BBC replaces actor with AI, defends decision

The UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC, has defended its decision to replace Mamma Mia musical star Sara Poyzer with an AI-generated voice for a “highly sensitive” documentary.

The BBC said in a statement that the documentary features a contributor who is “nearing the end of life and is now unable to speak.” It said it chose to recreate her voice using the AI technology to honor her family’s wishes.

“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,” BBC said.

“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 labeled within the film.”

Sara Poyzer, a long-time Mamma Mia stage actor, was initially considered for the part but said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that she was replaced by AI.

Poyzer shared a screenshot of what appears to be her rejection email, reading: “Sorry for the delay – we have had the approval from BBC to use the Al-generated voice, so we won’t need Sara anymore.”

Poyzer described her experience as “sobering.”

BBC has been experimenting with AI technology, which has drawn some public criticism. Following complaints from viewers, it said it would no longer use the technology to promote its widely popular Doctor Who series.

The broadcaster has reportedly also been in talks with tech companies about selling access to its vast archives to train AI models and was working on plans to create its own models for in-house use.

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