Television was introduced in the Philippines in 1953 with the opening of
DZAQ-TV Channel 3 of Alto Broadcasting System in Manila. The station was
owned by Antonio Quirino, the brother of the incumbent Philippine president,
who was set to run for re-election the following year. The station operated
on a four hour-a-day schedule (6 - 10 p.m.) and telecast only over a 50-mile
radius. This television station was later bought by the Chronicle
Broadcasting Network which started operating radio stations in 1956. CBN was
owned by the Lopezes who were into various business concerns. The
acquisition signalled the birth of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network, now
considered one of the major broadcasting companies not only in the
Philippines but also in Asia.
The Lopezes also owned
The Manila Chronicle, a leading daily at that time. ABS-CBN
therefore became not only the first radio-TV network in the Philippines but
also the first cross-media entity owned by a family --- a situation which
remains until today. Subsequently, the Lopez group added a second station,
DZXL-TV 9. By 1960, a third station was in operation, DZBB-TV Channel 7 or
Republic Broadcasting System, owned by Bob Stewart, a long-time American
resident in the Philippines , who also started with radio in 1950. The first
provincial television stations were established in 1968 in Cebu, Bacolod,
and Dagupan by ABS-CBN. The network is supplemented by 20 radio stations
during these early years of television forced a dependence on imported
programs from three U.S. networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC. Importing programs
was cheaper than producing them locally. In addition, canned programs
appeared to be more popular among local audiences, even though initiatives
were made in educational programming.
The commercial thrust
of Philippine broadcasting has made it unique among other East Asian
countries, where the electronic media are controlled and operated by the
government. While this free enterprise environment made local broadcasting
globally competitive, the same environment made it difficult to produce and
broadcast public service and "development" oriented programs.
television's early dependence on US programs may be partly responsible for
"colonial mentality" that has continued to afflict Filipinos during the past
several generations. The commercial orientation of TV also engendered a
"that’s entertainment" mentality in both the advertisers and the general
the 90s: From local to global
According to the 1998
KBP Broadcast Media Factbook, there are 137 television stations nationwide.
Of this number, 63 are originating stations, 50 are relay, and 24 ultra high
frequency (UHF) stations. Cable TV is technically not considered part of the
broadcast TV industry. In terms of TV stations distribution by island
groups, Metro Manila has 12 TV stations (all types), Luzon, 53 stations;
Visayas 28 TV stations and Mindanao, 44 TV stations.
Most TV stations are
part of the five major TV networks — ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation,
Associated Broadcasting Corporation, GMA Network, Inc., Intercontinental
Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), Radio Philippines Network (RPN), and
People’s Television Networtk, Inc. The biggest networks are ABS-CBN and GMA
Network. ABS-CBN has 11 originating stations, 14 TV relay stations, and 8
affiliate TV stations. GMA Network has two originating, 40 relays and seven
The 1994 Functional
Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey reported that about 45 percent of
total households nationwide have access to television sets and that
household population aged 10 years old and over exposed to television
reaches about 57 percent.
Satellite and cable
technologies have virtually made universal access to broadcast media
possible. For example, ABS-CBN television reaches approximately 90 percent.
The network is linked with the Pan American Satellite (PANAMSAT), which
provides its programmes to all cable operators and direct-to-home markets
within the satellite’s footprint. Through a cable television system, it can
reach Filipino communities in the San Francisco Bay Area of the United
States. Similarly, GMA Radio Television Arts Network reaches the entire
country through its 30 stations nationwide. Filipinos in Southeast Asia,
Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Canada, and the United States can tune in to GMA-7,
either through Mabuhay satellite or cable television systems.
Until recently, UHF
television broadcasting was unheard of. Only those who could get access to
the Far East Network of the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Service,
beamed to the U.S. bases in Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, were
familiar with the bandwidth. Southern Broadcasting Network (SBN Channel 21)
and Molave Broadcasting Network (Channel 23) were the first commercial
stations to broadcast on the UHF band in mid-1992. SBN 21 features
"global-oriented" programmes from the World TV, a local VHF channel, while
Channel 23 carries MTV programming as received via satellite from Hong
Kong’s Star TV.
Others followed after
the initial success of these stations: Byers Communication’s Channel 68
became the first Pay-TV channel; Rajah Broadcasting TV 29 the first home
shopping channel; and radio Mindanao Network Channel 31 the first all-movie
channel. The two UHF stations are in Baguio City and Cebu City.
The most phenomenal
growth, however, has been in cable television. The growth of early cable
television, introduced in 1969, was stunted during the Marcos regime,
because of a decree granting exclusive franchise to a business ally of the
former president to install and operate cable TV nationwide. This decree was
abolished by President Aquino in 1987. The introduction of satellite
programming by TV networks ABS-CBN and GMA in 1991 spurred interest in cable
television. Provincial community antenna TV (CATV) systems have been set up
to receive broadcast signals from stations originating in Manila. Metro
Manila is now one of the most advanced urban centres in Asia with respect to
cable TV, where two major cable systems, Skycable and Home Cable, offer 60
channels or more.
broadcasting’s lifeblood which makes stations dependent on ratings for
survival. This commercial orientation of television is evident in its
content, where over 50 percent of total programming consists of musical
variety shows, soap operas, and situation comedies. There is a larger
percentage of domestic over imported programs, although the theme and format
of most local productions are modelled on western programs.
is oriented toward urban interests, and many provincial stations function
merely as replay or relay stations. A few produce their own local programs,
but this is constrained by prohibitive production costs. Even the
strengthening of TV signals has not reduced the one-way traffic of images
from the urban to the rural areas. The consequences, in terms of
homogenization of urban values and lifestyles and the erosion of traditional
values in the countryside, are bewailed by social critics who blame the
media as one of the forces contributing to social violence.
emphasis on trivia and entertainment takes away airtime that could be
allocated to development issues. Equally serious is the little support given
to the concerns of marginalized sectors – women, youth, cultural
communities, rural and urban poor, peasants, and others. These sectors are
given prime time treatment if they are subjects of sensational reports
focusing on them as victims of violence and calamities. Otherwise, their
voices on critical national and local issues are seldom heard.
Commercial Television and Developmental Programming
While broadcast codes
state that stations should include public affairs and other developmental
formats, current programming focuses primarily on "hard" stories,
highlighting power plays, competition, and violence. Over the past few
years, the broadcast industry has displayed sensitivity to growing public
criticism for its lopsided programming, and there has been a discernible
increase in public affairs programming (other than news programs), which has
recently gained public following. Some of these programs won international
recognition such as The Probe Team and the now off the air
These programs in
various formats – straight talk shows, news magazines, documentaries – are,
however, packaged for limited viewership, because they use the English
language. In general, Filipino, the national language, is used in
entertainment programs, giving rise to false perceptions that Filipino
cannot be a language for intellectual discourse.
programs are still quite popular. Some video and television programmes show
the needy being given medical and other forms of social assistance.
Opportunities for the public to seek redress for grievances through
television is now available, although still on a limited basis. These
programs are now among the popular programs aired during late afternoon and
evening primetime, Hoy Gising and Isumbong mo kay Tulfo.
educational children’s programs are made possible through Philippine
Children’s Television Foundation (PCTVF) and ABS-CBN Foundation. PCTVF
produces the award-winning Batibot while ABS-CBN produces
Sine’skwela, a school on the air on science for elementary
students which has been aired since 1994, Hirayamanawari, a
values-oriented program, Bayani (about heroism and heritage),
and Math Tinik, mathematics for primary and intermediate
Television Network , Inc. is a major co-sponsor of Continuing Education
Program for Science Teachers Via Television (Constel), which broadcast three
telecourses for teachers – elementary science, chemistry, and physics. The
government TV network also airs a distance education course for teachers
pursuing graduate education.
for specific interest groups, such as women, cultural or ethnic groups, or
consumers, however, have not gone beyond tokenism. Although there are 120
ethnic groups in the country, little is known about their culture. Media
have been remiss in providing adequate coverage of issues affecting cultural
communities. The limited coverage emphasizes primarily conflict situations,
while the more visible groups are projected in stereotyped images.
Ecology and related
stories get sufficient coverage only because the worldwide environmental
movement is felt here and because of the sustained advocacy of local
environmental groups. Other less controversial issues, like children’s
rights, human rights, consumerism, and health and nutrition, get fleeting
attention from the media.
have exerted considerable effort to diversify and provide balanced and
creative programming. These efforts are attributed to factors such as an
increasing sense of social responsibility among network owners; KBP’s effort
to improve professionalism and standards in broadcasting; sensitivity to
public advocacy for improved programming; and competition not only among
television networks or stations but also with emerging cable television
The broadcast industry operates under
the principle of self-regulation. The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa
Pilipinas (National Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines),
or KBP, organized in 1973, provides the framework for self-regulation
through its radio and television codes. The Department of Transportation and
Communication (DOTC) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) of
the government recognize the self-regulatory principle of the KBP "to police
its members on matters relating to the enforcement of broadcast rules and
The KBP serves as the voice of the
broadcast industry in policy matters, government regulation and in the
establishment of acceptable industry practices. Among its mission and goals
are elevating the standards of the broadcast media, promoting and upholding
constitutional freedoms, developing media for positive social change,
establishing guidelines and standards with industry partners. and promoting
a stable competitive environment for the broadcast industry.
The KBP Television Code sets program
standards for news, public affairs and commentaries, political broadcasts,
children’s and religious programming, and television advertising. It also
sets guidelines on the coverage of sex, obscenity, and violence. The code
promotes social and economic enhancement for the people, and it encourages
broadcast stations to promote nationalism and to produce, schedule, and air,
preferably during primetime, their own developmental messages. A similar
code was adopted for radio station members. Both codes are regularly
reviewed and updated.
Meanwhile, there are some issues which
the KBP must continue to address. One of them is the plan of the Movie and
Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to collect review fees
for new and replayed programs on TV which itopposes. Another is KBP's desire
for the political ad ban to be lifted and its opposition to cable TV ads.
programming issues and concerns
Among the media channels, TV seems to have the most impact on today’s
children and youth who may be referred to as the TV generation. The
Portrait of the Filipino as a Youth, a study conducted by
McCann-Erickson in 1993, validates this observation. It revealed that the TV
programs, music, pop idols, and books teenagers subscribe to are their
sources of authority on right and wrong and what is important. The study
concluded that "media has truly become surrogate parent."
A political scientist
also highlighted the power of TV which he observed has the capability to set
the standards for success, excellence, achievement and morality and that it
could even influence individual expectations and aspirations (Brzezinskli,
But what do our
children see on local television?
The most common
complaint is the dominance of sex and violence on television. A study
conducted by the Asian Mass Communications Research Center (AMIC) based in
Singapore reported that the Philippines has the most violent TV shows among
ASEAN countries. Thailand and Indonesia come next respectively.
According to noted
Filipino psychologist Dr. Lourdes Carandang, media exposure to violence,
aggression and meaningless sexual activities stimulates aggressive impulses
and therefore primes the child to act aggressively. Research findings reveal
that the most natural way for a child to learn is through role modeling
wherein a child absorbs and imitates what he sees.
Studies worldwide show
that exposure to media violence makes a child insensitive or desensitized to
violent situations. A worrisome trend in children’s television worldwide is
the rise of popular cartoons with sinister combat violence or those where
fighting is the main feature rather than just incidental to the story.
according to the McCann Erickson study (1993) may have forced children and
the youth to spend more time in media-related activities (particularly
watching TV). But even among the youth who live with both parents, the same
study noted the marked absence of shared activities and hardly any quality
In 1997, the
Children’s Television Act (RA8370) was passed. It provides for the creation
of a National Council for Children’s Media Education. The functions of the
council include: (1) formulating policies on, and recommend plans and
priorities for government towards the development of high quality children’s
TV programming; (b) monitor, review, and classify children’s TV programs,
commercials, movie trailers, and others aired during child viewing hours;
(c) initiate conduct of policy research and program development; and (d)
provide incentives to independent producers and broadcasters.
Among the incentives
provided for in the new law is the National Endowment Fund for Children’s
Television for the purpose of developing and producing high quality TV
programs that are culturally-relevant and developmentally appropriate for
essentially as an entertainment medium has limited its capability to serve
as a forum for "policy debate and intellectual stimulation." It has been
noted that TV networks have pushed talk shows to the "margins of oblivion"
by scheduling them to the "graveyard shift" — from 11 p.m. and beyond. Early
this year, two award-winning public affairs talk shows have signed off. The
remaining talk shows have to introduce more entertaining portions to keep
what is left of their dwindling "insomniac" viewers.
Media critics also
warn of the creeping "tabloid journalism" in news and public affairs
programs. This simply means applying the success formula of tabloids —
crimes, sex and gossip — in broadcasting. By catering to what the viewers
want rather than what they need, TV stations are simply playing the TV
ratings game — more viewers means more advertisers equals more revenue.
future of TV
technology revolution are among the most certain things to happen in the TV
industry. There will be stiffer competition not only among the
VHF/UHF stations but with the so-called "new media" particularly cable
television, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and the Internet. Cable TV will
affect regular free TV in terms of audience and advertising revenue. While
free TV channels are available in cable TV stations, there is an increasing
number of cable TV subscribers nationwide. Considering the far too many
regular TV stations already competing for a dwindling advertising pie, the
entry of cable TV further reduces the pie. Competition with DBS and Internet
is not yet fully felt as subscriptions to these new media are still limited.
But experiences from
advanced countries also show that the introduction of cable TV, Internet and
DBS has not significantly affected the number of free TV viewers nor the
number of hours spent on watching TV. Changes in programming (more local
programs) and technology have made TV competitive.
revolutionize the television industry. Digital technology introduces
high-definition television (HDTV) and allow broadcasters to integrate into
one as many as six analog channels. The number of TV channels will be almost
limitless. It will also make TV programming accessible to computers or what
is called "compu-viewing." Some predict that "PC is the future of
The digital system
will result not only in clearer and better signals but also allow for
convergence in technology — broadcasting, cable, telecommunication, and
computer services. Thus, on the same monitor, the media user can watch TV or
movie, send e-mail messages, perform banking transactions, listen to quality
music, publish an e-newsletter, buy groceries, videoconference, to name a