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Toucher & Rich on AI DJs: ‘You Might As Well Not Have a Soul’

“The fact that a lot of music stations have just phoned in these DJs – this is what you get.”

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Toucher and Rich
Courtesy: 98.5 The Sports Hub

Artificial intelligence is becoming a regular part of everyday life, and different industries are using it to streamline their processes and render themselves more efficient. Evolutions in AI technology usually accompany the threat to eradicate human jobs, and the radio industry is no exception. Portland rock radio station KBFF Live 95.5 recently unveiled Futuri Media’s RadioGPT for its midday show, replacing its host Ashley Elzinga.

The AI version of Ashley will take the airwaves during the midday slot (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST) instead of having Elzinga voice track segments between songs, as has become common practice in music radio. Elzinga herself is a nationally syndicated radio host and program director of WKHQ-FM in Charlevoix, MI. She can also be heard at nights on KQMV-FM in Seattle. The Portland rock radio station is owned by Alpha Media, which released a statement on the groundbreaking innovation in the world of radio.

“To put it simply, I am ecstatic to be one of the trailblazers at Alpha Media helping to build an innovative and unique listening experience for our audience,” Live 95.5 content director Dylan Salisbury said in a statement. “We have been working hard to ensure that ‘AI Ashley’ is just as live, local, engaging and entertaining as the traditional version, and I can’t wait for our fans to hear both versions of Ashley in action.”

Music formats have endured a paradigm shift less predicated on personalities and more focused on cost-efficient methods to disseminate content, especially with the rise of streaming services. Its future is arguably in great peril, and while the technology is unnerving to some, it is not what disappointed Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb on Wednesday morning.

Elzinga’s enthusiasm for the product perturbed the morning show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, as she professedly vouched for the move and effectively sold her voice. Doing such a thing is daunting because of the possibilities it provides producers, including those with malicious intent.

“It’s radio’s own fault. It really is,” Shertenlieb said. “The fact that a lot of music stations have just phoned in these DJs – this is what you get. If you don’t spend money on having people that actually care about their audience; that can connect with them, can tell a story [and] can give you any reason to listen to them other than, ‘Here’s the next Red Hot Chili Peppers song,’ then you get what you deserve.”

Following the announcement of the project, Elzinga posted a video on social media reacting to how her voice sounded as engineered by artificial intelligence. She seemed enthusiastic about the ordeal, and embraced her unique position as a pioneer in the space, even affirming so in a statement.

“I am honored to be at the forefront of this evolved version of radio broadcasting,” Elzinga said. “As the world’s first AI DJ, I will fully embrace the power of synthetic voice software and artificial intelligence. In doing so, I can ensure that my audience has a compelling listening experience.”

Toucher expressed contempt towards the medium slowly losing its personal touch, an essential part of the appeal of the sports talk radio format. When he was going through a divorce, Toucher moved into his own home and shared that he found himself listening to the radio when folding laundry. Instead of eliminating music radio hosts entirely, Toucher proposed a new idea to salvage the format and retain its innate congeniality.

“You don’t even have to have well-established jocks,” Toucher said. “If you wanted to save money, then have it be a breeding ground for kids. Have young people that want to get into radio, try to give them a break [and] teach them how to do it.”

There are certainly considerable strides still to be made related to artificial intelligence, but the technology has seemingly reached a point where it has become an existential threat to those in certain professions. Radio hosts, voiceover artists and freelance production workers are all in danger of losing work, as are writers for movies and television programs.

“It’s unfortunately what a lot of the music stations have stepped into,” Shertenlieb said. “It’s not even the stations. It’s a lot of the people who own these stations…They’ve been soulless for this long [that] you might as well just literally not have a soul.”

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SiriusXM Announces Broadcast Plans for 108th Indy 500

SiriusXM will co-sponsor three cars from the Meyer Shank Racing Team.

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SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation
(Illustration) | SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation Logo – Courtesy: SiriusXM | Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Courtesy: VisitIndy

SiriusXM has announced programming for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, which will take place on Sunday, May 26 with a scheduled green flag drop at 12:45 p.m. EST. As the field of 33 cars gets set to compete for the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy, SiriusXM will bring consumers wall-to-wall coverage from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Pre-race coverage will commence at 11 a.m. EST on SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation, channel No. 218, along with NBC Sports Audio on SiriusXM channel No. 85. Both platforms are available to subscribers nationwide both in their motor vehicles and on the SiriusXM App.

The broadcast outlet will air the live call of the race on Sunday, along with live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 Miller Lite Carb Day Practice session on Friday at 11 a.m. EST. After the practice session concludes, six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winner and 11-time Indianapolis 500 race participant James Hinchcliffe will host his podcast, Off Track with Hinch and Rossi, live outside the Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hinchcliffe’s co-host, Alexander Rossi, is part of the field within Sunday’s race. Leading up to the race, SiriusXM will also have a “Greatest Day in Motorsports” page on its app to access coverage for the Indianapolis 500 race and practices, along with driver interviews from media day and additional content.

SiriusXM will co-sponsor three cars from the Meyer Shank Racing Team in the Indy 500 field. The company colors will be present on car No. 60 (Felix Rosenqvist), No. 66 (Tom Blomqvist) and No. 06 (Helio Castroneves). Castroneves is racing to become the first driver to win five Indianapolis 500 races. On the day after the race, Diplo’s Revolution on SiriusXM channel No. 53 will broadcast live from the Indy 500 Coors Light Snake Pit. The station will have live performances from Gryffin, Sullivan King and Timmy Trumpet.

SiriusXM is running a Listen Free event from May 23 to June 4, which allows everyone to hear the SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation channel and SiriusXM’s Indianapolis 500 coverage without a subscription.

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Jonathan Hood: ‘I Don’t Understand the Chip on the Shoulder from John Schriffen’

“If any of those radio losers clip it and try to make fun of you, nobody cares about them anyway.”

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Photos of Jonathan Hood and John Schriffen

The Chicago White Sox have not been much to talk about this season; however, their new television play-by-play voice has been talked about a lot in the first quarter of the baseball season. John Schriffen had big shoes to fill when he took over for fan-favorite Jason Benetti and some have been critical of his upbeat style while others have taken him to task for particular things he has said. This was a topic on the Kap & J. Hood morning show ESPN Chicago with Daniel Kaplan and Jonathan Hood.

Kaplan and Hood played a recent clip of Schriffen where fill-in analyst Gordon Beckham had made a mistake during an ad read. After the read Schriffen remarked, “If any of those radio losers clip it and try to make fun of you, nobody cares about them anyway.”

“That is one of the stupidest things I’ve heard…that’s just a dumb comment, dumb,” said Kaplan.

Hood added, “He has, what I consider to be a dream job. To be the voice of a team is just amazing. People turn to you, especially during these dark times for the White Sox, for some optimism, some entertainment, some hope. And you decide that you want to be able to take time out of the broadcast to address criticism that you’ve received as the voice of the White Sox?

“…You always have big shoes to fill when you are the new guy. And so, for you to step on the rest of the Chicago media, saying people that clip things you say are ‘radio losers’ and ‘they don’t matter’ you’re not currying favor with your listeners or the people that are supposed to be here to support you.”

Kaplan added, “All you did was set yourself up for that to be another drop that continues to get played on multiple stations.”

Hood talked about the difficulty of being in a new market and mentioned Benetti had not had the smoothest of transitions taking over for Hawk Harrelson. Still, Hood said he is just not understanding why Schriffen would go after the media. Hood said, “I don’t understand the chip on the shoulder from John Schriffen…I don’t get that, I don’t understand that…No one is out to get John Schriffen…he is new to this city, he is new as a White Sox broadcaster. What I would say to him is “what is the point of all of it if you’re arguing with The Score or you’re arguing with us about clips?’ How about just focus on being the best broadcaster you can be.”

Kaplan later said he would probably react similarly to how Schiffren has to some of the criticism saying, “I actually sort of respect Schriffen doing it, I just think he did it in the wrong place. You shouldn’t do it on the broadcast.”

Hood added, “It’s just not been a good start for him.”

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Fred Toucher Takes a Jab at Rich Shertenlieb

“At 8:20, a new bit ‘Putting You on Blast.’ I put you on blast and then I give a nice chunk of change to charity and let you know all about it.”

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Photos of Fred Toucher Rich Shertenlieb

Boston radio had a major change this morning when former 98.5 The Sports Hub host Rich Shertenlieb started his new morning show, The Rich Shertenlieb Show, on 100.7 WZLX. Shertenlieb was paired with Fred Toucher for 17 years before leaving the station just over six months ago.

On his debut show on the classic rock station, Shertenlieb addressed a feud he had with his former employer over access to social media accounts which he says were personal accounts he had started. He said he spent “five figures” with an attorney but then gave up and gave access to the station. “My rationale was this,” he said. “Instead of me spending all that money paying attorneys to fight this why not spend that money in a much better place…The minute I get back my 150,000 followers…I am writing a check to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.” Shertenlieb’s X account currently has 18,000 followers.

Fred Toucher and Rob ‘Hardy’ Poole came out of a break during Toucher & Hardy talking about how someone told Toucher old promos for Toucher & Rich had accidentally aired that weekend and joked about putting their boss “on blast.” Then Toucher says, “At 8:20, a new bit ‘Putting You on Blast.’ I put you on blast and then I give a nice chunk of change to charity and let you know all about it…If you listen to me, I’ll give you a chunk of change to charity.”

Shertenlieb hosts his new show with Boston television personality and sportswriter Michael Hurley on a full-time basis and has a rotating cast that includes former New England Patriot Ted Johnson, Charlotte Wilder, formerly of FOX Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated and Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal.

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