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India: AI journalism sparks concern

May 21, 2023

According to Business Wire , the Artificial Intelligence (AI) spend in media and entertainment industry in the United States forecast period (2019-2025) is expected to grow at a CAGR record of 28.1%, increasing from US$ 329 million in 2019 to reach US$ 1,860.9 million by 2025. (Source :

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The advent of an artificial intelligence news anchor marks a milestone in Indian journalism. Not only has it raised eyebrows, it's also sparked discussions about whether India has entered a new era of news broadcasting.

An Indian media group unveiled its first full-time artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor — a bot named Sana who presents news updates several times a day.

The AI-powered reporter appears on the India Today Group's Aaj Tak news channel, "She is bright, gorgeous, ageless, tireless".

Bot debuts

Sana has a human-like appearance and is fed with data that it can read using text-to-speech technology.

Since the introduction last November of humanlike chatbot ChatGPT, AI-generated news presenters have gradually been making their mark.

Recently in March 2023, Russia's Svoye TV introduced Snezhana Tumanova as its first virtual weather presenter.

Journalism jobs at risk?

The world's first news channel whose content is generated entirely by artificial intelligence, NewsGPT, was launched in March - ostensibly threatening the jobs of media professionals. Alan Levy, NewsGPT's CEO, described it is a game changer in the world of news.

But as journalism robots proliferate, there is growing concern about their impact.

"AI will definitely have an abiding influence on journalism in general," according to Shailaja Bajpai, a media critic. "However, it is too early to say how deep it will be and how much of a difference it will make."

She is of the opinion, that "the chances are while bots can do news bulletins, they may not be able to react and conduct debates the way individual anchors do today".

AI is a big challeng. She suggested that explanatory journalism, on-the-ground reporting and investigative journalism could be the answer as AI bots may not be able to replicate human observation and experience.

According to Bajpai, We have to be prepared to change and adapt to withstand this challenge or perish in the attempt.

Boon or bane?

According to her Media columnist and ombudsperson Pamela Philipose, the threat posed by AI and its applications was real and hinted that the 'Alexas' of the newsroom will perform these tasks more efficiently than a journalist drawing a salary in the near future.

She is of the opinion, that the more multi-layered problem is the potential AI has to create disinformation by design.

"Fake news now passed around through WhatsApp texts and images which lead to stolen elections and the stigmatizing of targeted communities may appear like child's play once AI's full potential in repurposing raw data is realized."

Many media professionals feel a growing dependence on algorithms and automation threatens to undermine the credibility and trustworthiness of journalism.

Besides, the rise of AI also raises concerns about job security and the potential for AI to perpetuate existing biases in the data it uses to generate news.

"Of course, there will be apprehensions if an AI generated presenter is seen as the future," according to news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai .

Also Sardesai mentioned, that " earlier there were apprehensions when the computer first entered the newsroom too that jobs would be slashed." He thinks technology should be regarded as a tool to help and not as a replacement.

"We need to use AI and ChatGPT-like apps as aiding a newsroom function not replacing human skill. As for propaganda, does it really need an AI presenter to push it?" according to Sardesai.

Shaping the debate

In recent years, with the rising costs of on-the-ground reporting, prime time TV news has become dominated by studio debates - where some media houses have become megaphones for the powerful.

Corporate and political influences have overwhelmed media organizations and many commentators believe that a disturbing trend has emerged where instead of speaking truth to power, media organizations have let those in powers decide what the truth should be.

According to Philipose, "AI anchors and applications could trigger a democratic breakdown in ways not imagined at the present moment.She thinks that should be our greatest worry" .

According to Nidhi Razdan-an Indian journalist and television personality, the introduction of AI news anchors may need to be regulated to avoid journalism going down a slippery slope. "Having said that, perhaps AI anchors will do a better job at being objective than their real-life counterparts, most of whom no longer speak truth to power". The way forward is to be aware, cautious about what AI brings to the table.


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