BBC Launches Interactive News Service for Alexa

The BBC has debuted an interactive news service, accessible via the Amazon Alexa voice assistant. The service allows Alexa users to ask for specific news reports from the BBC and customize their news builletins.

British News You Can Use

Alexa device users can ask the voice assistant to ‘give me BBC News’ to start up the service and hear the latest news bulletins and in-depth news stories alike, using voice commands to skip around to the stories they want to hear. If they hear a story they want to know more about, they can ask for “more from BBC News” to get more reporting about the story. The BBC revealed the new feature, which it said will be Great Britain’s first interactive voice news service, in a blog post this week.

“Smart speakers give us the chance to reimagine what radio would be like if it were invented today, free from its technical limitations,” BBC executive editor of Voice and AI Mukul Devichand said in a statement. “By making the news interactive on smart speakers, listeners can jump to the stories they need to hear just before rushing out of the house, or, when they have more time, they can delve into a piece and find out more.”

The idea is to offer flexibility in time and subject for BBC News listeners, rather than the traditional bulletins read at the top of every hour on BBC radio stations. Asking Alexa for more detail will supplement the news briefs with current reporting, including full speeches from politicians if desired. The news service will also pull relevant clips from the BBC’s decades-old archive to play as a way of adding context.

BBC Voice Future

The new feature is only available on Alexa devices right now, but other platforms are in the works, according to the announcement. While the interactive news is supposed to expand to other platforms, that Alexa has it first is not a surprise. The BBC has a closer relationship with Alexa than any of its rivals, with a scare handful of Google Assistant Actions compared to Alexa Skills. In addition, only Alexa offers session persistence between the BBC Sounds Alexa skill and mobile app. By contrast, Google is restricted from even listing BBC shows on its podcast service.

The interactive news feature is one of several ways the BBC has been exploring ways of augmenting its services using voice assistants. In August, the BBC announced that it would launch its own voice assistant in 2020, known at the moment as Beeb. Beeb will be a software addition to smart speakers and screens rather than a device of its own. The new interactive news service may be just a prelude to Beeb. The current descriptions of the upcoming voice assistant as a way for people to interact with the BBC and gain access to new interactive programming appear very similar to what Alexa is now offering.


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