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Social Media Reacts to KBFF’s “AI Ashley”

Twitter bashing of the synthetic voice ranges from “dislike" to “horrifying”

Social media followers had plenty to say in response to the country’s first AI radio jock.

Alpha Media’s KBFF(FM) in Portland, Ore., rolled out “AI Ashley” last week to much hype. The radio station is using Futuri Media’s artificial intelligence software RadioGPT to clone the voice of its midday host Ashley Elzinga. The broadcast company says AI Ashley will supplement the real Elzinga at times during her show.

Alpha Media EVP of Content Phil Becker has said the broadcaster is implementing the synthetic voice technology to “improve processes and optimize the use of talent,” but the flurry of comments on Twitter reveal that many commenters failed to see any improvement from the real thing.

“The AI version sounds so flat. No emotion, no excitement, no, dare I say, humanity? (AI Ashley) just failed my aircheck, miserably. Do not encourage this; it’s hard enough for talented broadcasters to stay employed as it is,” wrote Kerri Hodder on Twitter.

A Twitter user named Local Yokel said they understand why a company would want to replace a human they pay wages to with AI: “But why would any listener anywhere prefer this for literally any reason?”

Joshua Robert commented that the appeal of local market radio is having a connection with the listener. “If I wanted something artificial, I’d listen to my own playlists on Spotify, a podcast, satellite radio, iHeartRadio or a dozen other options that don’t include commercials.”

Other users of the social media platform say they believe the synthetic voice technology will eliminate even more radio announcing jobs: “Celebrating something with the potential to eliminate so many more jobs, just to further enrich the corporate paymasters and shareholders. Well done,” wrote Twitter user Chris Powell.

Twitter user Michael Daly summed up the radio jock AI naysayers: “We want humans not AI.”

Some in the Twitterverse are also critical of Elzinga and her participation in the experiment. “You have totally disrespected the radio profession. You made history for all the wrong reasons,” said one commenter with the username Gene Valaitis.

Parody of Chrismixel boo’d Elzinga further using a laugh emoji and writing: “This lady signed away her voice for probably pennies on the dollar. Killing her own career with compliance.” 

The criticism of Elzinga’s bot voice just elevates from there: “How can you possibly spin this like it’s a positive thing? The only people who are happy about things like this happening are craven shareholders,” according to another Twitter user. 

And Turkey Hill Double Dunker added via Twitter: “I hope she’s union and her shop steward is on the phone with you right now.”

However, in her defense, username Nick Summers in a post says critics of the technology should stop picking on Elzinga. “She’s a talented young broadcaster who has the good fortune to be able to integrate this new technology into her career early in the game.”

And not all of the reaction to AI Ashley on social media has been negative: “To all the naysayers out there, you have to understand the benefit of this technology to local radio stations. As a station owner or programmer, you want to give your listeners good content and do it consistently. Finding people who can and want to do that isn’t that easy,” commented Stuart McRae.

XT2 writes in comments: “I know you’re getting a lot of backlash, but I love the way your station is using it. Congratulations & best of luck! AI will only get better. There may come a time where you’re making residuals on your AI voicing multiple stations across the U.S. No more losing your voice.”

Still other observers are just resigned to technological progress. Jona Denz-Hamilton commented that change is inevitable. “We all know it’s coming; we just have to deal with it like everything else. After 50 years in the biz, I’ve seen enough new developments that worry/impress. Progress happens.”

Futuri’s RadioGPT combines GPT-4 technology with TopicPulse, which the company’s AI-based discovery and social media content generator system. The TopicPulse technology scans Facebook and other social media platforms for stories and content trending in specific market.  

[Read More Radio World Stories About Artificial Intelligence]