BBC Abandons ‘Doctor Who’ AI Promo Plans After Viewer Complaints

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BBC Abandons 'Doctor Who' AI Promo Plans After Viewer Complaints
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The BBC has abandoned plans to use generative AI in its marketing materials for sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” after receiving complaints from viewers following a trial.

According to the BBC’s compaints website, the Corporation’s marketing team have “no plans” to use AI again following a “small trial” in which generative AI was used to draft text for two “Doctor Who” promotional emails and mobile notifications.

The BBC noted that it had “received complaints” about reports that it was using generative AI to promote “Doctor Who,” although it did not report how many complaints it received. Decrypt has reached out to the BBC for comment and will update this article should it receive a response.

“We followed all BBC editorial compliance processes and the final text was verified and signed-off by a member of the marketing team before it was sent,” a statement from the BBC read, adding that, “We have no plans to do this again to promote Doctor Who.”

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The decision to abandon plans to use generative AI for promotion marks something of an about-face for the BBC. Earlier this month, it announced that it would use generative AI to create marketing copy for “Doctor Who” as part of a pilot scheme.

In a statement (since removed from the BBC website but available to view on the Wayback Machine), the BBC’s Head of Digital Media Inventory, David Housden, said that generative AI “offers a great opportunity to speed up making the extra assets to get more experiments live for more content that we are trying to promote,” adding that, “Doctor Who thematically lends itself to AI which is a bonus.”

The experiment involved creating human-written marketing copy for a “Doctor Who” push notification, email subject line and the BBC Search page; generative AI was then used to “suggest copy variations” which were reviewed by the BBC’s marketing team before being rolled out.

Housden wrote that the BBC aimed “to understand the technology better,” and “get a feel for how our teams feel about using it.” It did not disclose which AI platform was used to generate its marketing materials.

Artificial intelligence in the creative industries has proved to be contentious, with U.S. actors and writers striking last year in order to establish clear guidelines for its use.

An agreement struck with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to end its months-long strike established that AI can’t be used to “write or rewrite literary material,” nor can AI-generated material be considered source material under the minimum basic agreement (MBA), “meaning that AI-generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights.”

Audiences are also increasingly speaking out against the use of AI in creative works; recently, the writer-directors of indie horror feature “Late Night With the Devil,” released a statement addressing the use of AI art in the film, following a backlash from viewers on social media.

Edited by Stacy Elliott.

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