10.0723 a Serious Request

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 19 Feb 1997 22:20:51 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 723.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Lou Burnard <lou.burnard@computing- (30)
Subject: An enquiry from Her Majesty's Govt

I don't know, it might have been that Chris Whassername out of "Brass Eye",
but the bloke on the other end of the phone sounded kosher. He claimed to be
a researcher for one of the British government's bankbencher MPs with a
special interest in digital television. Could I give an opinion on what
academics thought about the possibility? I gave him my standard song on
corpus linguistics and said I'd ask a few experts around the world...

Here's the scoop. Everyone knows the V-chip is a disaster. It doesn't work,
and we didn't invent it anyway. But there's a lot of votes in controlling
the awful (perceived) excesses of digital television. We certainly couldn't
unleash all that sex and violence on the British public without some sort of
control, now could we. But setting up panels and censorship boards and
pre-vetting of TV is just too expensive, not to say deeply unpopular, to
contemplate. So surely some boffins must have come up with a piece of
computer software which could vet the content of TV programmes for us?

Come again?

Well, if you had all the scripts on computer disks, you could run them
through a program which would calculate some kind of content descriptor,
some kind of rating. Then parents could program their TVs to block out any
programmes with certain kinds of descriptor or rating, right? Some kind of
automatic categorization, topic identification, that kind of thing. Is
no-one doing research on that sort of text analysis? Specifically as applied
to broadcasting? Has anyone tried to apply automatic content identification
methods to this kind of domain?

I'll be glad to digest any suggestions and pass them on to our man in
Whitehall. Suggestions relating to the question asked, that is. Comments
about the state of British politics in general, and the current government
in particular, should be sent to a more appropriate forum. And if there's
any research funding in this, just remember, I saw him first.

Lou Burnard

>From the Laptop at Burnard Towers