The new ‘Future of Journalism’ funding opportunity by the European Space Agency (ESA) provides funding to European teams who would like to develop a service related to journalism, the media and reporting. Funding will be provided by ESA for six-month feasibility studies called ‘Kick-Starts’, which can lead onto larger scale projects and pilots.
Kick-Starts are funded at 75% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €60K per contract. Proposed services must use satellite data or space-based technologies.
The Future of Journalism
Journalism has changed significantly over the years. The global move to digital, mobile, and platform-operated media has made journalism more accessible than ever; in high-income countries, more than half of all media used is now digital, and half of that is accessed via mobile devices. However, new challenges have arisen. Trust in the media has declined, newspaper circulations are falling, and economic pressures contribute to rushed reporting.
Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, and YouTube are becoming increasingly popular; in some countries more so than satellite and cable television. Tech giants Alphabet, Meta, and Apple have overtaken traditional media companies to become the three biggest news and information companies, while individuals are increasingly becoming independent content creators. New advancements in virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), artificial intelligence (AI), connectivity, and satellite technologies offer further opportunities for transformation of the media industry.
Topics of relevance for this funding call
Below are some relevant topics that have been identified for this Kick-Start.
CONNECTIVITY AND QUICK CONTENT DELIVERY PLATFORMS
When it comes to reporting, every second matters. Being able to transmit high-resolution photography or heavyweight video files from the field is key for journalists. 5G enables a lot of high-definition content to be delivered very quickly, while satellite communications ensure a reliable and uninterrupted connection. Combined, 5G and satellite connectivity can give producers in the newsroom consistent and fast access to reporting from the field; editors can review footage in near-real time and request additional photos while the journalist is still on the scene. Meanwhile, the journalist can send massive data files quickly and reliably, enabling colleagues in newsrooms to create content from a robust supply of raw material.
Not only it is important to send data quickly from the field to the newsroom, but it is also crucial for journalists and audiences to be able to access validated information as stories break. Quick delivery platforms capable of gathering data from a variety of sources and verifying the content’s authenticity would be an invaluable tool within the media. Future intelligent platforms could collect images from drones, footage from hand-held cameras, and data from in-situ sensors, before automatically processing and authenticating the information in real-time. Satellite Communication (SatCom) and artificial intelligence (AI) would be key enablers to these platforms, ensuring a robust and continuous supply of data, which could be handled without manual oversight; this is especially true where data must be collected from remote areas of the world or where terrestrial communication cannot be relied upon. The output of these delivery platforms could include clear, fact-checked data for media companies and audiences and could help journalists with their jobs by, for example, guiding reporters or providing some analytical capabilities.
IMMERSIVE MEDIA AND NEW PERSPECTIVES
Immersive media has the potential to reshape storytelling and reporting. Journalism is based on engaging an audience and absorbing them into a story; immersive technologies like virtual reality, 360° videos, and augmented reality can help accomplish this aim. New techniques and technologies will offer different ways of telling stories. Environmental photogrammetry – which extracts 3D information from photographs – is one potential new technique. Producers in the field could use drones and cameras to capture stills at a site of interest. 5G-SatCom networks would then enable photogrammetry to seamlessly capture the scene in 3D, inviting readers to step into the scene and explore the story.
INDEPENDENT CREATORS AND WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES
In recent years, traditional, mainstream, and mass-market forms of entertainment have lost ground to more personalised, niche and community-driven media. This ‘creator economy’ enables independent, small-scale journalism to thrive on platforms like YouTube, Substack, and TikTok, which enable content creators to monetise their direct relationships with audiences. Short-form videos and community-generated content allow audiences to develop connections with their favourite creators and influencers. Crowdsourced content and wearable technology may help to strengthen these connections by creating a feeling of personal relationships between communities and creators.
For example, in September 2021, Meta and Ray-Ban launched their Stories glasses with a built-in camera, speakers, and hands-free voice controls. Other devices – such as Oppo Air Glass and Nreal Light – deliver heads-up displays using AR tech. Meanwhile, OrCam is aiming to develop a ‘lifelogging’ product, which will store details about what an individual has done, where they have been and who they have met for recall.
Additionally, crowdsourced images and videos can improve coverage of a story by presenting new perspectives or giving a more collective view of an event. Gathering information from multiple sources is vital for documenting rapidly changing conditions or large-scale incidents like natural disasters. AI can be applied to quicken the processing and verification of these crowdsourced data. Geolocating and fast, robust connectivity are integral to crowdsourced content and wearable technology because they allow users and their stories to be pinpointed and traced quickly and reliably. However, data security and privacy aspects go together with these technologies. Wearables can continuously collect data via sensors whenever the device is worn. Users must be aware and give consent to the collection, storage, and usage of this data.
STORIES FROM ABOVE
Satellite imagery has become an indispensable tool in journalism, which can help create inspiring and immersive stories with the use of interactive maps and other multimedia content. Such imagery can provide a unique illustrative viewpoint from which to tell a story in a way that few other technologies can.
Firstly, images from satellites can provide coverage in hard-to-reach regions. In places of civil unrest (like war zones), in regions impacted by natural disasters (like wildfires or tsunamis), and in remote areas (like certain mountain ranges or deserts) sending people to report ‘on the ground’ can be dangerous or logistically impossible. Satellites can capture images and data from these inaccessible areas without substantial risk.
Secondly, satellites can detect and monitor change over time effectively. Certain stories – like ones covering environmental effects of climate change or developments in cities year on year – require repetitive long-term observation rather than a one-off ‘snapshot’. In these circumstances, satellites are an ideal choice because they frequently and continually orbit Earth and are operational for years. Continuous advancements in AI and space communication infrastructure mean that changes can be automatically detected, and data can be downloaded and processed more efficiently.
Thirdly, satellites can be used to substantiate stories from the ground or provide unique evidence of activities. Fake news is becoming an increasing problem in the media; the emergence of ‘deep fakes’, uncorroborated stories on social media, censorship, and ‘spin’ from some media outlets are all contributing to viewers’ mistrust. Satellite Earth observation (SatEO) combined with geotagging can help uncover the truth. SatEO can be a helpful tool for investigative journalists, especially when AI is applied to identify visual indicators within that satellite imagery; from space, expansion of deforestation in a jungle can be captured, the emergence of new buildings in unexpected locations can be discovered, and suspicious activity on the seas can be detected.
Finally, SatEO can provide new perspectives. When stories happen at scale, photographs from the ground can struggle to portray the magnitude of the scene. Since satellites are capturing images from a distance, they can reveal the whole picture. Images of erupting volcanoes, for example, are striking from space as they show the total impact of the event. Journalists can use satellite imagery to add stunning visual effects in a story on some major events. Earth observation satellites can also depict images outside of the visible spectrum; they can detect things that the human eye cannot. For example, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can ‘see’ at night and can penetrate through clouds, rain, fog, and smoke. SAR images can therefore provide a unique view of events that a standard camera or phone could not capture.
Value of Space for Journalism
Proposed services must use one or more space assets. Some examples of space assets are provided below.
Satellite Communications (SatCom):
The ability to report breaking news stories live via voice or video broadcast is essential for journalists and broadcasters, irrespective of their location. SatCom enables journalists to report directly from remote locations like deserts, jungles, mountains, and open water. Integrated 5G Terrestrial-SatCom connectivity – with its low latency, high network bandwidth and high reliability – allows massive data files and high-definition content to be delivered quickly and consistently from the field to newsroom.
Future 5G networks will facilitate entirely new content experience and create a collision of physical and virtual worlds. 5G’s latency improvements will enable VR streaming, while low latency and improved capacity enable AR applications. As more of our surroundings go online with the Internet-of-things (IoT), an AR media application will be able to use 5G to communicate with all these information sources and overlay real-time information and content into a viewer’s AR-enabled device. The increases in network capacity will allow for truly immersive experiences that supplement, rather than replace, the real world. The opportunities for content creators are massive, with every digitally enhanced real-world feature presenting new opportunities for the user to interact with entertainment content. The metaverse, for example, has a strong virtual narrative, whether it is accessed in virtual, augmented, or mixed reality. Integrated Terrestrial-SatCom networks could also play a part in connecting sharing footage recorded by wearable devices in near real-time.
Satellite Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT):
Geotagging and timestamping photographs and recordings can be helpful in proving content authenticity, as well as pinpointing and tracing users and their stories. These are necessary for verifying crowdsourced images and geolocating images captured from drones, wearable devices, or other sources. However, in the wrong hands, location data could be used for malicious purposes and may make users uncomfortable for privacy reasons.
Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) enable precise positioning and guidance of users and objects in the virtual, augmented, or mixed reality environments.
Satellite Earth Observation (EO):
SatEO can provide coverage in hard-to-reach areas and can effectively (and automatically) detect and monitor change over time. This can be invaluable for stories needing continuous long-term observation.
Satellite imagery can be a helpful tool for investigative journalists verifying stories from the ground or providing unique evidence of activities. SatEO can provide new perspectives of events from a distance, at night, through smoke, and in rain.
Info Webinar on 26 April 2023
For more information about this call, ESA is organising an information webinar on 26 April, starting at 11:00 CET. Click below image to see all details about this event in our events calendar.
What is ESA looking for?
Kick-Start activities explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g. Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation, Earth Observation, Human Spaceflight Technology).
This call for Kick-Start activities is dedicated to the theme ‘The Future of Journalism’, which means that the call is open to companies that intend to develop space-enabled applications and services relating to journalism, the media and reporting.
How to apply
- Register by completing the online questionnaire on esa-star (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’)
- Visit esa-star publications and search for this opportunity to download the official tender documentation. Official documents will include proposal templates, a draft contract, and additional information about this opportunity.
- Use the official documents to write your proposal and obtain a ‘Letter of Support’ from your National Delegation (if needed – see ‘Authorisation of Funding’ section below).
- Submit your proposal via esa-star Tendering by the deadline.
Authorisation of Funding
ESA Space Solutions can provide funding to perform Kick-Start activities to any company (economic operator) residing in the following Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden.
Germany and Luxembourg have pre-approved funding for this kick-start activity. Applicants from these countries do not need to obtain a letter of authorisation from their National Delegation. Applicants of other Member States must inform the National Delegation of the country they are residing in to obtain a letter of authorisation allowing the funding of the proposed activity. Contact details of each national delegate can be found here.
Kick-Start activities are funded at 75% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €60K per contract.
Currently, Austria, Greece, and Switzerland are not supporting any Kick-Start activities.
The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are not supporting this specific Kick-Start opportunity.
More ESA Funding Opportunities
A few weeks ago we published a full article about all ESA funding opportunities in 2023.
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