News, Entertainment and the Filipino Audience

While fluctuations in TV ratings may suggest viewers are now switching channels — from watching newscasts to watching a variety/game show, it is still early to conclude that the viewing habit of Filipino households has already changed.

TV5’s bold move to introduce a variety show in an early evening time slot (which is usually ruled by primetime news programs) may be considered a timely and wise strategy for a network trying to show its metal.

“TV5 dares to change viewing habit”

It shall be noted that since the re-opening of different forms of mass media in 1980’s, majority of evening viewers has been used to open television sets to watch prime-time news — at that time, ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol was lording the ratings.

It was able to set the standard on the “magnetic” approach to tackle news regardless of its veracity and kind.

After TV Patrol’s decades of existence, many news programs from GMA7 and ABC5 (now TV 5) have come and gone. It was only in 2004 that GMA 7 has finally drawn its flagship news program (24 Oras) to decrease ratings gap with TV Patrol.

At that time, there were only two recognized “Giants” namely, ABS-CBN 2 and GMA 7.

Since the habit of watching news programs remained unchallenged for a long period of time, no TV network dared to launch a show in an early evening time slot with a completely different genre, aside from news.

Until ABC5 repackaged itself as TV5, making the roster of mainstream evening news shaken.

TV5 dares to reinvent primetime experience and attempts to reverse viewers’ habit of watching news to watching entertainment.

“Entertainment, instead of news”

Boldly speaking, Willie Revillame’s show satisfies the “wants” of typical households, tired of dealing with restrictions imposed by their material conditions.

A typical member of a household, who wants to take a break from the reality manifested in TV news,may prefer to watch a game show than a news program. Likewise, he or she who wants to temporarily disengage from a stressful day, may prefer to do the same.

Perhaps so, as some consider news programs as “visual reminders” of many displeasing things surrounding the society.

HOWEVER, the question remains: do you think this kind of show (regardless of network producer) communicates and addresses the real “NEEDS” of the people?

“Culture of escapism”

People’s need is to take hold of the Truth and ‘relevant’ information to enable them fulfill their citizen-critic duties, as members of a ‘supposed-democratic’ society.

A show like Willing-Willie/WilTime BigTime or any variety show for that matter, cannot give the same dose of effects as news programs can possibly contribute.

We are not saying though, that news programs completely fulfill the need of the people as they are also subject to various flaws concerning reputation, credibility and credence as information-gatherers, news providers and watchdogs, respectively.

The point is, news programs are more inclined to providing the needs, not the wants. News programs, compared to variety/game shows are closer to the aim of having an information-rich and a Truth-driven society.

People have already taken the initial steps and it certainly poses a problematic future if they take huge step backwards and completely change their habit of watching news.

The many flaws of today’s mainstream journalism may be viewed as a huge problem in the realm itself. Shortcomings of which, may even justify people’s choice not to watch newscasts anymore. Even the idea of having an information-rich, Truth-driven society may still be debatable.

HOWEVER, thinking the wild possible diversion of Filipino habit from watching news to plain entertainment in the future is a greater social concern to mull over compared to the problems surrounding the media.

This may suggest that people are no longer interested, (1) to know relevant issues affecting them, (2) to take hold of the Truth and information, and (3)to practice their real democratic functions as citizens.

Escapism is never a solution to problems.

“An insidious move”

Taking it from the lens of a business mogul, we can say that TV5’s brave move to challenge the timeslot dominated by news programs was indeed a wise corporate decision.

ABS-CBN and GMA are already taking this situation as a challenge to further their affinities to viewers.

Let us see how ABS-CBN and GMA respond to this, if the trend goes good.

Will they develop new shows to compete a variety show — and finally change their respective news programs’ time slots?

When this happens, is it safe to conclude that TV5 has been victorious in setting a new historic television trend — where early evening is no longer about the headlines?

The move is quite insidious, as it intends to take advantage of the fact that people no longer “want” to hear anything bad as inevitably given by news programs.

The move is treacherous as it takes hold of viewership by means of entertainment. It is able to influence people’s consciousness by making a strategy out of their weaknesses.

As people look for ways to withdraw themselves from the unfortunate traces of reality seen via TV news, TV5 takes the opportunity to move.

“Developmental journalism”

This is a long discussion between what people need and what people want.

But if mainstream TV news will work hard to make people realize how important it is to be aware of and to take hold of “relevant” information surrounding them, then they may still have a chance to resurrect their viewers.

Relevant information are those, which are NEEDED by the people to exercise their citizen-critic duties.

The mainstream TV news shall begin at improving their “developmental” efforts to news and public affairs.

Reporting a story is different from informing the people. By way of informing the people, journalists take commitment not only to report the facts and make people understand complex issues, but also to present sound options and/or logical alternatives, without inciting personal judgment.

This is completely different from merely telling a story as it answers the who, what, where, when, how and why.

Presenting the problem coupled with proposed actions, alternatives or options make a story “developmental” in approach. It goes beyond the simple airing of concerns and grievances, as it becomes part of the solution.