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Broadcasters Say AI Is Teeming With Potential – And Concerns.

As artificial intelligence permeates more aspects of business, industry, and everyday life, broadcasters are considering how the technology can be used to improve their operations, create more efficiencies, and boost productivity. “I think it's going to be like the Industrial Revolution,” says Townsquare Media CEO Bill Wilson. “This is such a dramatic change for all businesses, and we're not even in the first inning.”

At this early juncture, Townsquare is using AI for certain engineering and technology tasks and to stimulate ideas in the early phase of scripting commercials. It’s also being tested to write code, Wilson said in a ChannelChek Takeaway interview with Noble Capital Director of Research Michael Kupinski. While still in the beta phase, Wilson sees “dramatic change” and myriad possibilities for radio, television, and other industries. “The implications over the next five years cannot be understated,” he said. “For Townsquare, I have no doubt that it's going to create scalability, efficiency, and so many opportunities for us to continue our digital growth and transformation.”

Beasley Media Group has not yet begun using AI but CEO Caroline Beasley says it offers a “great opportunity” for radio. “It will help make our content better,” she said in a ChannelChek Q&A. For example, AI can be used to create first drafts for online articles that can then be reviewed and edited before posting. She also sees programming potential in overnights for using Futuri’s RadioGPT, billed as the world’s first AI-driven localized radio content solution. “It's not going to so much replace people, but it will help us make our content better,” Beasley said. “You don't have live and local overnights, but what we can do is provide better content in overnights by using that.”

Raises Important Issues

At the same time, Beasley said AI raises important issues that companies will have to deal with. For example, employment contracts in the future may have a clause spelling out how an employer may or may not create AI-generated content using an employee’s voice. “There are a lot of issues that we have to think through,” Beasley said.

Along those lines, Salem Media Group CEO David Santrella cautions against using AI without human intervention. “If you choose to use AI, you need to choose to be very responsible with it,” he said in a ChannelChek interview. “AI can be a bit like a loaded gun.”

Santrella referenced AI technology that can monitor a personality’s radio show and automatically generate social media posts based on the host’s on-air content. While that may increase engagement, it needs to be reviewed by a human before being posted. “You have to have intervention there and make sure what goes out is right,” Santrella said. “With AI comes that responsibility to make sure that you don't just let it kind of run wild and make it a goat rodeo.”

As a media company that targets consumers interested in Christian and conservative programming, Salem Chief Operating Officer David Evans has concerns about using AI to generate content. “I'm not sure I like the idea of a computer giving me an interpretation of some Bible verse or an opinion on the political state of the country,” he said. With fake news prevalent on social media, he likened it to “garbage in garbage out.

“In the media, you have to be responsible for your content. I'm not sure that AI is quite ready for that challenge in the town square and in Christian content,” Evans added.

Santrella said AI even poses challenges for news reporters fact checking stories. “With AI, even fact checking becomes hard because the original source could be AI.”

The potential uses and misuses of AI are certainly front and center at radio. When Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs asked attendees on last week’s Techsurvey2023 webinar, “What is the one most important issue to you in 2023,” AI came in second place, ahead of radio and the Gen Z audience, finding the next generation of on-air personalities, the Metaverse, podcasting, and social media concerns. Only the future of radio in the car scored higher.

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