooperation between public broadcasting services and the commercial media is more important than ever. We need a highly functional domestic media that is equipped to provide Finnish residents with the best possible content," she says.

Managerial experience was the deciding factor

When appointing her, the board of Yleisradio emphasised Ylä-Anttila's extensive leadership experience and her comprehensive understanding of the media landscape in Finland.

"Ylä-Anttila demonstrates a good combination of experience, skill and leadership. She knows the field and Yle's activities well. She has an understanding of development needs brought on by social and technological pressures. As a manager, Ylä-Anttila is a motivator," said Thomas Wilhelmsson, Yle's chairman of the board.

The key tasks of the Yle CEO are running the company and handling its finances. The CEO of the public broadcaster does not take part in journalistic decision-making processes.

Video record


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>> NADIA TJAHJA: Merja Ylä-Anttila, CEO of Yle, please take the stage. Give her a warm welcome.

>> MERJA YLÄ-ANTTILA: Thank you. Dear EuroDIG conference guests. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak at your conference, the theme, it is a good reflection of the way in which we at the broadcasting company Finnish widely think however increasing technological development will change our operating environment.

Technological development offers us all of this, risk, resilience and hope. I would like to focus my speech on the last item, hope. I believe media has a way to harness technological development as a resource that serves democratic societies. In order to achieve this, we must recognize the risks and be resilient. Our ability to be resilient, to adapt to new ways of working has been put to the test in he recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have emphasized the importance of public service media as a grantor of the cybersecurity of supply.

We live in a world where we can no longer even trust the things we see or hear ourselves. The potential of artificial intelligence seems unlimited. The ability to produce reliable information and content that supports people’s ability to cope mentally is a crucial issue for societies in these times.

It is, therefore, important that technological development should leave enough room for responsible media actors, such as public broadcasting companies.

The core of our thinking at YLE is that the possibility of using AI must be examined on the basis of various values. This means that the use of AI must be reliable, independent and respectful of human dignity. This means, for example, that we must have control over the tools we use, that the decision making authority must be retained in all circumstances by the editor-in-chief.

It is for this reason that Yle is preparing their own principles of AI responsibility. I will now represent – present a few examples of how AI can be used as a tool to provide a better public service. First we can make our content available to more people. We are constantly developing content recommendations, algorithms based on public service values, while a commercial streaming service will try to offer you another similar type of programme after watching something already the public service algorithm also considers what kind of content you have not yet thought to look for. There is much talk how algorithms create bubbles, but algorithms can, in fact, also be used to break them. This is one part of the hope as well.

Yle is also developing technology for converting text into sound. This is a very simple way of using artificial intelligence, but its significance is enormous, we can finally offer all of our text Connecticut tent to be there and it is an efficient use of our resources. AI also helps us to provide better service in minority languages.

In the spring of 2022Yle responded immediately to the immigration of Ukrainian refugees caused by Russian invasion and since then we have also translated our news content into Ukrainian with the aid of AI.

Second, AI helps us assess how our content meets our goals. We’re currently building a tool to assess all content produced by Yle and better understand to whom we are giving voice in our content. Artificial intelligence helps us understand whether our content provides a diverse view of the world or are we just reinforcing stereotype.

For example, when news Article is about economy, immigration, families with children.

It is important to note that the development of AI is not just a question of individual tools being brought to the market. It is also about the massive restructuring of the public digital space. Recently there has been a lot of news about how China’s platform has increased its importance as an arena for political debate. This raises the question as to whether we in Europe want the platforms on which our democracy depends to be made in China or other authoritarian countries.

Yle is involved in an ambition project that aims to create generative artificial intelligence based on the European language model. That is open and that’s a tool to support new innovations.

The whole world went crazy when open AIs ChatGPT was launched. People were quite astonished by how well the machine was able to answer their questions, although not that right anyway but some questions and poems and whatever and it was possible. However, ChatGPT is a closed language model that only makes limited contribution to the broader technological development. We also need open language models because without them the technological revolution is enjoyed only by a few giant companies. The threat is that Finland and many other small language regions will remain at the tail end of development.

This is not just about language. By defending the status of our language in the development of AI we are strongly protecting our culture and lifestyle.

It is clear that the development of AI in an authoritarian country is based on a very different set of values than the development of AI in the democratic society.

Speaking about AI, I believe that we need to proceed to innovations ahead of the regulations surely will follow. Otherwise we may not take all the views and the best of the revolution which AI is and will be.

This provides us hope as well.

Dear listeners, I would like to emphasize that AI is no longer only a question of possibilities, but also a question of necessity for responsible media actors such as Yle. In addition to being able to use AI, we also have to do so because AI is here to stay. People are increasingly exposed to AI enhanced digital services and expect the same convenience from us. It is important for Yle to explore, experiment, to understand AI. Only then will we be able to influence the development of the sector and support the role of Western values in it.

Also, while involving us users of AI, we’re developing our ability to identify AI abuse and expose the abuse to the public.

Last week, we heard encouraging news when the annual digital news report by the University of Oxford’s Rutgers institute was published, the study compared the use of news media in 46 countries. The news in Finland is the most trusted of all countries and Yle is the most trusted news media in Finland. 87% of Fins trust the news presented by Yle. One of the strengths in Finnish media is that people are accustomed to use the media’s own applications and websites, however the position of social media as a news source is growing. The report says that in the age of group of 18 to 24 people, presenters of those using social media as the main news source has now for the first time surpassed those going directly to the news pages.

In order to remain relevant in everyday lives of teenagers and young adults we at Yle must seriously consider that we can learn from social media companies and how we can maintain presence of the platforms where people tend to spend time.

The shift is media use from traditional platforms to the Internet increasingly highlights the need to provide people with certainly stability in the midst of confusion. This offers a major opportunity for reliable media grants such as Yle to further define their meaningful mission in the world.

Thank you.

>> NADIA TJAHJA: Thank you very much for your keynote.