GMA’s AI ‘sportscasters’: Brainless, heartless

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In a sheer display of lack of intelligence, GMA Network has announced it would introduce artificial intelligence (AI)-generated sportscasters when it broadcasts the opening of NCAA Season 99.

The two “sportscasters,” named “Maia” and “Marco,” were created through AI technology that employed image generation, text-to-speech voice synthesis/generation, and advanced deep-learning face animation technology, enabling them to communicate fluently in both English and Filipino.

In a statement, GMA senior vice president Oliver Amoroso said the initiative was “[aligned] with our mission to serve all communities within the nation and promote inclusivity in our reporting.” He underscored this commitment by referencing the network’s new tagline, “Mas malaking misyon, mas malawak na paglilingkod sa bayan.”

It’s astonishing that a network with GMA’s level of expertise would entertain such a callous notion. By introducing the use of AI sportscasters, GMA inadvertently suggests that AI could potentially replace more human roles in broadcasting and journalism.

Many Filipinos have expressed their disapproval of GMA’s decision, and their concerns are entirely justified. The introduction of AI sportscasters sets a concerning precedent in the realm of job security. In an age when AI and automation are already reshaping various industries, the move by GMA Network sends an unsettling message: human workers can be replaced by cold, unfeeling machines. This is not the kind of message that a prominent network should be promoting, especially when numerous media professionals are enduring meager wages, and particularly during a period when the media industry is still reeling from the aftermath of the pandemic and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

In addition, sports, at its core, is a celebration of human achievement, passion and emotion. It is these raw emotions that make sports so universally relatable and captivating. AI, however advanced, cannot authentically replicate these emotional nuances.

Sports commentary and analysis are deeply rooted in the emotional connections that athletes and fans share. AI, lacking the ability to truly empathize or understand the emotional context, can only offer a sterile and mechanical account of events. The joy, heartbreak, and drama that define sports cannot be effectively conveyed by AI sportscasters, making their presence in this arena both irrelevant and out of touch with the very essence of the field.

GMA’s decision is a dangerous precedent. As a prominent media entity, it wields significant influence and impact on the industry. By embracing AI sportscasters, it risks encouraging other organizations to follow suit, potentially leading to the erosion of human involvement not only in sports but also in broadcasting and journalism. This not only diminishes the diversity of perspectives and voices but also paves the way for a future where human expertise is sidelined in favor of machine automation.

Several international media entities have already delved into this technology for their newsroom activities. In 2018, the state-run Xinhua News Agency in China made history by being the world’s first to introduce an AI news anchor. In November 2020, the cable channel MBN achieved the distinction of becoming South Korea’s first broadcaster to feature an AI announcer modeled after a real-life anchor delivering the news. But becoming a part of this company shouldn’t be considered an accomplishment for GMA.

Before embracing technology with industry-changing capabilities, it is essential to address the hurdles faced by media workers, including issues such as contract employment, unfair labor practices, insufficient compensation and the absence of benefits.

If GMA genuinely intends to foster inclusivity in reporting, its priority should be directing its efforts and resources toward the recruitment and fair remuneration of skilled journalists and media professionals. Opting for AI over real human talent is quite a heartless gesture from a network that calls itself “Kapuso.”

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