Philippine TV’s Other Tug of War

Entertainment blogs usually discuss the never-ending ratings game between ABS & GMA but in this article, there is more dangerous than that. I know it's out of the context to use boxing than a tug of war.

Entertainment blogs usually discuss the never-ending ratings game between ABS-CBN & GMA but in this article, there is more dangerous than that. I know it’s out of the context to use boxing than a tug of war.

A TUG-OF-WAR is a game where two teams pull their respective ends of a rope. The more exertion of a pull of one team will defeat and fall off the other. It can be played indoors or outdoors without any limits.

In a metaphorical sense, tugs-of-war can be used on a rivalry for a long time be it in sports (e.g. PBA’s Manila Clasico & UAAP’s Ateneo vs. La Salle), in politics (e.g. the issue on burying President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani or in Ilocos) or in entertainment.

On the last general category, we heard such things perpetually and mindlessly — the ratings game on television where the players are only between the main channels, ABS-CBN and GMA. However, there is another tug-of-war that the rest of public won’t discuss on forum threads and social media — the programming control of national networks.

Timow’s Turf asked you on such treatment when you stepped into the shoes of a programming head of a broadcast network. Don’t spoil the results just yet because we will detail it further.

What’s your team?

Like the Pokémon GO craze, you chose one among the three teams with some reasons. However, they are not Team Instinct, Valor & Mystic but rather Team Regional, Unitarian & Federal.

Team Regional

This team was established because of these grievances:

Metro Manila contributed 12.8% of the population pool but the majority of attention in the media.

Metro Manila contributed 12.8% of the population pool but the majority of attention in the media.

  • Very substantial disparity exists between superior repertoire in the headquarters in Metro Manila and inferior quality of the regions.
  • Program guides and the ratings report from Kantar and Nielsen come from Metro Manila and some of them aren’t available on at least one channel in one area of their regional network group.
  • National cable/satellite companies (e.g. Sky, Cignal, etc.) cater their main channel from the capital and none from their own regions.
  • National news usually integrates the crimes, sensationalism and whatnot happening and applying exclusively in the Metro — projecting it for the 87.2% who are outside NCR (percentage based on the 2015 census) — that isn’t supposed to be delivered.
  • Some delivery commercials — usually, fast food chains — with Metro Manila’s numbers differ those from the non-MM urban areas. In home shopping, provincial buyers usually have to press the 1-800 prefix before the main Metro number or special number to order their products.
  • When power outages strike (be it scheduled or not) in at least one part of the country, viewers there will miss their chance to watch their programs and called it “unfair.”

These grievances can be summed up in an original political pejorative as Imperial Manila.

Proponents belonging to this team believed the respect of diversity of languages, cultures and its own people in this country. They advocate the powers of programming to regions on what they wanted to convey in their own part of the land and setting the time what best suited for their needs.

You would probably recall the heated comment discussion on From the Tube‘s post on resolving the weekdays at 5 P.M. problem on ABS-CBN where its author was drawn dissension on the “unifying schedule” and they belonged to another team.

Team Unitary

Team Unitarian are deeply concerned with the finances of the network. For them, setting up a dedicated regional news or program for Metro Manila is too "redundant."

 Team Unitary is deeply concerned with the finances of the network. For them, setting up a dedicated and separate regional news or programs for Metro Manila is too “redundant.”

This team who are apologetic to the status quo defend with these reasons:

  • Cost cutting. Unitarians believed that having separate regional news for Mega Manila will add more fixed and variable costs and this will hurt the consolidated bottom line of the broadcasters.
  • Setting a common price in advertising. In a unitary form, there will be a common price to impose for advertisers for daytime and primetime.
  • Avoidance of cacophony and disarray. For them, diversity could be chaotic without order from common authority.
  • Speedy execution. Without overlapping and intermediaries to meddle, decisions will come faster from the central command.

Team Federal

They believe that decision making are expressively stated between the national broadcaster and regional stations.

Federalists believe that decision making should be expressively stated between the national broadcaster and regional stations.

As a compromise between Regional and Unitary, they are the people who wanted significant decision-making on both the national network and its constituted regional stations.

In their specific plan of action, a morning show, their noontime show (if any) and primetime slate produced nationwide is decided from the main headquarters; regions will create their own counterparts only on daytime. Other genres on national daytime programming (such as cartoons, anime, game shows, talk shows, etc.) for syndication and/or exclusivity will be scheduled differently across regions.

Like Team Regional, there shall be regional news to cover their own breadth of land while the national news’ news hole (a visual aid on how long the news will deliver) will concentrate more on the national and international stories that are worthy for the country with at least providing a short time for provincial roundup. Showbiz segments and ratings reports are completely eliminated in primetime and late night news.

Under this approach, Kantar and Nielsen would de-register programs that are not at the same time with the rest of the country. Those shows that have different times will be registered in their separate databases for their respective regions. For the users of the ratings report from such firms, advertising and promotion slots will be shared between national and regional.

The decisive moment & postscript

As you now understand the detailed claims of each team on reviewing the structure of present programming, let’s revisit the question (rephrased): Will you go on one end for the pure regionalist, the other end for the status quo or on the middle in the “federal” compromise?

Last Friday, the Turf’s poll closed with:

  • 60% favoring the federal approach,
  • 28% sticking to the status quo, and
  • 12% believing that regions to go Dutch or kanya-kanya (KKB)

However, admit it, the transition is not easy but in the end, it will sound beneficial for three parties (the main HQ, the regional stations and the viewers) but for the networks, it’ll be too reluctant to materialize this or perhaps, they will dismiss this idea and never will learn unless someone will unearth it.

Although there are other versions of tug-of-war than this such as the exclusivity vs. syndication & celebrity vs. ordinary people but that’s another story.

Wrapping this article, maybe we need to hear Katniss Everdeen at the end of Mockingjay of the Hunger Games trilogy that “there are much worse games to play.”

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Photo credits:

  • ABS-CBN vs. GMA:
  • Cost cutting photo:
  • Balancing balls:


  1. Both GMA and ABS are still stuck on the same old war, with GMA not admitting their mistakes, especially on being stubborn at times.

    As for the schedule, I’m in favor of a more federalistic schedule, similar to the US, where local stations air local news, as well as some syndicated fare and local programming. Sa case ng Pilipinas, for example, ABS would cut the excessive airtime of TV Patrol (which will still start at 6:30pm, thus freeing 7:00-7:45pm slot for a teleserye or syndicated fare) and cut it to 30 minutes but will only focus on national and international stories. Since may mga unionists na magrereklamo, like Ralph, the 5:00pm timeslot currently allocated by ABS-CBN RNG to air their newscasts, will be the home of TV Patrol Manila, focused on Manila crime stories, Manila traffic, as well as politics within Metro Manila. People in the provinces would like this, and they will like the new federalistic approach since the people from the provinces are sick and tired of hearing Manila crime stories. If ABS-CBN’s model is successful, GMA would duplicate that, but the problem is the timeslot of the local news in Dagupan, Cebu and Davao since Wowowin currently airs at 5:00pm and the people in the provinces missed the first 30 minutes of Wowowin.

    1. To be honest, you do have a very concrete plan for ABS and the numerous regions. Had GMA kept their RNGs for the past two years instead of shutting down, this could’ve done better but I agree, Wowowin will lose a significant part.

      To end such commotion and cacophony, it’s time to convince Kantar and Nielsen to deregister programs that are not available in at least one part of the country. Kung anong offer sa kanila nationwide at a specific time, dapat nasa listahan nila. Others will have to make a specific and tailored database for them.

  2. Dapat siguro sa case ng news dapat hindi lang 30 mins lang yan dapat 45 mins (6:30~7:15) tapos may sports/showbiz newscast na mapapanood lang sa metro manila ng 7:15~7:45 sa probinsiya naman that time slot (7:15) can be used for regional newscasts para sa ganun unified pa rin yung sked kaso may parahan para sa local news.

    1. Sports news will have to be integrated in the newscast but Metro News should serve the Metro.

      P.S. Are you the real Ian Santos that Ralph got irritated? Please be serious with the username, e-mail and social media accounts you are using.

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