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Regulation Needed to Combat Digital Assistant Monopoly in UK Homes

David Paul

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Digital Assistant

A BBC boss has told MP’s that small digital assistant companies are being priced out by systems such as Alexa or Google Home.

MP’s should regulate digital assistant services to allow smaller companies to compete to stop a monopoly for big tech companies, according to bosses at the BBC.

Currently, the market is dominated by large tech corporations such as Amazon and Google offering home systems such as Alexa and Google Home, which price out smaller competitors.

The comments come weeks after the BBC launched its own home speaker service, called Beeb, which offers information about the weather and television programmes.

Director of radio and education at the BBC, James Purnell, said while speaking to MPs on the digital, media, culture and sport select committee: “We now have smart speakers in so many homes, and they are going to be in far more homes.

“There is a question about whether we are happy about the biggest organisations in the world, big tech companies with their executives essentially [based] in the [United] States, combining a monopoly in people’s kitchens and in living rooms.

“I do think it is worth thinking about whether there should be some regulation of those smart speakers so there is a choice of assistance for people.

“So, if [people] want to say, ‘Hey Beeb’ and ask us a question, for example, about the virus, they can do that easily on a device whoever has made it.”

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The question of regulation was raised by Purnell after the BBC was unable to reach a deal with Amazon or Google to make the organisation’s coronavirus coverage available on their smart speakers.

He commented: “Both Amazon and Google wanted to kind of scrape our news to offer information on coronavirus via their smart speakers.

“We were worried if we didn’t have the ability to get the questions from the public we then didn’t have the ability to choose ourselves the information to offer up; that could undermine our news values and reputation to impartiality and accuracy.

“We tried to work with them to have a way with their systems of us having that editorial oversight, but we weren’t able to do that.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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