back to article Is it 2000 or 2023? Get ready for AI-anchored news. Again

A startup with aspirations of becoming a trusted global news brand is planning to launch a service delivering curated content – written by AI and delivered by artificial anchors.  Channel 1 demoed its tech with a half-hour preview of its machine-generated news on Twitter this week, with AI anchors describing the startup's …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    2000?

    Max Headroom fake AI from 1985 was more fun than 2023 clumsy AI.

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: 2000?

      Max was at least amusing. I always thought he had a mischievous sparkle in his eye.

      Probably an improvement on the current anchors - he could read total porkies and you wouldn't believe a word but on the other hand he could present the absolute bible truth and you still wouldn't believe a word. That is a result from my perspective.

      Who knows he might reignite a spark of critical thought if only to have the punter wonder "is this box head having a lend of me?"

      Actually... is Max a native born American? Just a thought.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2000?

        Matt Frewer was born in the US and raised in Canada.

    2. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Windows

      Ananova.. A Head of Her Time

      El Reg could have provided a link for posterity.. There are a few clips from 2000 on the U-bend.. Paxman doesn't look terribly impressed.

      "The idea is that your mobile phone will vibrate in your pocket, and Ananova will be there to give you exactly what you want.. (fnarr fnarr)"

      1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: Ananova.. A Head of Her Time

        > Paxman doesn't look terribly impressed

        Well he wouldn't, firstly because he's Paxman, and secondly, for the same reason that several of the other newsreaders seem unimpressed by a technology that's competing for their jobs (albeit in a risible manner I suspect reassured them that they'd reach retirement before anything like that would ever be a threat).

        > "The idea is that your mobile phone will vibrate in your pocket, and Ananova will be there to give you exactly what you want.. (fnarr fnarr)"

        Ironically, for all overly-horny the 14-year-old boys smirking at that joke (the same people that the original, ludicrously-proportioned version of Lara Croft was aimed at), "exactly what [they] want" is the one thing they wouldn't *ever* be getting from Ananova.

    3. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: 2000?

      > Max Headroom fake AI from 1985

      And, as I suspect most people who care already know, fake CGI for that matter as well, since it was really just actor Max Frewer in heavy prosthetics with some processing and state-of-the-art digital editing effects to complete the effect.

      Though he did- and does- look a million times more like what one probably imagined a CGI personality *should* have looked like in the mid-80s than any attempt to do so for real back then would have.

    4. CorwinX

      Re: 2000?

      Matt Frewer was a genius in MH. Max wasn't CG of course, all prosthetics, but he really sold it.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Speaking of Ananova

    Whatever happened to Regina Eggbert?

    1. HuBo
      Childcatcher

      Re: Speaking of Ananova

      That would have celebrated its 10th anniversary this coming August ... (a quick reboot might be in order!)!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    God preserve us!

    First the Internet turns to shit, thanks Google. Then social, thanks Elon. Now this. It feels increasingly like we need to get back to typewriters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: God preserve us!

      well, everything they try to turn into gold turns into turds. As if by magic.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: God preserve us!

      Think about it from the broadcaster perspective: Top news presenters are expensive to pay, need lots of flunkies to write their script and do their makeup, are demanding and potentially disloyal, and occasionally prone to embarrassing meltdowns. AI could even morph from one image to another over a period of time to avoid shocking the viewers with any "change of presenter".

    3. CorwinX

      Re: God preserve us!

      I've often voiced the opinion that it all started to go wrong when me moved on from clay tablets and abbacuses... abucacii...?

  4. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Scrapers' Paradise

    Someone posting on Railforums made a similar suggestion a couple of months back. Initially the forum posters found the idea appealing, but once it was revealed that the proposer was planning almost complete automation, gathering "news" stories from websites, social media and RSS feeds with little to no (human) editorial control, the mood changed somewhat. I think the OP was being a bit naïve about what was and was not legally possible and morally "right", and I don't think he's got very far with the plan yet.

    M.

    1. Ken G Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Scrapers' Paradise

      I guess they need to get a lawyer in to help.

    2. HuBo
      Big Brother

      Re: Scrapers' Paradise

      I'm not sure why this concept of robotNews keeps reappearing, pitched by juvenile enthusiasm. The News are best when delivered by people with independent thoughts and emotions, that the audience can relate to. Here in France, for example, we can relate with (and support) the News teams of France 3 that have been on strike for months against the imposition of the "Tempo" reform imposed by tyrannical despot Delphine Ernotte. Robots would likely not be as relatable in this. We can also relate very well with Lucy Kafanov and Marina Ovsyannikova, who both protested Russian propaganda heroically (after being part of its propagation), and here again robot anchors would just be insipidly less.

      RobotNews is, in effect, already the norm in authoritarian regimes (usual suspects) ... why should the resulting soporific docility be promoted here?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Scrapers' Paradise

        "The News are best when delivered by people with independent thoughts and emotions, that the audience can relate to."

        Like Naked News?

        Edit: Beaten to it by Dr G. Freeman below, who also hade the courage to put his name (or posting moniker) to his comment. Great minds, etc....

      2. Lurko

        Re: Scrapers' Paradise

        I must say I don't relate to the unexceptional "talent" that the major UK news services pay up half a million quid a year to read stuff out, and I don't care whether Fiona Bruce or Huw Edwards have emotions. My cat has independent thought, although reading the news could be a challenge for her.

        So if AI replaces overpaid celebrity newsreaders I won't be too worried.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Scrapers' Paradise

          Both Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards and - frankly - most of the other "main" BBC presenters are a lot more than simple autocue-to-speech machines. They may have character flaws but they are no more one-dimensional than your typical cat.

          And if you are in search of character flaws, the domestic cat is probably the archetype!

  5. sabroni Silver badge
    Facepalm

    all news it presents will be fact-checked by humans to ensure accuracy

    So, this brilliant technology creates data that has to be checked by a human.

    Do we even remember why we built computers?

    Clue: It wasn't so we had some more stuff to check.

    Shout me up when AI can produce output that's reliable. Like my ZX81.

  6. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
    WTF?

    Out of curiosity I googled for ananova and found that there's actually still a news website with that name. Looking at some of the articles, I can't decide if they're real or generated by a bad AI. Take this for example...

    https://ananova.news/prince-harry-duke-of-sussex-and-the-royal-family/

  7. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    ananova.news

    《real or generated by a bad AI. 》

    Just really bad either way.

    GlobeLink News resurrected? - Gus' new gig.

    Couldn't find the Dead Donkey story but I am sure its amongst all the other gems - under "Animals And Enviroiment" (sic)

    "Farmers Double Headed Calf"

    "Live Toucan Eggs Found In Woman’s Bra Doing Well After Hatching At Zoo"

    Appears Kipling's six honest serving men have had an extended redundancy.

  8. Magani
    Unhappy

    Riiiight...

    "The LA-based virtual station claims all news it presents will be fact-checked by humans to ensure accuracy before being placed in the virtual mouths of its artificial newsreaders. "

    Why is my Bovine Excrement Detector needle suddenly hitting 11? What could possibly go wrong?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    claims all news it presents will be fact-checked by humans

    claims, will be, humans, aka promises promises.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: claims all news it presents will be fact-checked by humans

      Quite. "We're starting with news vetted from trusted sources", he said - as for where they go after that, I think we can guess.

  10. teebie

    "Channel 1 promised all AI-generated imagery will be labeled as such."

    'adding "we are aware that the videos will be copied, the labels will be removed, and they will be reposted with claims they are real footage. But that's not our problem" '

    "The LA-based virtual station claims all news it presents will be fact-checked by humans to ensure accuracy before being placed in the virtual mouths of its artificial newsreaders. "

    Qualified humans? Or randos with no subject knowledge

  11. Dr. G. Freeman

    I'll stick with Naked News, slightly more erudite and interesting.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like the news on BBC Radio 3

    because it gets the whole thing over and done with in three minutes. Can AI do that? ChatGPT was ridiculously long-winded last time I looked.

  13. s. pam Silver badge
    Facepalm

    This may explain NewsGB once and for all

    I knew it was filled with oiks wibbling away about nothing anyone cares about, but thanks for the validation El Reg! Definitely clear that the time has already come for Skynet's total take over!

  14. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Fake News

    Very much a "Meh" moment. I guess it'll allow the TV channels to keep on delivering "The News" in the same old format whilst their viewing figures decline away to nothing alongside the decline of the Newspaper. Now the worlds governments will need to find other channels to peddle their fear mongering,.... oh wait,... they already are. <sigh>

  15. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "We're starting with news vetted from trusted sources"

    So all your news is second hand. No such thing as a scoop then? But I've noticed this already across numerous human generated news outlets -- verbatim reports replicated worldwide, so the AI probably won't make much difference. I call online "services" of this kind "para-sites".

  16. wub

    Watching the newsreader read this one on air

    I don't know if this moment is available online somewhere, but I happened to be watching KTLA Channel 5, an independent Los Angeles station yesterday morning when they covered this story.

    The previous story was about the continuing decline in newspapers and other traditional news sources as readership/viewership dries up, along with advertising income.

    When the desk anchor started in reading the text that went with the clips from Channel 1's demo reel, his distaste was clearly evident. He kept his voice level and mostly free of overtones, but he sure paused a lot compared to his usual style. I can't help feeling that he felt like his was dancing on his own grave, in advance.

    While folks are commenting about news readers here, I really wish I could remember the name of the fellow who was on the BBC News desk a few years ago at what worked out to 6 PM PST. He was the person I most wanted to receive the day's news from. It wasn't that he said anything differently, he was able to convey quite a lot in his expression and the occasional nod. It was a difficult time for me when I learned he was retiring. On the one hand, I knew how much I'd miss him. On the other, I wish him the best in the retirement he richly earned - I was well aware his shift was the middle of the bloody night in London.

    I really hope Channel 1 is not the future of "news". Who is going to ask politicians and business leaders the really difficult, pointy questions?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Watching the newsreader read this one on air

      In the UK they've already got round that problem by replacing journalists with court scribes.

  17. CorwinX

    Bring back Max Headroom

    Until AI actually gets to that level... [yawns]

  18. Blackjack Silver badge

    Ir comes down to costs, how many dollars the second of AI news?

  19. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    I eagerly await the screen debut of amanfrommars.

    Actually, I could see this notion working out reasonably well. News anchors don't need to be anyone or anything special - they just read what they're given to say in a way that isn't too annoying. This could allow completely personalised news, in a way that just wouldn't be possible for a human to present, and radically reduce costs too.

    Of course, for the moment at least, an AI isn't going to do so well at interviewing people, or anything like that. But for simply reading out the news I don't see a problem with it.

    Obtaining the news and writing the script are a different matter. That's a job for a human journalist, if we can lever them away from Twitter. For now, at least, we can't have hallucinations creeping in to something people should be entitled to think of as factually accurate. chatGPT may well be able to summarise a boring report, but the chances of it adding a little something extra are too great right now.

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