AI cannot replace human casters — media experts, practitioners

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology should only serve as an assistant tool, not a replacement for broadcast journalists, media practitioners and experts say.

This comes after the controversial Sept. 23 announcement of local media giant GMA network on their use of two AI-generated “sportscasters” as part of their coverage of the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.

As of writing, the post has garnered more than 115,000 reactions on Facebook — around 94,000 of which are “sad” and “angry.”

According to the media network, its AI casters “Maia” and “Marco” were developed using multiple AI technology features, including image generation, text-to-speech AI voice synthesis, and deep learning face animation technology.

GMA Network’s AI-generated Sportscasters Maia and Marco in NCAA Season 99. Photo by GMA News

Even though the AI casters are fluent in both Filipino and English, Assistant Professor Ronin Bautista from the University of the Philippines (UP) Department of Broadcast Communication pointed out that their features seem synthetic. 

“Definitely, hindi niya kayang palitan ‘yung tao for now. The voice overs are robotic, pero that’s what you expect from any text-to-speech tool out there. Then ‘yung pag-generate nila ng mukha, mukhang video game.” Bautista said in an online interview with Tinig ng Plaridel (TNP).

Artists, writers and other creatives previously denounced AI-generated art over copyright and plagiarism issues. Reportedly, public works including stories, illustrations, articles and photos are being fed by certain data companies to AI systems without the consent of the rightful owners.

Veteran sportscaster Chino Trinidad, who has been in the industry for more than three decades, also affirmed that AI casters “do not have a place” in sportscasting and journalism in general.

“Sports is predicated on reaction. It’s about emotion. Can AI give you that? How can people of this age and in the coming generations connect and relate to an artificially made character?” Trinidad argued in an online interview with TNP.

Amid the threats of AI taking over jobs, Trinidad also said that the use of artificial casters discourages students who want to work in the media.

“AI in sports is sending the wrong signal to the next generation of Filipinos who want to become or are in the process of becoming journalists. Hindi tayo papayag na papatayin ang [pangarap],” Trinidad continued.

Despite the strong criticisms against artificial sportscasters, however, Bautista notes that AI in general also has beneficial features.

There are valid uses of AI or machine learning. For example when we are talking about big data that some software cannot handle, [AI] can help you analyze plays as long as the human connection is still there,” Bautista said.

A new study from UP also showed that several local news rooms are using AI features such as reverse-image search and natural language processing as part of their fact-checking operations.

Moreover, Rappler has recently issued its guidelines on the use of AI in newsrooms, highlighting that generative AI tools may be used for “summarizing, transcribing, data sorting, grammar, style-checking and translating” as long as there is human oversight.

Even the use of AI-generated broadcasters is not entirely new. China’s Xinxhua News Agency was among its pioneers, when it introduced a live AI news anchor in 2018.

Similarly, India hopped in earlier this year when a local news station launched its first AI regional broadcaster named, “Lisa,” which can speak in multiple languages, including English.

Still, with the limited, established regulatory guidelines on the use of AI in the media, Bautista argued that the resources used by GMA for its artificial casters would be better spent on training human broadcasting talents.

Sayang pera. Those are funds that could actually do something to improve your personnel . . . AI should only be used as a tool, not as a replacement, so that [the coverage] is still undergoing a journalistic process,” Bautista added.

GMA Integrated News head Oliver Victor Amoroso has since clarified that they created the AI sportscasters only as “presenters,” with no intentions of replacing broadcasters, analysts and commentators.

Meanwhile, sports contributor for Philstar and, Luisa Morales, also believes that AI tools should not be exploited to replace media workers “for the sake of saving finances.”

“I think it is lazy journalism and a ploy for the network to avoid paying legitimate and quality sportscasters for its games. We’ve seen that the [AI] sportscasters are very limited in terms of putting any emotion in the game since they are dictated by technology and algorithm,” Morales told TNP in an interview.

Some companies in the country are now exploring the potential of using AI tools to cut costs and “enhance customer operations.” Last July, Globe Telecom Inc. announced its plans to use AI by automating some of the company’s routine tasks. 

As a course of action, Morales said media organizations should not rely on AI tools at the moment as the technology is still in its “infancy.”

“Why fix something that isn’t broken? And why jeopardize the jobs of real-life people for technology that is lower in quality, performance, and ethics?” Morales added.