Recap Summary


With the advent of generative systems, Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a field moving faster than any speaker can currently keep up to date with! For our latest event we were joined by Megan Stamper, Head of Data Science Product Group, at the BBC. Megan took us on a journey through NLP starting with a brief overview of the core technical underpinnings of current language modeling methods, reviewing their applicability (and risks) to content producers like the BBC, and showing how we can all ‘keep the heid’ amidst this latest hype cycle.

The discussion focused on 3 key areas:

  • NLP Fundamentals:
  • Megan touched upon the fundamental concepts of Natural Language Processing (NLP), considering how it enables tasks such as content discovery and personalisation by leveraging language understanding and processing capabilities. NLP techniques can help capture user context, such as location or activity, to enhance the relevance and effectiveness of content recommendations. However, limitations exist in accurately predicting user preferences in specific situations, and it's crucial to strike a balance between personalisation and context-awareness.

    BBC NLP:
  • The conversation also explored how the BBC utilises NLP in various use cases. The BBC has been leveraging NLP to enhance content discovery and personalisation within its different services. For instance, video content recommendations are concentrated within the iPlayer products and brands, while audio content recommendations are integrated into Sonos products. The BBC's approach to personalisation involves building on top of existing brands and implementing recommenders tailored to specific modalities. The goal is to provide users with relevant recommendations based on their preferences and the context in which they engage with the content. However, there is room for improvement in joining up different services and broadening the personalisation capabilities further.

    NLP Past the Hype:
  • The discussion emphasised the need to go beyond the hype surrounding NLP and consider its limitations and challenges. While NLP technologies like Chat GPT offer promising capabilities, they also come with certain caveats. One cautionary point raised was the reliance on implicit signals for feedback and decision-making, which may overlook valuable explicit user feedback. Scalability was another challenge discussed, as processing language at scale requires careful engineering and optimisation. Moreover, ethical considerations were highlighted, including the risk of bias in content recommendations and the importance of privacy safeguards. It was emphasised that responsible and unbiased use of NLP technologies requires addressing these limitations and ethical concerns.


Key takeaways from the session:

- Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a powerful tool for content discovery and personalisation, leveraging language understanding to enhance user experiences.

- The BBC uses NLP to tailor recommendations within its video and audio services, focusing on specific brands and modalities.

- Balancing personalisation and context awareness is crucial, considering factors like user location and activity to provide relevant content recommendations.

- NLP technologies like Chat GPT offer exciting capabilities but have limitations, such as relying on implicit signals and facing scalability challenges.

- Ethical considerations, including bias and privacy, must be addressed to ensure responsible and unbiased use of NLP technologies.


Guest Bios:


Megan Stamper - Head of Data Science, BBC Product Group

Megan Stamper is Head of Data Science for the BBC’s Product Group, where she leads a diverse team of data scientists working across the BBC’s products - think iPlayer, Sounds, News and Sport. The team works cross-functionally to deliver data and ML-driven products across a variety of problem spaces, including personalisation, content metadata, user retention modeling and account verification. From an academic background in mathematics, Megan’s data science career has been focused in the media industry, with roles at the FT and the BBC, where she’s built expertise in recommender systems and conversational AI.

Kris McFadyen Bio

Kris McFadyen - Head of Scottish Data Science, ML & Data Engineering Recruitment at MBN Solutions

Kris is an Associate Director at data science and technology recruitment company MBN Solutions. He has worked closely with the UK and Europe’s data markets and leaders for the past six years. He brings in-depth knowledge of the data market’s talent challenges and opportunities to AI Right? 

Are you a Data Leader interested in sharing your knowledge at one of our event forums? Complete this form and we will be in touch.


NLP at BBC Photo