GMA AI sportscasters’ debut spark debate on journalism ethics

GMA INTEGRATED News introduced the country’s first ever sportscasters generated by artificial intelligence (AI) during the opening ceremony of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday, September 23. The move earned criticism from journalists, academics and netizens.

According to GMA Integrated News’ report, the AI sportscasters named Marco and Maia are part of the digital initiative in the opening of the NCAA season this year, helping courtside reporters in presenting sports updates featuring Filipino athletes on GMA’s social media platforms.

The announcement sparked discussions on social media, the major concern being the AI presenters’ ability to hype games and the potential of AI-generated reporters to replace journalists. On X (formerly Twitter), most netizens expressed disappointment in the replies, while others quoted the original GMA post along with bloopers of reporters, suggesting the “humanness” that can only be displayed by journalists.

Sports analyst Quinito Henson told, “the issue isn’t just about replacing capable human presenters with animations. This is about keeping the personal and emotional aspect of sports on the screen.”

In an interview with BusinessWorld, e-sportscaster Paolo Barcelon argued that AI “simply can’t do a real-time play-by-play or analysis” and noted that the automation may lead to a loss of talent opportunities despite saving costs.

Frontline Tonight’s News ExplainED highlighted the efficiency of uninterrupted reporting of AI anchors, but also emphasized ethical and credibility concerns, AI’s lack of editorial judgment and real-time analysis of the reports.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) released a statement acknowledging AI as a tool for improving newsroom efficiency, but also noted concerns on media workers’ job security. NUJP also urged newsroom managers and staff to discuss policies on AI.

“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,” NUJP’s statement read.

GMA Integrated News clarified in 24 Oras on September 26 that the AI sportscasters are part of their plans for NCAA Season 99 to complement, not replace, the human aspect of NCAA coverage.

“They are AI presenters, not journalists; they can’t replace our seasoned broadcasters and colleagues who are the heart of our organization,” said Oliver Victor Amoroso, GMA Network Senior Vice President and Head of Integrated News, Regional TV and Synergy.

“While we are for innovation, we also value training and upskilling our employees so they could be empowered in this age of AI,” he added.

Assistant Professor Jeremiah Opiniano, who teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas, told that AI has been used in journalism. For instance, wire agencies have been using AI to write stock market reports which are still edited by editors. He added that newsrooms should consider the benefits and drawbacks of using AI in news reporting.

“Should there be ‘harmful’ outcomes in using AI, the follow-up question is what editorial- and ethics-related measures may need to be done? And should newsrooms not want to use AI (a preference which we respect), how can overall journalism be made better that not even AI can do on its own?” he said.