Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Is there anybody out there who can tell me the news without selling me anything?

A few years back a giant broadcasting network prohibited its news anchors from endorsing products outside their network time. So most of the anchors, who probably made a killing endorsing canned tuna, brandy, and the like, grudgingly obliged. A popular couple left the network, moved to the rival network, and sued the old network for illegal dismissal. Last I heard, they lost the case. But I thought for a while that this entire episode in Philippine television was a triumph of ethics. Advertising is advertising, and news is news. If you have news anchors doing advertisement, it blurs the divide, and you run the risk of the public being led to believe that their product endorsements are news.

Of course, I was dead wrong. It was a triumph of network business bullies, instead. It appears that what they are doing now is worse. They are injecting advertisement directly into the news. This morning this lady reporter doing the traffic news tried to sell skin protection products while appearing to be doing a feature on traffic reporting. Before her segment went on air, the studio anchor introduced the traffic girl, and said that the reporter had something important to say. I popped up the volume a little, because I wanted to know if the number coding system was suspended today (it is). Then she went on air, telling us how she starts her report, where she stays during her Edsa Kamuning report, the difficulties in doing the traffic report, and concluded that, because of the heat, she had to use this skin protection lotion. I asked myself what the ...?

Another segment was introduced by the news anchor about a reporter who was in the bus terminal in Araneta Center Cubao, Quezon City. She started with the report on the people in the terminal and concluded with the PLDT Goldmine promo, which gave a chance for people who recruit PLDT subscribers to earn cash commissions and PHP 1 Million in a raffle. I shook my head, and decided it was time to blog this.

Last night, I was watching the early evening news of the same network, and I overheard an entire segment about what was happening in the telenovela being aired by the network. Since when has telenovela plotlines been news? Of course, that's an advertisement of the telenovela (which is probably heavy with advertisement itelf).

So indeed what might be happening now is that the network is cornering the endorsement business from the advertisers with such a clever scheme: putting the advertisement directly into the news. Too bad for the anchors, and too bad for the public.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Where is the telco price war leading us? To ruin, of course.

I had a meeting this afternoon with a friend who operates a telephone company in my home province of Mindoro. He is complaining, because the recent PLDT response to the Sun 24/7 gimmick is killing traffic to our province.

The telco price war began when John Gokongwei's Sun cellular offered a service at a flat rate for all calls within the Sun network. Apparently, the pricing scheme worked as Sun was able to entice three million subscribers -- something which took Globe and Smart longer to achieve in the early years of the cellular phone in the Philippines.

PLDT responded with a month-long promo, which introduced a flat rate of PHP 10 per call within the PLDT network nationwide, and PLDT across the SMART and Talk n Text networks. Naturally, it may have stopped the turn-over of people from Smart and Talk n Text to Sun, but the other immediate effect is to congest the PLDT lines. According to my friend, PLDT landline calls to Naujan, Mindoro are having a hard time connecting, because the PLDT Batangas exchange, where Naujan's traffic passess through, is clogged up. As a result, Naujan's residents with landlines are isolated from the country, and even the world -- because international calls to Naujan, Mindoro also pass through Batangas. According to my friend, if this continues, he may have to close his small telephone company, and watch as his subscribers switch to Smart and Talk N' Text.

The main problem with this price war is that it is really going to generate a lot of useless chatter. People are going to call each other regardless if the call is necessary to relay important information or just loose talk. Worse, as usual, we can expect more loose talk to occupy phone bandwidth, which will make it hard for inportant information to pass through our phone lines. The telebabad's will take over. As a result, we are going to ruin the greatest thing which happened to Philippine communications since the invention of the telephone. What's the use of having a cellular phone if you can't connect because people are abusing it?

I used to think that Sun's John Gokongwei and PLDT's Manny Pangilinan were in a certain class of businessmen -- the types who will not think only of short term profits but also of long term benefits to their companies and their patrons, as well. But this telco price has proven me wrong. They all appear to be in the same league as this movie producer, back in those days when she produced those stupid movies with her so-called babies that made a lot of money for her movie company, but ruined an entire generation's value system.

I wonder what are we going to ruin next?