Here’s why journalism groups worry about debut of GMA’s AI sportscasters

September 25, 2023 - 6:48 PM
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GMA News AI sports reporters Maia and Marco (gmasportsph/Facebook)

Journalism groups expressed concern over GMA Network‘s debut of artificial intelligence-generated sports broadcasters for a local sports tournament.

The University of the Philippines-Broadcasting Association and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) cited proper compensation and job security as issues in the media that AI generation cannot address.

READ: ‘Players aren’t automated, so why?’: Filipino sportscasters cry foul as AI presenters debut on local sports TV

In a statement on September 24, the UP Broadcasting Association expressed its view that AI, the technology itself, should only be used as tools and not to “replace and displace the people.”

“While it is inevitable to adapt these kinds of emerging technologies in the practice of broadcasting, we should not forget that these technologies are mere tools to assist us and improve our work,” the association said.

“They should not, in any way, replace and displace the people who have spent years in the study and practice of broadcasting,” it added.

The association also raised the issues and woes facing media workers today. These include “contractualization, unfair labor practices, low compensation and lack of benefits.”

It called on the network to focus its efforts and resources on helping address these problems instead.

“If GMA truly aims to promote inclusivity in their reporting, they should instead focus their efforts and resources on hiring and properly compensating talented journalists and media workers. They should provide more opportunities to people who aspire to be part of the media industry and are working hard to do so,” the association said.

“Technologies that do not put humans at the center are no innovation at all. Thus, in the pursuit of advancement and excellence, the true essence of serving the people should not be left behind,” it added.

In a separate statement, NUJP also said that the use of AI “done in the context of stagnant pay as well as layoffs and departures from the industry” is not helpful in addressing media workers’ concerns about job security.

The organization also hoped that the network has plans on helping media workers “reskill” and “adapt” to technologies such as AI tools.

“There is no doubt that media workers need reskilling to adapt to changes in the industry and we hope that GMA Integrated News has plans for this alongside their announcement of their AI news presenters,” it said.

NUJP, meanwhile, acknowledged that it might be time for newsrooms to discuss and develop the policies surrounding AI for the aid of media workers and not their replacement.

“We urge colleagues to start these conversations in their workplaces if they aren’t happening already and ensure that issues on ethics and accountability are threshed out before policies are rolled out,” it said.

The AI-generated sports presenters

GMA News officially unveiled the AI-generated sports reporters Maia and Marco during the opening ceremony of NCAA Season 99 on Sunday, September 24 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

In an article, GMA News said that Maia and Marco were created using Image Generation, Text-to-Speech AI Voice Synthesis/Generation, and Deep Learning Face Animation Technology.

Maia and Marco are expected to offer aid to the NCAA’s 12 new courtside reporters in delivering sports news and updates throughout the games.

The courtside reporters were also introduced to the audience at the venue during the college basketball season opener.