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‘Resist this’: outrage as BBC replace Mamma Mia! star with AI voiceover
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‘Resist this’: outrage as BBC replace Mamma Mia! star with AI voiceover

Sara Poyzer, who stars in the stage production of the Mamma Mia! musical, claims that she has been told that her voiceover work in an upcoming BBC production will be replaced by AI.

The actor’s posts on social media appear to show a screengrab from an email sent by a production company working for the BBC, which are in response to some voiceover work she had been pencilled in to perform.

“Sorry for the delay,” it reads. “We have had the approval from the BBC to use the AI generated voice so we won’t need Sara any more.” Poyzer captions it: “Sobering”.

The post has been viewed more than 2m times on Twitter, generating almost exclusively critical responses, including a number of highly sweary ones from the likes of actor Chris Addison.

“It’s time for British actors and creatives to draw a line in the sand,” commented Game of Thrones actor Miltos Yerolemou. “Like our American brothers and sisters it’s time to resist this.”

Comedian and host of the Nobody Panic podcast Stevie Martin said: “Most of my income comes from voiceovers. Without it I would have had to pick another career cos [sic] of money. This makes me want to explode.”

The use of AI in TV shows is increasingly coming under scrutiny, with the vice-chairman of Directors UK having recently told MPs that he expected soaps to be entirely generated by AI “within three to five years”.

Poyzer declined to comment, but her voiceover agency Voice Squad said: “We were very disappointed to receive the production company’s response, particularly as it’s a BBC project.”

“The BBC has always stood for quality in its factual and drama broadcasting. As a voiceover agency we feel that AI is a danger to the whole industry – removing work from artists who have trained for three years at drama school and spent many years honing their craft. Voice artists are particularly skilled actors who deserve not to have their work devalued.”

Following the furore, the BBC released a comment stating that there were very specific circumstances that led to Poyzer’s replacement. A spokesperson said: “We are making a highly sensitive documentary which features a contributor who is nearing the end of life and is now unable to speak. We have been working closely with their family to explore how we might best represent the contributor’s voice at the end of the film when words they have written are read out.”

“In these very particular circumstances and with the family’s wishes in mind we have agreed to use AI for a brief section to recreate a voice which can now no longer be heard. This will be clearly labelled within the film.”

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Following this BBC statement, Voice Squad responded: “If we had been made aware of that in the original email from the production company, it would have caused a great deal less confusion and our response would have been different. We have now been made aware of the context and would not want to cause any offence to the contributor or their family.”

“Our concerns are more about AI within the industry and how we are generally opposed to it being used to replace the voices of actors.”

AI has been causing further controversy at the BBC in recent days. Last week, the broadcasterhad to announce that it would no longer use AI-generated marketing materials to promote Doctor Who after a number of fans complained.

“We followed all BBC editorial compliance processes and the final text was verified and signed-off by a member of the marketing team before it was sent,” the BBC said at the time. “We have no plans to do this again to promote Doctor Who.”

On Tuesday, Tim Davie, the BBC director general, set out some principles for how AI would affect the corporation. These included: “Never compromising human creative control, supporting rights holders and sustaining our editorial standards, but proactively launching tools that help us build relevance.”

Source: theguardian.com