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SPG rating for TV newscasts

Time was when Filipinos got their news from newspapers, radio and television. News that did not come from any of these media entities was not considered credible or reliable.

Not anymore. The internet has changed the media landscape. Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Twitter and other social media outlets have given the public, particularly the millennials, other sources of information about events in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world.

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For those who have limited access to the internet and want to go beyond the printed word or are drawn to watching video footage of news events, TV newscasts remain the preferred source of information. Live interviews of news personalities, on-the-spot coverage, and video recording of events speed up the absorption of the news.

The tradeoff for this viewing convenience comes in the form of commercial advertisements and in-house promotions. But these breaks are put to good use by the viewers as they enable them to multitask or attend to personal matters without missing significant portions of the newscast.

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Lately, the TV newscasts seem to have taken a fancy to video footage from CCTV (or closed-circuit TV) or mobile phones of vehicular accidents, neighborhood disputes, and crimes.

The favorite crime reports are alleged buy-bust operations on illegal drugs conducted by the police that result in the killing of drug dealers because they reportedly resisted arrest and fired first.

Often gory, these crime stories would merit a “Strict Parental Guidance or SPG” rating if the classification rules of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board were applied. To the credit of the TV stations, they blur the faces of the dead suspects.

In case the suspects manage to avoid getting killed, they are presented to the media as if they had already been found guilty. The constitutional presumption of innocence goes bust.

From the financial standpoint, the TV stations cannot be faulted for making CCTV or mobile phone video recordings a major staple of their newscasts. These materials are usually free of charge, or if any fees are paid, they’re minimal. The savings to the TV stations on the cost of sending reporters and camera crews to the scene of the action are not something to sneeze at.

A foreigner watching these newscasts cannot be faulted in getting the impression that crimes or violent confrontations are a way of life among Filipinos.

It is unacceptable to say that local TV viewers enjoy watching “live” crime scenes, so there’s nothing wrong with feeding them this stuff in the newscasts. In other words, give the viewing public what it wants regardless of its value.

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It is common knowledge that the content of TV newscasts depends on the stations’ editorial and commercial policies. Their production staffs decide what reports shall be given prominent treatment and what shall be downplayed with an eye to the objective of their advertisers.

By giving extensive TV time to CCTV and mobile phone video footages, the coverage of more important news is invariably reduced. News reports that are national in character and of greater impact to the public are sacrificed in favor of reports that have minimal or limited significance.

The impression is created that these video footages are being aired to either make up for the lack of meaningful news reports or to fill up the time in 30-minute or one-hour newscasts. The advertisers should be given their money’s worth.

Considering the versatility and quality of today’s TV communications facilities, it should not be difficult for TV stations to explore news stories that go beyond or are superior to crime stories and trivial subjects.

TV viewers are entitled to see more than CCTV or mobile phone video recordings of crimes, traffic accidents and petty neighborhood quarrels. They deserve news stories that respect their intelligence and treat them as rational Filipinos who have higher goals in life.

Just because TV is sometimes described as an “idiot box” is no excuse for TV stations to treat their viewers as such.

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TAGS: CCTV footage, Inquirer Commentary, news sources, Raul J. Palabrica, social media, SPG, Strict Parental Guidance, TV newscasets
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