• Live 95.5 claims it is the first in the world to have an AI DJ
  • A former radio show host slammed the move, saying it "totally disrespected" the profession
  • Alpha Media's Becker clarified the "traditional" host won't lose her job as it was a "hybrid" setup

Live 95.5 of Portland, Oregon, has introduced a part-time artificial intelligence DJ that will cater to the radio station's listeners daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The move comes amid rising staff cuts and concerns about AI's role in replacing human jobs.

"We made history as the world's first radio station with an AI DJ! Our midday host Ashley has become AI Ashley!" Live 95.5 tweeted Tuesday.

The post was accompanied by a video of the radio station's midday host, DJ Ashley Elzinga, trying out the AI version of her cloned voice. "That's crazy!" Elzinga said after listening to the AI-generated DJ that was modeled after her using Futuri Media's RadioGPT.

Futuri Media says RadioGPT is an AI tool that "harnesses the power of GPT-4 – the technology that powers ChatGPT – as well as Futuri's AI-driven story discovery and social content system, TopicPulse."

The radio station also released a video that showed "AI Ashley" calling and conversing with a listener who won two tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.

Many people expressed concerns about the radio station's latest move. Former Canadian radio show host Gene Valaitis didn't like the idea of an AI DJ replacing the real one.

"You have totally disrespected the radio profession. You made history for all the wrong reasons," he tweeted.

Some even called out Elzinga for "killing her own career with compliance." Another user said he still prefers real DJs.

Alpha Media, Live 95.5's parent company, clarified that Elzinga won't lose her job even if AI Ashley hosts the midday show.

"It's a hybrid situation where we'll have traditional Ashley on during some segments, and we'll have AI Ashley on during other segments," Phil Becker, Alpha Media's executive VP of content, told TechCrunch on Wednesday.

Becker explained that when AI Ashley is at work, the "traditional Ashley" may be accomplishing other tasks such as managing social media posts or "working on digital assets." He added the company acquired RadioGPT to assist radio hosts.

"One of the absolute most important parts of this is that we're transparent with the listener. It's not our intent to ever deceive anybody," Becker clarified.

While Live 95.5 claims that it was the first radio station to have an AI DJ on live broadcast, Swiss public radio station Couleur 3 conducted a similar experiment in April after training AI models based on the voices of its presenters to adopt the station's offbeat and quirky vibe.

The French-language station claimed it used cloned voices of five real presenters for 13 hours on-air during a one-day experiment that saw AI "taking your favorite radio by storm," Fortune reported.

"This Color 3 experimental day was designed to explore the strengths and weaknesses of artificial intelligence, in order to better understand it in the future," the station said in a statement, according to a Google translation.

Antoine Multone, Couleur 3 station chief, told Fortune the team wants to "master" AI tech so "we can then put limits on it."

The launch of AI Ashley comes at a time when concerns are on the rise about the potential role of artificial intelligence in replacing human jobs across various sectors, even in the radio industry.

In March, Futuri Media CEO and Co-founder Daniel Anstandig told Slate that RadioGPT was in no way going to replace real-life DJs.

"We have heard from personalities that are concerned that somehow there's a mission here to replace them. But that is the furthest thing from our mindset," Anstandig said. He further clarified that the goal of RadioGPT was to make sure radio doesn't have "unmanned air shifts."

The CEO did acknowledge that AI can certainly become "a way that costs can be reduced in certain parts of the industry," but that the technology is also "part of the future recipe for media growth."

Several public broadcast companies have announced layoffs this year, including LAist 89.3 operator Southern California Public Radio. The radio network announced Tuesday it was eliminating more than 10% of its workforce.

Satellite radio company SiriusXM also cut 8% of its workforce in March, affecting an estimated 475 employees.

The latest radio layoffs announcement came from Canada's Bell Media. The company announced it was eliminating 1,300 roles and closing or selling nine of its radio stations.

Azerbaijan Radio Station Raid
An employee operates a mixing console at the control room of state broadcaster ERT headquarters in Athens June 17, 2013. Reuters