The deplorable sports-like TV coverage of the impeachment trial
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-01-22

The top TV networks are covering the Chief Justice Rene Corona impeachment trial like a sports event. One TV network described the prosecution as having drawn ‘first blood’ — something you’d hear Ronnie Nathanielz and Recah Trinidad say when describing a boxing fight. Another one used the term “naka-iskor,” something equivalent to making a touchdown or scoring a basketball goal.

It seems like these TV networks are trying to force the excitement of a Manny Pacquiao fight or an Azkals match to the coverage of the impeachment trial. It’s as if they’re holding a cockfight derby. By doing so, they’re doing such great injustice and disservice to a very important event in our history. 

PTV-4’s coverage was sober and very professional. Perhaps it’s because it does not operate and promote showbiz programs. Perhaps it’s because it does not really have to violently compete for ratings. Under President Noynoy Aquino’s (P-Noy) leadership, there can be a great potential for PTV-4 to be a real broadcast network of the people, accountable to the people and not to the changing political leaderships. It could be modeled after the UK’s BBC.

Freedom of expression is so sacred to media practitioners but many of them forget that the press is also a public trust. When media are subservient to ratings or showbiz promotions, they betray that public trust. When media merely mirror what are superficially apparent and do not bother to provide intelligent perspective, it can end up perpetrating, rather than changing lives and situations badly needing an uplift.

Corporate greed transformed TV news and public affairs into showbiz, at times bordering on smut. News and public affairs are supposed to be public service programs, a payback for the grant of a franchise. Corporate greed overlooked this obligation. Instead of providing enlightenment that will bridge our Information Gap, what we were dished were television versions of the tabloids. 

A more recent example of sloppy journalism was when media played right into the scheme of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) when she released her fantasy tale that she titled “It’s the economy, student”. She knew that if she came out with it, media would fall for it, quote from it and inevitably, ask the Palace for a reaction.  

Coming out in the news, even if denied, would already achieve her purpose of confusing the good number of Filipinos who are not news savvy. Who knows, some of them may even give her the benefit of the doubt. 

When ridiculous text messages circulated alleging that P-Noy will give each Senator-Judge P400 million in exchange for a favorable judgment, media invariably picked it up and as expected, sought the reaction of the Palace.
Perhaps, in this case, media may have helped quash the hoax from spreading but to end the story there without trying to find out its origins or intent is not doing justice to the cause of truth. It will happen again, a new hoax story will circulate, get media coverage and then again get denied, ad infinitum.

Up to this time, we can still see the same old detractors recycling issues that had long been debunked and for which they could never show proof. After being exposed as false information it no longer qualifies as news. That’s why the old tunes — baseless charges the news department will no longer use — have become material for paid hacks, disguised as columnists, to play over and over.    

They keep repeating ‘abnoy’ and autistic to describe the president. Maybe they’re repeating the lie enough times to condition the public mind to believe it as true. If the P-Noy bashers want to perpetrate a lie, our media are certainly playing along in their game very well. That’s giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’re not being paid to ventilate it. 

The rogues’ gallery of P-Noy bashers is pathetically out of touch with the pulse of the people. As to why they continue to throw muck instead of joining the effort to move the nation forward — there must be profit in doing it. 

If there’s something P-Noy’s leadership lacks, it’s in communicating its achievements. Unlike his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who needed to spin achievements as a smokescreen for her many transgressions, P-Noy’s moorings are firm, his vision clear and, like the Duke of Wellington, he’s the type to shun cheerleading, breast-beating and grandstanding. This is no excuse however for his Messaging Secretary not to parade the administration’s achievements.

Arroyo’s credibility is at rock bottom but one marvels at her staying power. A Japanese exposed to such shame and dishonor would have disemboweled herself many times over. Here thieves, cheats, plunderers would organize a big gathering, arrange TV coverage, get an accommodating Bishop to officiate in a Holy Mass — while they posed like they’ve lived pious lives and are victims of persecution. 

Up to now, Arroyo and her cohorts do not seem to believe that the rules of the game have changed. People perceive P-Noy as refreshingly honest and consistently determined to clean up government and address poverty issues. When they invent tall tales to smear P-Noy’s image, they only worsen their lack of credibility.

It was relatively easier to get away with malfeasance during the time of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Information travelled slower, the press was muzzled and those who posed problems to the regime faced terrifying consequences under the might of the military and police. Not that journalists now live under less perilous working conditions, but information technology has made muzzling the press a lot harder. 

In today’s age of viral information and social networking, it’s extremely hard to keep dark secrets from being exhumed. With the high trust level of P-Noy and the enthusiasm and support of the people to clean our government, it will be much harder for crooks in the bureaucracy to get away with their sinful ways. In due time, the petty front line tyrants in the bureaucracy will be identified and dealt with.

The international ratings agencies, such as Standard and Poor, have started to give our country higher ratings. From Bloomberg, to HSBC Research, to Goldman Sachs — they’re all projecting a very bright future for our country, in such proportions we never imagined we could attain. The economy has never felt this upbeat in a long time.

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  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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