Elections: Citizens’ Media Monitor
TV reports sensationalized Dolphy, Noli, “rape” stories

The television news programs almost uniformly sensationalized stories on comedian Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon’s reference to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as “tonto,” the claim by vice presidential candidate Noli de Castro’s first wife that he had not been supporting their daughter, and the complaint for rape against administration candidate for Senator John Osmeña.

The newspapers monitored, however, chose to treat all three stories with restraint. They treated them as minor stories, and in at least one case mentioned them only in passing.

These were among the findings of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility’s (CMFR) Elections: Citizen’s Media Monitor for the period March 29 to April 11.

The CMFR report found that comedian Dolphy’s calling Mrs. Arroyo “tonto” (dumb) during a campaign sortie of the opposition’s KNP was extensively reported and given prominence on TV, as were the claim by de Castro’s first wife that he had not been supporting their daughter, and the rape case a confessed male prostitute filed against Osme?a.

In addition, the report said, the television news programs followed up their initial reports with the latest developments, as well as with interviews with the personalities concerned.

In contrast, news reporting was relatively restrained. The three broadsheets monitored mentioned these events briefly if at all, and did not give them the same importance as the television news programs did.

The CMFR report also noted a decrease in the number of election-related stories in both print and broadcast. Although the decrease over television seemed due to the Holy Week holidays, in the broadsheets the decline was primarily due to other events in the news, among them the government “bail-out” of Maynilad Water, the foiling of the “Madrid level” terrorist attacks in Manila, and the capture of alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit gang.

In its first report for the period February 10 to 27, CMFR found that actor Fernando Poe Jr. received the most coverage in six TV news programs and one public affairs show, as well as in the top three Manila newspapers during the first three weeks of the current campaign period.

Its second report found a tendency towards issues reporting in print, although television remained focused on personalities and the campaign trail.

The third report found that the tendency towards reporting development issues had waned, and that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the subject of more television reports than rival Fernando Poe Jr.

The CMFR project is monitoring the coverage of the May 2004 elections by the three most widely circulated broadsheets in Manila (The Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Philippine Star) and by the television news programs “TV Patrol” and “Insider” over ABS-CBN 2, “The World Tonight” over ABS-CBN News Channel, “24 Oras” (formerly
“Frontpage”) and “Saksi” over GMA 7, and “News Central” over Studio 23.

CMFR is issuing reports on its monitoring project every two weeks. It will issue a total of six reports.

While it has monitored media coverage of elections in the past, this is the first time that the results are being made public during the research period itself. Also for the first time, CMFR has engaged trained volunteers to broaden election monitoring to include television news programs. The monitor calls attention to the critical influence of the press on politics; a role that has escaped close public scrutiny.

The project, launched last February 10, will continue until May 10.
CMFR has engaged as partners Caucus of Development NGO (CODE-NGO), Pagbabago@Pilipinas and University of the Philippines Professors Luis V. Teodoro and Danilo Arao. They are assisted by about 40 selected students from the University of the Philippines. Volunteers from civil society groups come from the ranks of:

– The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines
– The Caucus of Development NGO (Code-NGO) Secretariat
– The Concerned Women of the Philippines (CWP)
– The Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation
– The Metro West Network/Sun for All Children
– The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP)
– The Philippine Partnership for Development of Human Resources and Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA)
– The Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP (UJP-UP)
– The University of the Philippines Journalism Club (UPJC)

The project results can be accessed at URL http://www.cmfr.com.ph/media%20monitoring%20project/report%204/index.html.
CMFR is also transmitting the results to the media organizations monitored, and will upon request make them available to interested groups.

Ederic Eder

Filipino blogger

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  1. Lahat na lang talaga, pinapalakad ng komersyalismo. Pati pagpapalakad ng bayan…

    If indeed it has become a cycle that feeds unto itself, then I’m afraid we may never see the day when issues would be the defining factor in Philippine politics, as opposed to personalities, which is what is happening today. Nakakalungkot, nakakatakot isipin that we may never be able to rise up to such a maturity.

  2. That’s not surprising. TV and broadsheets cater to different markets.

    TV sensationalizes because its larger audience love melodrama. The telenovela crowd. Sad though that by sensationalizing, it encourages the attitude and it becomes a vicious cycle to which no one really benefits except the TV stations themselves.

    These are the same people who buy the tabloids which echo the same kind of sesantionalism.