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Alpha Media launches ‘first’ radio station with AI DJ

Portland's KBFF says the AI-powered radio DJ will mimic midday radio personality Ashley Elzinga.

Portland's KBFF says the AI-powered radio DJ will mimic midday radio personality Ashley Elzinga.

A new robot DJ at a Portland radio station uses the voice and likeness of actual radio DJ Ashley Elzinga. (Photo via LinkedIn)
A new robot DJ at a Portland radio station uses the voice and likeness of actual radio DJ Ashley Elzinga. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Alpha Media’s Portland-area pop station Live 95.5 FM became a little less “live” this week.

On Tuesday, the radio broadcaster debuted a robotic version of Ashley Elzinga, the midday host of KBFF (95.5 FM), that will be entirely powered by an artificial intelligence product called RadioGPT.

Alpha Media says the launch of “AI Ashley” marks the first time any radio broadcaster in the world has replaced a human disc jockey with a robot, though that claim could not be independently verified by The Desk. That said, it does appear to be the first time that a radio station in the United States has tapped into artificial intelligence to provide listeners with a DJ-like host that is entirely robotic.

While there are concerns that artificial intelligence could lead to job losses in the media space, Elzinga appears thrilled that Alpha Media chose her voice to spearhead this new initiative.

“I am ecstatic to be one of the trailblazers at Alpha Media helping to build an innovative and unique listening experience for our audience,” Elzinga said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have been working hard to ensure AI Ashley is just as live, local, engaging and entertaining as the traditional version, and I can’t wait for our fans to hear both versions of Ashley in action.”

 

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RadioGPT was introduced earlier this year by Futuri Media, a firm that provides cloud-based sales and engagement solutions powered by artificial intelligence. RadioGPT uses the same machine learning structure as ChatGPT, the text-based conversation robot introduced by research laboratory OpenAI last year. (OpenAI and Futuri Media are not related.)

“The ability for broadcasters to use RadioGPT to localize their on-air content in a turnkey fashion opens up resources for them to deepen their important home-field advantages in new and unique ways,” Daniel Anstandig, the CEO of Futuri Media, said in a statement back in February. “With RadioGPT, the possibilities are endless. With Radio GPT, there should never be a ‘liner card’ or ‘sweeper-only’ air shift again — now everyone can be live and local.”

Alpha Media is an early launch partner for RadioGPT, with the company vowing to find unique ways to deploy the technology in an effort to better serve its listeners and open up new opportunities for revenue growth.

“At Alpha Media, we always seek innovative ways to engage our audiences; that’s why we’re a part of Futuri’s RadioGPT beta group,” read a quote attributed to Phil Becker, the vice president of content at Alpha Media. Becker later acknowledged that a robot wrote the quote for him.

Related: Futuri debuts technology that could replace radio DJs

Futuri says RadioGPT will scour open sources of information, including social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, for engaging, community-driven content that will be read by its robots on-air. The company didn’t say how it will verify that information is reliable and accurate before it airs on the radio, raising questions about RadioGPT’s potential for spreading misinformation on a medium that most of the public considers to be reliable.

That point is especially concerning given that radio broadcasters and lawmakers alike are currently touting the benefits of radio — in particular, AM radio — as a way for citizens to receive critical and timely public safety information.

Futuri has not addressed how RadioGPT will keep citizens informed with reliable messaging, but Alpha Media appears convinced that the product is good enough to deploy on one of its radio stations in a popular broadcast market.

“At Alpha Media, we strive to release high-quality products, improve processes and optimize the use of our talent; adding AI to operations will allow us to be more agile than ever,” Becker said in a new quote released on Tuesday, one that he apparently wrote himself. “RadioGPT allows us to showcase our content creators in more instances, with more frequency, and curate more timely, topical and robust information for Alpha audiences and clients than previously possible.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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