Is It Time For AI News Anchors in Pakistan?

"As the era of AI news readers unfolds, Lisa of India joins counterparts in various countries. Pakistan will need a forward-looking approach to remain competitive in the evolving media landscape"

Is It Time For AI News Anchors in Pakistan?

Since the Covid pandemic began, the digital world has boomed, bringing along a wave of new technologies. Among them, artificial intelligence has been particularly transformative. ChatGPT and Google Bard (now known as Gemini), natural language processing chatbots driven by generative AI technology, have revolutionised the way humans, those with natural intelligence, perform tasks and make decisions. 

However, progress often faces resistance. Misconception and opposition inevitably accompany the rise of new technologies as they challenge current norms and conceptual systems, compelling people to adapt to the new environment. The rise of AI is no different. Even before its debut, AI already had an end-of-the-world image issue, and while such scenarios can be useful in keeping discussions of potential future pitfalls of unchecked development alive, such fears are far from reality. For now, existing AI systems perform well within a narrow focus range and with the aid of large amounts of data. With such rigid learning boundaries, any unpredictable event will simply cause a failure in the system. Certainly, there is no clear path to how any machine can become sentient. In many doomsday scenarios, a machine would need to show some level of self-awareness, possibly linked with a sense of self-preservation. Moreover, it would require the means, both in terms of programming and physical capability, to respond to such feedback in order to enhance its chances of survival. Instead, the real danger of AI currently is societal, mainly privacy issues, job displacement, overreliance, and fraud, all of which have a human element to them. Thus, any potential problem caused by AI will be the misuse of such technology by humans.

And so, despite these challenges, AI will keep advancing. Andrew Ng, an expert in AI, terms AI as the New Electricity because, just as electricity transformed the world, no industry will be able to escape the impact of AI this century. And this appears to include the media industry as well.

In the past year, Indian news agencies have garnered international attention through the widespread and swift deployment of AI-powered newsbots. Notably, Odisha TV's Lisa, a multilingual AI news anchor, and Sana, featured on a channel owned by India Today, have made significant strides in the realm of AI-driven news presentation.

Lisa, distinguished by her traditional attire and indigenous appearance, aims to resonate with a broader Indian audience. However, critiques note that her current delivery lacks the desired fluidity, characterised by a slow, monotonous tone and a lack of expressive gestures.

Sana, on the other hand, debuts as a fluent communicator in over 75 languages, addressing the linguistic diversity of India with proficiency in English, Hindi, and Bangla. The introduction of such multilingual AI news anchors holds the potential to enhance news accessibility for the diverse populace in a country with 22 official languages.

The pivotal question arises whether Pakistan, sharing similarities in media landscape with India, will follow suit in adopting AI news presenters. Proponents highlight the benefits of continuous availability and immunity to human limitations such as illness, fatigue, vacations, and aging. Robo-news presenters excel in processing and disseminating vast amounts of information consistently, especially during time-sensitive events like elections or financial updates.

However, advocates of AI technology emphasise that these virtual news journalists are not intended to replace human counterparts. Limitations surface in their inability to provide nuanced analysis, critical evaluations, or navigate complex on-the-ground situations. Tasks requiring discernment, like interviews with prominent figures or moderating heated debates, remain within the domain of human journalists.

A pragmatic approach suggests delegating routine news desk tasks, such as weather forecasts, financial data, and sports outcomes, to AI news presenters. This allows human journalists the opportunity to pursue more creative endeavours. Efforts are underway to train these AI news anchors for television debates and real-time interaction with viewers, signalling a potential evolution in their capabilities.

Despite undeniable advantages, the adoption of AI news presenters poses challenges, including potential job displacements and concerns about emotionless and monotonous reporting. Additionally, there's a risk of AI anchors being exploited for misinformation or propaganda, given their algorithmic capacity to control information flow by identifying and omitting specific content.

As the era of AI news readers unfolds, Lisa of India joins counterparts in various countries, necessitating a forward-looking approach for Pakistan to remain competitive in the evolving media landscape. Balancing efficiency with ethical considerations will be imperative in navigating this new frontier.