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ABS-CBN, other media: Good for the economy

In our market economy, the media business plays an important role by providing jobs that allow people to make money, and by helping distribute goods and services that people can buy. Without the media business, the economy would be very inefficient and primitive.

In a conversation I had with Geny Lopez in 1957 after Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) merged with Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) to become ABS-CBN, he vowed that the new network would aim, first and foremost, “to be in the service of the Filipino.”

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What has ABS-CBN done in the service of the Filipino? This is the accusing, if not sarcastic, question many administration allies have asked, including well-meaning friends on Facebook and out of it.

To contemporary ears, “in the service of the Filipino” may sound like a standard corporate spin. But as a public relations and advertising professional for most of my life, I know that, aside from providing valuable news, public service information, and grassroots entertainment, ABS-CBN, GMA 7, and other broadcasting firms have helped multinational companies sell billions of pesos worth of their products and services by advertising over radio-TV. This has benefited not only the multinational advertisers but the millions of Filipino consumers as well, by allowing the easier distribution of goods and services to satisfy public needs.

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The total adspend in 2017 by the members of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of the Philippines (4A’s) amounted to P401.9 billion. That’s about 1 percent of our GDP, and that’s just across the three media of TV, radio, and print, not yet counting the adspend in online and digital media.

Of the P401.9 billion adspend, TV accounted for the lion’s share of 79.7 percent, followed by radio (17.2 percent), and print (3.1 percent). In other words, multinational companies such as Unilever, Procter and Gamble, and Colgate Palmolive, and local companies including Jollibee Food Corp., RFM Ice Cream, United Laboratories, and others, spent about P390 billion in 2017 through ABS-CBN and other broadcast stations to disseminate information about their products and services throughout the Philippines

Arguably, these huge consumer adspend benefited us consumers and the national economy as a whole, because it gave people more information about products that boost the competition, resulting in reduced prices across the board. In effect, ABS-CBN made purchasing easier for consumers by providing fact sheets about the place and availability of goods, the prices, points of superiority, and other relative merits.

I can vouch that ABS-CBN productively helped teach modern agriculture to farmers by radio. From 1965 to 1970, as PR communication head of Esso Standard Fertilizer and Agricultural Chemical Co., I produced 24 weekly “Tiyo Essong” radio farm programs in 24 local radio stations throughout the Philippines, mostly over ABS-CBN, with ABS-CBN’s Ben Viduya as main anchor in Manila.

Two persons managed each program: a content scriptwriter who had to be an extension worker, and the radio staff announcer. In the Ilocos region, the script was in Ilocano; in the Cebuano areas, it was in Cebuano; for Panay island, it was in Ilonggo; and so forth. My staff worked closely with each provincial scriptwriter. We designed “Tiyo Essong” programs to align with the various cropping seasons. For instance, our program in Isabela would follow the cropping season for tobacco, and our program in rice areas would be designed likewise. Our objective was not to give the farmer a diploma but to give him fundamental, practical lessons through radio, on such topics as the domestic economy, health practices, environment preservation , etc.

For general information about soil analysis, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides application, we had ready-made scripts for the writer. “Tiyo Essong” was not a farming school on the air; it was a let’s-do-it-together farming procedure that was relevant in the provinces where the program was aired. We produced a Radio Farm Program Manual for each scriptwriter, and we met with the radio announcers once every three months to upgrade their skills on how to talk informally with the farmers.

Thanks to ABS-CBN, our “Tiyo Essong” radio farm programs helped, over the years, to increase our national rice production from a mere 35 cavans to 90 cavans per hectare.

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Charlie A. Agatep is chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep, an integrated and independent marketing communications agency.

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