Public Affairs TV shows: Bagsak sa ratings!

23 January 1989

Bongga 23 Jan 89

Ayon kay Ricky Lo, there was a time when Public Forum enjoyed more than20% audience share. But in the latest ratings, less than 3% na lang ang viewership nito. And other public affairs shows are not faring any better.

Sinabi din na for that same period, ang Issues and Answers ni Art Borjal ang nanguna with 5.6%, just behind Probe with 5.7%, followed by another magazine show PEP Talk with 4.3%, Viewpoint 3.7%, Minamahal kong Bayan 2.6%, Public Forum 2.3%, Tell the People 2%, Straight from the Shoulder 1.7%, and Velez This Week 1.1%.

Interesante nga na mas pinapanood ang programa ni Borjal kaysa programa ni Ric (Dong) Puno Jr. nung time na yon. Pero mas naintriga ako sa pagbagsak ng audience share ng lahat ng public affairs shows in recent months. Bakit kaya?

Looking back, totoong there was a time, after EDSA, na mas maraming nagsisipanood than usual ng public affairs shows. Nung panahon kasi ni Marcos, walang nanonood, dahil panay propaganda lang. Uhaw na uhaw tayo noon for information, for talk, for expression, particularly on political events and issues.

Kaya naman nung bumalik ang press and broadcast freedom, hindi tayo magkandaugaga sa panonood, pakikinig, lalo na sa mga TV talk shows, to politicans old and new tungkol sa EDSA, kay Cory, sa revolutionary government, kay Ramos, kay Enrile, kay Gringo,, sa elections, sa coup attempts, sa Marcos return, sa bagong Constitution, sa US bases, sa graft and corruption, sa military, sa NPA, sa mga konggresista’t sendor, sa Cabinet, sa presidential relatives, and similar stuff.

Pero mukhang nagsawa na nga ang public affairs viewers. Ang tanong: ano ang pinagsawaan nila, ang content ng talk, o ang level ng talk, o ang mga hostmismo?

Palagay ko, all of the above.

Ang content siyempre ay depende sa mga nangyayari sa ating paligid. At hindi masasabing wala nang interesanteng nagaganap – ayan nga’t kapapasok lang ng bagong taon, happening na agad sa Zamboanga, happening na rin between the Executive and the Senate, between the Larger House and Customs, atbp. Hindi rin masasabing ngayon lang yan. Ma-happening din ang second half of ’88 – noon nagsimula ang economic boom kuno, noon na-forge ang latest Military Bases Agreement, noon nahuli’t napatay si Baula (rebel military) at nakatakas sina Kintanar at Jopson (mga komunista), noon pumutok ang cho-chop smuggling ng mga kotse, gayon din si Mighty Miriam, at kung anu-ano’t sinu-sino pa.

Maaaring ibig sabihin ay nasanay na ang viewers sa pagka-ma-happening ng buhay Pinoy, and also maybe a thousand days have shown na wala namang constructive effect ang talk, consequently ay bored na sila, tayo, so what else is new, nasabi na yan, di ba, o ganyan din nung ano, di ba?

And / or the middle class is simply too busy making kayod – this boom kuno has found us all working double-time halos, di ba, or at least more than we ever had to, just to keep up with the high cost of living – there’s just not as much time for idle pursuits (idle daw, o) like watching TV?

Tungkol naman sa level ng talk, na depende sa format at program policy, lamang dito in a way ang magazine shows dahil mas malakas ang visual appeal ng field interviews and scenes, at malaki ang naco-contribute sa impact ng talk. Also, dahil structured ang magazine shows, mas malawak ang naco-cover nila, at mas organized ang information.

Incidentally, nakakagulat na mas mataas ang audience share ng Probe kaysa PEP Talk nung period na yon. With all the publicity that Loren Legarda gets, akala ko hit na hit pa rin ang show niya. Ang naïve, ’no? Which is not to make little of Probe’s progress. But that’s another story.

Pagdating sa klase ng talk at sa pinatutunguhan nito, hindi nagkakalayo ang magazine at talk shows. Nagkakasya na kasi sa kanila ang pag-i-impart ng information. Sabi nga ni Julie Yap Daza sa closing ng huling edition ng Tell the People, sana raw na-enlighten ang mga manonood, enough so they can make up their own minds about the issues discussed. Yan din ang line ni Ric Puno Jr. ng Viewpoint. At ni Cheche Lazaro ng Probe. Di ba raw dapat ay objective?

Meron ding tulad ni Louie Beltran ng Straight from the Shoulder at ni Randy David ng Public Forum na sort of hayag ang disenchantment with the system at, tulad ni Loren Legarda ng PEP Talk na, on occasion betrays a bias for change, which colors the questions they raise and observations they make. Pero kahit sila have fallen into a rut.

The main objective is always just to elaborate on news or issues and opinions that have made it to the front and editorial pages of newspapers. There is never an attempt – except for a while by Professor Perfecto Fernandez and journalist Melinda Quintos de Jesus of Velez This Week’s late and lamented format – to draw conclusions and make known where they stand on issues and why.

The exception may be Professor David who takes the time to summarize and synthesize and to point out what, in his opinion, needs doing or thinking. Pero paulit-ulit na rin. Dapat siguro ay mag-move on na siya to a higher, more constructive, format.

Knowing now what he knows after what must be a hundred hours or so of dialogue on national concerns with Filipinos from all walks of life, maganda kung magfo-focus naman siya on talking solutions, that is, bringing together Pinoys with specific solutions in mind, and working out ways of reconciling differences in opinion for the sake of the Whole.

Which brings us to the hosts themselves. Sabi nga ni Professor Fernandez, ang problema raw with media practitioners ay makikitid ang kaisipan at mararamot ang hangarin, which simply make for boring talk.

I’m sure public affairs talk can be interesting, exciting, and stimulating as well as intelligent, relevant, and moving. But it will take courage and commitment on the part of hosts, producers, and, even, advertisers.

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  • © Angela Stuart-Santiago