AI sportscasters spark debate

Photo credit to GMA
Photo credit to GMA

DAVAO City broadcasters and journalists have mixed reactions to the recent use of artificial intelligence (AI) avatars as sportscasters.

GMA Network and its subsidiaries GMA Integrated News, GMA Sports, and GMA Synergy introduced this innovation, which garnered public attention during its official launch on September 23. 

Questions arose regarding whether these AI sportscasters would replace traditional journalists or represent a significant advancement in the media industry.

Kath Cortez, Davao Today journalist and vice-chairperson of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), said that while AI can be a helpful tool, it should not replace journalists' work.

Developing AI journalists could threaten human journalists' job security in regions where Manila-based networks have regional offices. AI innovations might lead companies to streamline their workforce if, for example, AI is used to generate news stories, reducing the need for human input.

“Kung negosyante o tag-iya sa media outfit, kung naa kay 10 ka tao mag-gather og news, cameraman, driver, et cetera, mag-streamline to siya because of AI, kay ang kailangan na lang nimo mag-gather na lang og information sa ground tapos i-input na lang nimo sa computer ang AI na ang bahala kung unsaon na niya (If you are a business owner or the proprietor of a media outfit, and you have 10 individuals involved in news gathering, including cameramen and drivers, AI can streamline operations. All that's required is gathering on-site information and inputting it into a computer, allowing AI to handle the rest)," Cortez said in an interview on September 25.

Echoing NUJP's stance, Cortez urged caution in using AI, particularly concerning ethical and accountability considerations. NUJP asserts that this recent AI innovation should prompt discussions among newsroom management and staff to formulate policies that assist media workers rather than replace them.

"With caution jud dapat sa paggamit ng AI especially if naa na siya'y contradict na sa editorial policies, welfare sa atoang kaubanan na journalists and at the same time kanang all in all makatarnish na siya sa credibility of reporting nato (AI should be used cautiously, especially if it contradicts editorial policies, jeopardizes the welfare of our fellow journalists, or tarnishes the credibility of our reporting)," Cortez said.

Meanwhile, Derf Hanzel Maiz, a host and director now working for the Davao City Information Office (CIO) and a communication academic instructor, said the recent innovation is "unsettling." He emphasizes that there are "countless skilled humans capable of performing brilliantly" in delivering sports news.

Maiz also points out that while AI is not a new technological innovation, companies should carefully consider its impact on society, professions, and individual experiences. 

"Also, sports are heavily driven by passion, excitement, and human drama. An AI might lack the ability to convey the emotional highs and lows of a game, reducing viewer engagement," Maiz said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, another Davao-based broadcast journalist who requested anonymity for "security reasons" said that AI sportscasters have been anticipated in the industry for a long time and should be embraced by everyone. This journalist encouraged media organizations to provide training to journalists in AI usage as a tool, particularly in fact-checking and grammar-checking, regardless of the language used.

"Journalists should never be afraid of AI; the print has been here for so long, the radio and television have been here for so long, so we have to encourage media outfits to equip their employees with AI-related skills and tell them not to be afraid of these innovations," the journalist said in a text message.

"Being afraid of AI means one thing: it means we are in denial of change," it added. 

Clarification

GMA Network clarified in a statement that their pioneering AI sportscasters, "Maia" and "Marco," are not intended to replace human sportscasters. Instead, they complement the human aspect of their sports coverage for this year's National Collegiate Athletic Association - Philippines (Ncaa Philippines), serving as an "innovative platform" for presenting viewer information.

"Maia and Marco are AI presenters; they are not journalists, they can never replace our seasoned broadcasters and colleagues who are the lifeblood of our organization. We are now living in the age of AI, and other major news organizations worldwide are already using this as a tool to improve their operations," Oliver Victor Amoroso, GMA Network senior vice and head of integrated news, Regional TV, and Synergy, said in a statement, September 23.

He added, "As the leading news organization in the Philippines, we will constantly look for ways to hone our craft while preserving the value of our human assets and the integrity of our reporting." ICE

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