The Czech News Agency (CTK) will cooperate with software company Geneea and publishing house Economia on developing a system for automatic generation of news, for which it has received a grant under Google's Digital News Initiative (DNI) programme.
Using artificial intelligence, the system will enable the creation of texts based on data and ready-made templates and will add photographs and other materials to them.
The grant was one of 103 awarded in the sixth and last round of the programme and the only one awarded in the Czech Republic.
"Our goal is to develop a solution that will help enhance routine work involving generation of news released regularly and search for photos, accompanying texts and further related materials. It will simplify journalists' work, accelerate the agency's production and extend our offer for clients notably," CTK IT head Jan Kodera said.
As a result, all CTK news will contain a reference to CTK photos and will enable the agency's clients to find further materials in the CTK Photobank or in their own archives.
"I dare to say that it is a unique project in the media environment not only in the Czech Republic but also in Europe," CTK Director General Jiri Majstr said.
Automation is a vital part of the agency’s development. "The project will enable us to make remarkable progress and to get ready for future needs of our clients," Majstr said.
CTK used automatically generated news articles for the first time during last year's local and Senate elections.
"The main benefit of the innovation was accelerating the news service in processing the data from the Czech Statistical Office, limiting human errors, and facilitating the work of reporters so that they could focus more on reactions and other interesting items from the elections," Radka Matesova Markova, the editor-in-chief of the CTK news desk, said earlier.
"CTK has been using automation wherever possible and reasonable for a long time," Majstr said.
"For instance, we have been automatically releasing daily schedules of expected events for years," he said.
Along with several of the European agencies, CTK is a partner in a project headed by Dutch news agency ANP, which has obtained a grant in this round of the DNI programme for the development of a system to monitor the utilisation and evaluate the performance of agency multimedia news coverage in real time.
CTK is also a partner in a project in which researchers from several Czech universities examine the impacts of automation on the work of journalists.
CTK was also part of another Google DNI project headed by Norwegian press agency NTB. In this project, the partner agencies developed a new platform that can process and distribute sport results.
CTK was established in 1918 as the state news agency. Since 1993 it has been a public corporation independent of the state. The agency is not financed from the state budget or licence fees and covers all its expenses from the sale of news. CTK has 250 employees at present, 180 of them being journalists. The agency provides news stories, photographs, audio recordings, video recordings and graphs and, most recently, also live video transmissions to over 600 clients. Every day it releases about 500 stories, over 300 photographs from its own production and about 1,000 photographs from other agencies.
Geneea Analytics is a software company specialising in automatic analysis and robotic text generation.
Economia operates news servers IHNED.cz and Aktualne.cz, web project Aktualne.TV and other online feature titles and free e-mail portals. It also publishes the Hospodarske noviny daily, the Ekonom and Respekt weeklies and several journals.