GMA Integrated News introduced its AI sportscasters at the opening of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 on Sunday, September 24, to a not-so welcoming public.
Named Maia and Marco, the two sportscasters were generated by artificial intelligence using image generation, text-to-speech voice synthesis/generation, and deep learning face animation technology.
“The introduction of the first AI sportscasters by GMA Integrated News is a groundbreaking initiative that significantly impacts our objective of ‘Mas malaking misyon, mas malawak na paglilingkod sa bayan.’ It aligns with our mission to serve all communities within the nation and promote inclusivity in our reporting,” Senior Vice President and Head of Integrated News, Regional TV, and Synergy Oliver Victor Amoroso said in a statement.
“[Our] adoption of AI technology also demonstrates our commitment to innovation in journalism. We embrace emerging technologies to stay at the forefront of the media industry by providing our audience with a modern and engaging sports news experience. Through this initiative, we continue to fulfill our commitment to providing valuable information and enriching the lives of Filipinos worldwide,” Amoroso added.
However, the move sparked criticisms on social media.
Many expressed concern about the technology, particularly with AI’s ability to engage with viewers and its potential to replace people in the workforce.
DJ, actor and host KC Montero commented on X (formerly Twitter), “Welp.. there goes my job.”
User @macturijatweets said, “How tone-deaf and insensitive can you guys be to premiere AI sportscasters on NCAA, a college league with literally thousands of masscom students hoping to get jobs soon and not be replaced by AI?”
“GMA, it’s not too late to shelve this misguided attempt at using AI. This does not add anything to sports journalism. It really feels like a gimmick, and one that belittles the talent of so many sports journalists who are ready and willing to work with you,” added @azafeisty.
“In international media, many journalists have PhD, masterals or law graduate to credibilities of what they do. In the Philippines, you just have to be popular and charismatic to become a big time ‘journalist,'” said Phillip Templo Jr. on X.
“Worry, human hosts and newscasters. The future is here. It never gets tired, has no sick/vacation leave, no salary, and is available 24/7,” commented YouTube user @kf.9844.
User @MC_Nands added on YouTube, “It’s quite odd if we’re going to see more AI than real news anchors. We can adapt and incorporate today’s technology to make things better but to depend on it solely and disregarding the talents and skills of actual people don’t sound good to me. We’re creating machines and apps where it imitates the function of human kind. Sounds kinda lame for me.”
The University of the Philippines Broadcasting Association viewed GMA’s use of AI newscasters “alarming.”
“The UP Broadcasting Association firmly believes that this move does very little to serve the people as it only sets an alarming precedent that would profoundly impact the future of broadcasting and those who aspire to be in this industry. 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. They should not, in any way, replace and displace the people who have spent years in the study and practice of broadcasting,” it said in a statement.
“Before we welcome innovation and technological advancements, we must first address the realities faced by media workers – contractualization, unfair labor practices, low compensation and lack of benefits. 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,” it added.
“Technologies that do not put humans in 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,” the student organization said.
Some praised the initiative as a step towards the future and a starting point for discussions on how technological advancements like AI will impact industries like the media.
“This isn’t just any AI initiative; it’s a “bold step towards the future of sports broadcasting.” Bold, indeed, as they dive headfirst into uncharted waters, leaving us to wonder if Maia and Marco will make us cheer or yearn for the return of human commentators,” shared X user @mkiarah2021.
User @patyourshoti wrote, “But that is business. You find ways to minimize expenditures and maximize the income.”
“The traditionalist does not want to accept that AI generated News casters will be the start of the end of Broadcasting. it is inevitable,” posted @Pumadine.
Amoroso said Maia and Marco will enhance the coverage of the NCAA while maintaining the integrity of GMA Integrated News’ reporting.
“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,” he said. “Maia and Marco were introduced to complement, not replace, the human aspect of our coverage.”
GMA New Media Inc. Studios Head of Creatives Ramil Escarda echoed Amoroso.
“The rise of generative AI not only transforms how we share news and information, but it also fuels our creative process and redefines the landscape of modern video production. It doesn’t replace human ingenuity; instead, it amplifies it, making our storytelling more powerful and accessible.”
“The creation of AI sportscasters isn’t meant to replace human reporters but rather to serve as an innovative platform for presenting information to the viewer. Finding creative ways to deliver news and tell compelling stories is the driving force behind GMA Network’s digital transformation and future-proofing efforts,” Escarda said.
Aileen Rae Perez, Assistant Vice President and Deputy Head for GMA Integrated News Social Media, said the initiative should start the discourse on how generative AI will help journalism.
“Traditional media is now being challenged by creators who are more adept at using AI and technology to deliver their own agenda, which is why now is the perfect time for us to learn and adapt. Our goal is to develop a better way of delivering information to the evolving preference of our audience. Instead of seeing creativity and innovation as a threat, we hope that this initiative will start a healthy discourse on how generative AI could help news organizations improve the way we do modern journalism,” Perez said.