The Fourth Estate’s total eclipse of dichotomy

A review of the Media Coverage on Election 2010 Campaign Period University of the East - Manila By: Nikko Norman C. Izar

The media play a crucial role in the democratic life of the country. Its role is conspicuously observed during the preparation for the public on the recently held Philippine Election 2010. In addition, during this “nation-changing” event, the media already have its time-bound perishable package of news reservoir. People of different demographics were on a flock as to what news and updates will be catered to them. The media are the people’s main source of information on electoral issues, the candidates’ views, their party platforms and even the current state’s condition. [I]deally, how the media cover the elections affects how the people perceive and understand the issues and helps them decide which candidates and parties to vote for. In simpler terms, coverage of campaign period is a proof that media exist for a great responsibility. The span of campaign period is the time allotted for the media to provide the demands of the mass. From big chunks of issues cut into bite-size of information. News making process on this period is fast producing and fast spreading. People would always wait for the blow-by-blow updates. But of course, aside from the news package, it is also a big bite for the media since they are the powerhouse of political advertisements and Public service information. Ergo, the industry’s lifeblood is dominating and abundant. Private companies were also having a healthy pocket during this period. Nowadays, though the issues that flocked the paper trail and air waves are receding, the “imprints” can still be observed. By careful scrutiny, there are three major reasons why the event gained much media and public attention that brings the news and information environment into a storm. First, it is the country’s first time to have a fully automated elections, thus the media is responsible in informing and educating the mass regarding the innovation. Second, the different political dramas and controversies that happened before and during the elections, this would be the “question-and-answer portion for the people’s impetus to vote. Lastly, is the classic rationale of people’s desperation for national change. The people became even more aggressive especially when the Presidential candidates submerge the public into a hope for change when the administration is eradicated. In these three reasons, media is the point of reference and the bridge for decision-making. This paper will posit on three premises to have a discourse. It will focus on how the media render its role and function on the campaign period. It will cover how it informs and educates the public; how it


frame news and information that directly affects public decision and how it joined and saturated in both election and public niche. Of course, to substantiate the claims, this paper will use data to support the claims. To elucidate and elaborate the implications, this paper will highlight the main points by scrutinizing the events, data and implications according to what theories or assessment it can be related and further emphasized. Political, Infomercial Advertisement and Election-Related Specials Discourse of Neo-liberalism There were two spheres to look at during the campaign period, the first one, is how the state, the COMELEC and other electoral affiliates handle the public education on suffrage and the automated election. How the media allocate time and attention to news and current affairs during the campaign period. These include the mudslinging of the candidates, their controversies, political history etc. Let’s give a closer look on the first statement on how the state or electoral affiliates uphold its commitment for public welfare. When the time campaign period started, advertisements and PSA has been captive as it holds the audience on their seat. During the campaign period, the two dwelled on TV commercial breaks for so long. If we will be in specific, the COMELEC has been given the budget of P21 B, in this budget the amount allocated for public information and education is included. A closer look will determine that it is the state’s lone responsibility to inform the public directly by its PSA and other government and NGO affiliates and not the private companies. It is now the first issue which is the “interest” which allows the private network to play in the competition. Consequently, the two Titans of broadcasting created their own conducive plan to uphold the welfare for the public that seems like indirectly rejected the government’s presence. Let us start on GMA 7, upholding the tag “Walang kinikilingan, walang pinoprotektahan, serbisyong totoo lamang” continuously proving and defending the title. During the campaign period, the station has devoted time on their news programs but also inserts on the regular programming. The station gave special programs to further help the public on the crucial decision making that the election has brought them into. Programs from GMA 7 like Isang Tanong (January 17, GMA-7 Network) aired its second edition of “Isang Tanong" putting the country’s vice presidential candidates in the hot seat. GMANews.TV has compiled the individual answers of each candidate. Kandidato and Ikaw na ba? ,half of voters at every clustered precinct will not be able to vote in the May 10 polls because of insufficient time, a study conducted by a convener of the poll watchdog Kontra Daya (Anti-Fraud) showed. Votebook, which investigate the wealth of each presidential candidate, the assets and liabilities etc.


In addition to this program, PSA are also their classic weaponry. Armed with the objectives and the “respected reporters and celebrities”, the station has provided segment commercials like “Leksyon sa Eleksyon”, a 1 minute ad that gives brief lecture on how to vote using the PCOS machine and other election related issues. Of course, the network’s appeal to the mass, especially to the D and E class, they use a novelty track “Bilog na hugis itlog”, from the “Sexbomb dancers”, to teach the lower class on how to vote. It became an LSS (last song syndrome) to the mass matched with the steps and the song, it’s undeniably enough “visual aids” to teach the functional literate and the marginalized poor. According to the ratings of PSA, the said jingle has gained the interest of the mass during the campaign period. In much of the praises, the jingle has received commendations from the COMELEC. The idea of “heroism” and “stewardship” from the public has also been an impetus by the network. GMA 7 started the “YouScoop”, a project wherein, the people were like “watchdogs”, armed with any video recording medium, they could send and upload the anomalies or problems occurred in their community and report it. The project of GMA 7 seems like they want to awake that “heroism” and sense of “responsibility” from the citizens. Of course, the mass felt it that much. Thus, the station has news they could bank on. On the other hand, ABS-CBN is also equipped with quality news reporters and anchors. Prepared for commentaries and revealing the “truth” and making people productive on such. Though, the station has only few specials, documentaries devoted for “knowing-the-candidates” and how to vote. The station has its “BOTO MO! IPATROL MO! The idea was simple: get the people to care and to take action. It is people power with new technology. Cell phones are used as a device for framing the time and space. Capturing pictures or videos of irregularity or good news within a community. Furthermore, it became an eye that follows and tattletale. Tagged as “boto patrollers”, the BOTO MO, IPATROL MO AKO ANG SIMULA advocacy has received commendations from the mass, since it builds an emotional impact of “I too can help”. Problems and anomalies are just a text away. Aside from it, the station also received millions from the said advocacy from the telecommunications company.



The station also did a music video from different celebrities and music artist to further hammer and invite the youth for the responsibility hinged on them saying that the election’s result depends on the youth. ABS-CBN’s Matanglawin (Hawk eye) May 2 episode and The Correspondents’ Feb. 16 episode explained how to vote in the elections as well as automation’s possible complications. Bandila (Flag), also devoted an election-related specials, interviews from presidential and vicepresidential candidates in a segment called “Hot Seat.” ANC’s Harapan (Face-off) was an election debate program that pitted candidates against each and aired on Dec. 2, Mar. 22 and Apr. 19.“Strictly Politics” also created a miniseries on the presidential candidates together with their senatorial slates. ANC’s Square Off, a show hosting debates for university students, also grilled senatorial candidates on issues in it selection special. The Platform elicited the presidential candidates’ perspectives on issues such as agrarian reform and the reproductive health bill. TV 5’s Timbangan (Weighing Scale) also examined the platforms of the presidential candidates on issues. A “jury” rated the candidates as “pwede na (passed),” “pwedeng-pwede (very good)” and “hindi pwede (bad).” The social networking sites have also been par prostheses of media. Facebook and Twitter account and Myspace in particular. Looking at it, it seems like the media overly magnified and preoccupied the public’ decision making. In whichever channel they may switch, on whatever medium the messages seem to be haunting and giving the force for you to do your job in election, for the election will alleviate the poverty embedded on the country for so long.

Network initiated advocacies and advertisements are too nitrogenous in sense (abundant). Such condition will lead the concept of neo-liberalism. It is when the state has relinquished its role to its citizens thus setting the stage in to a cut-throat competition. The government’s inability to uphold its commitment has been a playground for private companies, media entities to dominate the public welfare. Election-related specials have been the biggest evidence that when the state failed to give the people its needs, the media will provide it. Of course people will not even bother ask the private intention of the media in every information given. It is a conflict since, neo-liberalism rooted from the fact that big media companies can easily wields the power of controlling the news and information without worrying that the company’s vulnerability will be observed. Ergo, it created barriers, a transparent coating to public


information though people look at it as if it is not visible but still is existing. Media compensated the public trust and informs them in every way they can. At the end , titans gained profit from their service. …ABS-CBN was ahead of the competition in all business units including its core business operating
channel 2. Its core Airtime Revenue stood P5.06 billion, P1.44 billion higher than the combined income of all GMA's business units (channel 7, QTV, GPTV, GLTV, Radio, etc) which totaled P3.63 billion. Even without political Ads ABS-CBN still posted a 45% increase in gross revenue while rival GMA Network will eventually incurr a slight decrease due to lower recurring Advertising Revenues. EBITDA for both firms showed a healthy growth with an 80% increase for ABS-CBN and 57% for GMA Network impacted by overwhelmng Political Advertisements, but channel 2 will still grow by 36% even without Non-recurring Political Advertisements. (Philippine Star 05/21/2010)

The team-up of different companies and organization Media Concentration ; Conglomerates, Oligopoly, Mergers and the control of the free market of ideas The author will use the two networks again as an example. Here are some news article portions that will deliver the concept. …The complete list of Eleksyon 2010 partners:

GMA Channel 7, QTV, RGMA, dzBB, GMA New Media, GMANews.TV, GMA Pinoy TV, Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT), Smart Communications, Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI),, Catholic Media Network (CMN), AMA Education System.

University of the Philippines (UP) School of Economics, Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) School of Governance, De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), San Beda College of Law (SBCL), Solar Entertainment, Youth Vote Philippines, RockEd. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER), Philippine Bar Association (PBA), Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), and the Commission on Elections. - With a report by KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV

…Halalan 2010 of ABS-CBN
… Working hand-in-hand with ABS-CBN for this monumental coverage are cause partners Globe Telecommunications, Bayan Communications, STI, The Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business World, Pulse Asia, University of the Philippines School of Economics, YouthVote Philippines,



Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, the Commission on Elections, and the National Movement for Free Elections. Google, Map Central, REACT, Kontra-Daya, and Life Haven have also joined the cause to boost the online coverage of ABS-CBN Halalan 2010. …ABS-CBN channel 2, Studio 23, ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel (SkyCable ch. 27), DZMM TeleRadyo (SkyCable ch. 26), DZMM Radyo Patrol 630, Tambayan 101.9, , and . JING CASTANEDA abs-cbn

Media Oligopoly, the control of big business entities and the merging of those big entities will cause massive and direct effect on how the media will present the stories on how they want it. It will cause “media concentration”, it will hinder the journalistic autonomy and free market of ideas. News and information will be packaged according to what the business want. Thus, it is problematic that the private interest deeply embedded on how the news during campaign period and election. Information can be manipulated especially if a closer look will be given that most of the companies are intertwined because of the chain reaction that might happen on the overlapping businesses. Political Economy of the media Not your ordinary media Politics and economy is mutually constitutive, the next stop of the discourse is how media ownership and interest affects directly its function. As what is been cited above, it is a discourse wherein the media are motivated not only on its social function but also on its lifeblood which is “the fact that still it’s a private industry”. The concept of political economy is unquestionable when the campaign period has started. Maybe we could ice-bathe the idea by giving the premise of political economy of the media. The Political economy is rooted from Karl Marx’s correlation of baseline (labor, people) and the superstructural (institution, media and education). The symbiosis that exists will easily help us to discern that there is differences in power thus cause “separation and control”. Media ownership as well as it merge with other big companies will prove a bridge and pedestal of having the power to control over to that they are covering. The private interest negotiates as to how they will gain profit. It is called “costbenefit” or doing things for an income. “Income” as a motivation, since the company holds the media entity especially on the case of Lopez wide array of business including ABS-CBN. It will be easy for them to control or “gatekeeps” the message or news that unveiled from the company. Moreover, their media entity can dictate the agenda that people could be productive thinking about. This power is well


observed on the campaign period, especially in Aquino’s niche. The Aquino-Cojuangco and Lopez business connection discern how the station and its motive plus Aquino’s motive unquestionably connive. Political economy of the media simply posits on “Who wields the power? Who holds not? And who holds the power?” Its existence will dictate the easiness for an entity to work on things and how it will be run. Results? Media concentration. Period. Pseudostratification of news stories Politics of Emotions, Showbizfication/Celebrification and TV spectacle During the campaign period as the candidates fight for the position, media delve on those issues. They ride on how the candidates will endorse or promote themselves. In the usual setting, it’s either through how many good things they have done, their background and lastly how they attack the other candidates for them to get the attention and fortunately, to vote for. Media in its role and intention will include themselves on the issue thus resulting on a more dramatic sphere when it comes to politics. Media have been sure that the environment on how politicians work will always catch the attention. Here are some time keep of the news wherein mudslinging of politicians became the news of the day. The main electoral protagonists, the Liberal and Nacionalista Parties, traded barbs and accusations which were gleefully reported by the news programs. A lot of airtime was allotted to reports such as Mudslinging between LP and NP, TV Patrol World, April 9); Villar challenges Noynoy to visit his Tondo house, TV Patrol World, March 31), Legarda alleges anomaly in the Aquino-Roxas campaign, 24 Oras, April 8), (Aquino challenged to address the problems at Hacienda Luisita, 24 Oras, April 8), Villar accused of not declaring the Laurel House in his SALN, 24 Oras, April 8), and “Nacionalista vs Liberal Party (TV Patrol World, April 8).(CMFR) Those news are evidently framed and presented as important for the media have devoted most of the airtime of news.



Not only the mudslinging but also secrets and controversies being raised. Especially, when the issues of psychiatric records are released to deteriorate Noynoy Aquino’s road to fame. The same with how a celebrity face a controversy, supporters discredit the allegations. In a very predicative situation, after the “kainitan” of the issue, afterwards it was forgotten.
(Sen. Aquino suffered from extreme depression, TV Patrol World, April 8); (Noynoy Aquino laughs off the psychiatric reports, Teledyaryo, April 9); (Fake psychiatric report ignored by Aquino, TV Patrol World, April 9); and (Document surfaces on Noynoy Aquino’s psychiatric assessment, 24 Oras, April 9)

Presidential candidates Gilbert Teodoro’s agony as “GMA’s puppet and Manny Villar “Nakaligo ka na bas a dagat ng basura ad” stories also sold public attention.
“Lakas-CMD not losing its members, Teledyaryo, April 8; (Gibo is PGMA’s victim, TV Patrol World, April 5); “ (Amidst Lakas’ breakdown, will Gibo surrender? 24 Oras, April 5); (Teodoro resigns as Lakas chairman, TV Patrol World, March 31); (Party-hopping of politicians, TV Patrol World, April 8); and (Lakas/CMD members change parties, Teledyaryo, April 5). NP defends Villar against reports that he is GMA’s secret candidate, Teledyaryo, April 15); (PGMA supports Villar, TV Patrol World, April 5); (NP denies that it is the source of Aquino’s psychiatric report, Teledyaryo, April 9); (Villar’s ratings dip a result of mudslinging against him, TV Patrol World, April 6); (Rep Arroyo denies that Villar is their party’s candidate, TV Patrol World, April 6); (Villar’s poverty becomes the issue, 24 Oras, March 30); (Manny Villar not poor, TV Patrol World, March 29) and (Villar not poor, based on circulating documents, TV Patrol World, March 30). - Mudslinging among candidates boosts media coverage, May 8, 2010 –



Giving a closer look, media really thrive on how the Presidential candidates deal with controversies and deal with co-candidates who wants to bring them down. This will drive us into the next point which is how media create the spectacle. There are various ways how the media create spectacle. The first one is “after-the-facts reporting, it means not going beyond the news. The next one is trivialization, which is the not important was being substantiated and frame as important news. The third one is the conflict between the news subjects, the “who-did-what-to-whom-when-where”. The 4Ws are used but the “how” and “why” question are disgustingly neglected and overlooked. Lastly, the concept of “this is it”, the stories revolve on the event and not looking into further details since the event “screams” that much that it demands for attention. This is the “skin-deep” reporting and the lack of reportage. These spectacles made the people numb on things that are important. A little glimpse on what the media do and what the media don’t. For example, the election related violence, the coordinates and number of casualties are reported but the “behind’ , the how and why of the event was superfluous or just too many to mention. Spectacle created a window, a glass view from a hidden place or let me call “a place that cannot be seen by unaided eye”. This how the media work, that either they are on the low angle or high angle position that they can sneak in and voyeur to our lives without the people knowing it. Spectacle works on the fact of “intimacy” of the medium and the audience. Spectacle narcotized the public to believe in to the wrong angle of the story. This intimacy works subliminally and personally which is inhabiting and concomitant to our own habit of how we listen, watch, perceived, understand and accept the news. The other effects are the author’s next discourse. When spectacle dominate much of the media coverage this is when “showbizfication or celebrification” arise. According to Roland Tolentino, there are two concepts of showbizfication, the “politics of showbiz and showbiz of politics.” What politics can do to showbiz is the privilege of creating an icon which resulting a control of information and viewer’s preferences. Regarding on what showbiz can do to politics is making a pedestal, a media creation not just acceptable but worthy in the eyes of the public. Because of such framing given by the media people will consume it and look at it as if it is a concrete issue that they can use for the elections. Well in fact, such news is just the labyrinth of the media propensity and business. People who got hooked up will participate in the issue. The spectacle gives another illusion of right choice for the mass. The public/current affairs programs continued to address other issues not directly about the campaign and elections. Nevertheless, some of these issues could have been tied to the plans of action of the candidates aspiring for the country’s highest posts. Too much spectacle and showbizfication leave the


problems and cases that the nation had faced like the Ampatuan Massacre. It has only been a few months since the Ampatuan massacre–the single deadliest event for journalists in the whole history—yet the reportage on the judicial process has significantly declined. On human rights violations, Reporter’s Notebook exposed in its Feb. 23 episode the sidelined details on the Morong 43 such as the maltreatment of the arrested health workers. El Niño, which alone caused P75 million worth of crop damages in Cebu and P4 billion in Isabela respectively, was given attention by The Correspondents and Reporter’s Notebook in their March 30 and March 2 episodes, respectively. The controversial decision by the Supreme Court that the president can appoint the next Chief Justice and its connection to the rumored strategy of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to stay in power was assessed by The Correspondents in its April 6 episode “Hukuman ni Gloria (Court of Gloria)?” The Pulse Asia and the Social weather Station (SWS) survey as framed by the media is one of the example of such ideology. The issues and the glamorization of who is the favorite of the mass, give this “conditioning” to the mass intellectual labor. The “the choices are media creation”, the survey just reflected the public’s productivity on their media-constructed decision. It is pseudo-stratification, a false depiction of what really exists. Different election related controversies and gossips are too buoyant that the volume of “important unnoticed facts” failed to afloat.

He-said-she-said! Carnivalesque/Camp, when the campaign period turns into a package of humor Another effect from spectacle is humor. Aside from the drama, documented features are also conspicuous during the campaign period. The usual mudslinging of the politicians became a stage of humor. The humor is both working as a concealment of the intricate issue and it also worked as “a news story that sells”. Print and broadcast’s devotion of covering such political actions as “unintended”, but hinged on a serious niche. Programs like “Dokumentado” (TV 5) has been the watchdog for this one,


people would laugh at the issues, the best “punchline or “banat” gains the greater attraction. There are also articles and editorials that even hinged on the “palengke-like” or “squatters-like agony” of the politician. One might think that it is part of the so-called “political niche” but when we try to go a closer look, the messages are too significant and strong, that it may reveal the truth. Media is one of the responsible in representing and packaging the news as “humor.” Your media’s report card Is it an A or an F? This 2010 election campaign period has been the widest multimedia coverage of the local and national elections. Improvements are observed during the season for a shift of paradigm is used by different networks. From the conventional daily basis of campaign up to the Election Day became a depth discussion that lingers to the intricate issues. Analyses and contextualization those events needed for them to meaningful to the public. Issues like the funds and salaries are discussed since said campaign period consume almost 2.1B of funds. ABS-CBN’s The Correspondents covered the sensitive issue of campaign funds and computed how much each presidential candidate was spending in its Mar. 2 episode “Gaano kalalim ang bulsa? (How deep is the pocket?).” Consequently, Failon Ngayon interviewed political experts in its Mar. 13 episode to explain why 50, 262 candidates nationwide are competing for 17, 999 seats in government, and spending millions in their campaigns despite the meager salaries they would be paid once in office. After many years, finally the party-list system is elaborated. The party-list system is certainly the most confusing to many voters. Even the COMELEC admitted that it was having problems drafting appropriate guidelines in the screening of alleged party-list groups. GMA-7’s Reporter’s Notebook devoted an episode on the party list system’s history and how a party-list group can get a seat in the House, as well as how many groups are contending for the 55 seats reserved for party list groups in the Lower House. The program went into an explanation of the powers of a party-list representative, and how traditional politicians who do not really belong to marginalized sectors often end up as nominees of party list groups. GMA 7’s Kandidato (Candidate) and ANC’s Strictly Politics allocated one episode per presidential candidate, the latter even inviting the whole national slate of each presidential candidate. GMA 7’s Reporter’s Notebook” also created a series devoted to the vice presidential candidates and their takes on various issues. The public affairs programs interviewed not only candidates and party representatives but also political experts, non-candidates and the representatives of government agencies


such as the COMELEC to provide needed context in the election reports. The programs invited notable personalities and groups from different sectors of society, such as the church (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) and even the media itself (Malou Mangahas from the PCIJ).

The role of the media on the coverage of 2010 election ampaign period is very significant. In all spheres of news and information, the corners of its responsibility. Media reflects the social phenomena and social mobility. The history of 2010 election has been a media creation for it had played and hammer its role on the totality of the decisions that most, assumingly all of the people used on the last election. It’s nice to know that the media improves on objectives and how and why in giving the news. Specifically in the use of the public/current
affairs programs of resource persons/experts, their follow-up reports, and their interviews which contributed to a more comprehensive discussion of the complicated issues of Philippine elections, politics and governance. However, it is also obvious to notice that the dichotomy of the role and interest

are still concomitant. Just like the phenomena of an eclipse when two intersect, chances are one might overshadow a part and only an outline can be observed out from the dim.
Sources: www.cpij,org
Izar, Nikko Norman C. 0906-516-7105



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