Offputting commercials in GMA debate broadcast

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Breaking news: As a minority stockholder of San Miguel Corporation (just a few shares), I want to know whether the corporation through its board has formally decided to support the candidacy for president of Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares. I ask this because Ms. Poe has now publicly revealed that she is getting free use of SMC aircraft. If this is corporate policy, does the corporation also provide cash support for the senator and deploy SMC employees to assist in her campaign.

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This is a serious issue because SMC could invite retaliation if someone other then Ms. Poe wins in the May elections. Conversely, will SMC be a favored crony if she wins?

The persistent rumors that it is SMC president Ramon S. Ang, not San Miguel corporation, who is bankrolling the Poe campaign and massive media buys, need to be clarified. I hope San Miguel is maintaining a strict distinction between its president and the corporation. Their interests, political or otherwise, are not identical.

Commercialism in broadcast
I don’t use much the adjective “offputting,” which means unsettling, or provoking aversion and repugnance, because it’s a bit of a tongue twister and recondite.

(Many dictionaries do not list the word. Collins Dictionary and the Random House dictionary do. The Online Etymology Dictionary dates the first use of the word to 1894.)

Now I find myself in a situation where I must employ the word because it is the most fitting and deserved.

Offputting best describes the decision of the GMA Network and the Comelec to load so many political commercials on the broadcast of last Sunday’s presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City.

My son thought it was offensive that while the five presidential candidates struggled to outwit and outshine each other during the debate, GMA kept running the campaign commercials of some of the candidates during the breaks. He asked, isn‘t there a law against this?

The best response that I could think of was that the agency that should regulate these matters, the Commission on Elections, is one of the organizers of the debate. It probably even enjoys a significant share of the ad revenues – legally or under the table

But my son has a point, a good one. Here we were trying to see what each candidate had to offer and what each had to show as a debater, and we were being interrupted by advertisements of some candidates in scripted situations and poses.

Since suffrage is one of the basic rites of democratic governance, this is somewhat equivalent to being interrupted by salacious commercials while hearing Mass.

I did not count who advertised the most in the broadcast, but my son tells me that he saw Grace Poe interrupt at least twice.

Clearly the advertised candidates were taking advantage of the huge captive audience of the debate. They wanted to influence the viewers’ opinion of them and evaluation of their debate performance.

Crossing an ethical line
I believe an ethical line was crossed here. On the ruling of the Commission on Elections, the three planned presidential debates have been restricted to the staging and coverage by favored media organizations.

One media organization – Rappler — was so incensed by the Comelec’s restrictions, it has gone to the Supreme Court.

Ahead of the first presidential debate, Rappler filed suit against Comelec chairman Andres Bautista for granting broadcast rights to the debates only to the nation’s biggest television networks and their chosen partners.

It asked the high court to intervene to enable millions of Filipinos to watch the debates on their phones, tablets, and computers.

While it-is non-traditional media, being an online media organization, Rappler has a good and timely case to make. Online media organizations deserve equal treatment, because it is the Internet that is revolutionizing contemporary mass communications and bankrupting a lot of traditional media organizations in the process.

I do not know whether the Rappler suit will prosper, but the preferential treatment of big TV networks in this controversy has become at the very least questionable and misplaced.

A handicap in the public conversation
What was in stark display during the recent debate broadcast was unrestrained commercialism bordering on indecency.

It is generally conceded now by the public that during election time, broadcast networks can seize the day to make money from political advertising. Other media can only envy them for their advantage.

The theory behind media coverage of political campaigns is to improve public understanding of the political exercise, the issues and the candidates.

The political commercials are a different thing. Being tools for selling, they do not enlighten, they distract. They handicap the public conversation in favor of advertised candidates, and tilt it toward the money.

I have already written my assessment of the debate as public affairs communications (“High-tech, polite, dull and superficial,” Times, Febuary 23, 2016). My verdict is that last Sunday’s spectacle was disappointing for the lack of performance by the candidates and the mediocre questioning.

Now, in this review of the commercial side of the broadcast, I must regretfully report that GMA was too clever for its own good. It turned the debate into the equivalent of a Pacquiao title fight. It seemed as though the network was bent on incarnating Gordon Gekko’s philosophy in the movie Wall Street that “Greed is good.”

The word “offputting,” for all that it connotes of aversion and repugnance, may be too mild a word to describe what GMA-7 inflicted on the public last Sunday.

It was not the candidates who underperformed in the debate. It was the GMA Network and the Comelec who flunked the test.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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15 Comments

  1. Our media in the Philippines play a major role in shaping opinions; therefore, media organizations should make sure that their organization serves their purpose. However, we cannot expect this in our country given that the owners of Media who belong to the privileged and unfortunately, greedy elite in our society wants to influence the outcome of election by making their media outlets as propaganda materials of their favored candidates. Let us educate the majority Filipino masses so that we can elect a great leader. Even this yellow journalism will be solved!

  2. It is well known that the broadcasting industry is one of the worst in the world. (quality and ethics). No separation between editorial and advertising is routine, and programme quality is the pitts! So no change here.

  3. Greedy is one,GMA7’s top honcho, who tried to keep Ramon Ang’s Money ( Php 1.0 Billion ) !

    And the one who almost lost Php 1.0 Billion, does not own San Miguel Corporation,
    he should keep the conglomerate out of politics, at least if he wants to support a particular candidate he should do it out of his own pocket !

  4. Someone said Grace was cheating at the podium during the debate. She brought her cell phone and she was taking notes. Now that is has been mentioned in this column, her American husband who works at the SMC as a consultant is this another way of Grace’ cheating and/or diversion!

  5. Heard that the husband of Sen. Grace P Llamanzares is as a “consultant.” For what, we do not know. Says that the husband graduated from something in the U.S. of what we also do not know. Surely this is a political accommodation by SMC and since the husband is a foreigner, just wondering if the government gave him the clearance to work here.

  6. Mr. Yen, it was well known to all who read newspapers, particularly Manila Times, that the sponsor of Sen. Grace Poe herself said her FG to be is working with San Migeul Corporation as an executive under Ramon Ang then someone asked the senator if her FG to be who is an American has a working permit with the BI which she did not answer. Who can afford her tv ads even more that the LP standard bearer but a big conglomerate like San Miguel Corporation. Yen?
    Yen, to me the First Presidential Debate was very DISGUSTING NOT ONLY FULL OF POLITICAL COMMERCIALS BUT ALSO A PRE-ARRANGED QUESTION AND PRE-STUDIED ANSWERS BY THE CANDIDATES. AND IT WAS FUNNY THAT COMELEC CHAIR BAUTISTA CALLED IT WORLD CLASS COMPAING IT TO CNN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.
    HINDI BA NAHIYA SI CHAIR BAUTISTA? SANA GINAWA NYA ITONG COMELEC HOURS NA WALANG TV COMMERICALS. DI BA YEN?

  7. Leodegardo Pruna on

    In the Philippines, in whatever matter one does, MONEY and GREED combine to fool people. GMA , San Miguel, and COMELEC did what MONEY and GREED are about. God save the Philippines.

  8. Jose A. Oliveros on

    The use by Grace Poe-Llamanzares of San Miguel Corporation’s aircraft – even if for free – is a form of campaign contribution and should, therefore, be considered in determining whether or not she has exceeded the limits for campaign expenditure under existing law.

  9. ernie del rosario on

    I timed all the commercials interspersed within the debate segments with a stop watch and they summed up to at least 35 minutes (with times for station IDs removed) or more than 30% of the total debate program. It is indeed more than OFFPUTTING ! It was like watching GMA’s daily programs – nakaka #$@^%!&^ !!!

  10. This is a free country. Advertising has a function of it’s own in our society. Too much advertising for one may be too little advertising for others. If you don’t want advertising during the debates, get yourself appointed as a comelec commissioner. Before that happens, respect the rights of others to place advertising, and the rights of others to watch advertising. Freedom. Of expression is a constitutional right, my friend.

    • it’s not a question of being appointed as comelec commissioner, but commercial ads are totally unwanted in a political debate – common sense my friend.

    • I agree, without advertising, the network will not exist. Some think that everything is free and they are the boss of these networks. Very stupid indeed.