0038: Dr. Robert Pondillo: The Ethics of AI Voices



Show notes:

Hey there, hero!

I wouldn’t be where I am today without mentors, and one of my most valuable mentors is Dr. Robert Pondillo. I grew up listening to him when he was the nighttime DJ on a station he eventually helped me get a show on, 1220/WGAR in Cleveland. It’s safe to say he was instrumental in my success.

He went on, after he retired from radio, to return to school for his doctorate in Mass Communications, and taught that for many years at Middle Tennessee State University. He often lectured on the state of media, and as a talent himself, has a particularly interesting viewpoint on how we operate as VO artists.

I had the chance to talk with him regarding the use of AI voices in the documentary about Anthony Bourdain, called Roadrunner – the director used what some have called unethical and misleading production techniques to put words in Bourdain’s mouth that he wrote, but never actually said. He did this using an AI voice generator.

You probably are concerned about the ethics, and even the use itself, of AI voices in the various categories of VO work we now perform live as humans.

Listen in as Bob gives me his take on this industry-changing development.


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  1. WOW David! I can’t believe those voices I heard in your survey were AI voices! Thanks for the interview with Dr. Pondillo and thank you for working on the behalf of voice actors through the union in this regard.

  2. Good interview, that covered a lot in a short time. I’ve been through similar changes in radio for 30ish years – automation, satellite and voice-tracking replacing a lot of talent, whether they were good or not. Soon (if not already) they will AI the on-air talent and someone will just type a script to a server and it will be on 100 stations this afternoon. Apparently live and local isn’t important to most listeners, or corporate.

    I was able to weather many of radio’s those changes because I had decent talent, a drive to keep at it, and was adaptable.

    Same thing with voice acting. They will do it better/faster/cheaper with AI because they can. But drive and adaptability is still needed. Which means, as you said, getting better in both what I do as talent and on the business end.

  3. Nice and informative interview David. Much to be seen and digest going forward regarding AI.

    An aside, I grew up in the Cleveland area and totally enjoyed Dr. Pondillo’s radio show on WGAR.
    (“The Real Bob James”). He also was one of my radio/broadcast teachers at the “Ohio School of Broadcast Technique” back in the late 70’s. Fun to see him after so many years. Class act. Glad you had him on as a guest.

  4. Fascinating discussion thanks to you and Dr. Pondillo for putting it out.
    I can see how this kind of tech for being used for ADR and circumstances such as the example from this Bourdain movie could be legitimate uses so maybe more of a win for moving pictures. what do you think would pose the most interesting problems? AI’s reading audio books or people selling audiobooks where you can chose the narrator from a group of that publisher’s talent? I don’t envy anyone working on behalf of the talent to foresee where this ends up 🙂

    The material my daughter receives for remote school appears to be going the way of IVR.Occasionally a human but mostly, and painfully obviously ,a generated voice and I wonder if that exposure will make the improved AI voices less of an issue for future generations. E.G it’s better than what they grew up with. whereas I find it annoying for the same reason:)