Television can save the Philippines

The word escapism, as defined on the Net, refers to a mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people take to help relieve persisting feelings of depression or general sadness. Ironically, for a society that claims to be always “happy,” Filipinos are fond of engaging in activities to escape reality, such as by watching television. The reason why Filipinos want to “escape” reality is because reality for them is so harsh that the only thing that can keep some of us from jumping off a cliff is the promise of seeing a better life through other people’s lives.

televisionUnfortunately, running away from our problems by “escaping” to a different world will not make these problems disappear, especially if all we watch are telenovelas and gossip shows about celebrities. In fact we have been running away from our problems far too long that these keep coming back to bite us.

The Philippines has a dysfunctional culture…yada, yada, yada! Frankly, even Filipinos with half a brain already know and acknowledge this, but here we still try our best to find different ways of explaining it in the hope of reaching those who are totally clueless or are still in denial about it. We may as well be talking to a rock, though. We can talk about our culture’s dysfunction ’til kingdom come, but unfortunately we can’t make a real difference until mainstream media shapes up and helps in this endeavor. The reality is that we can only reach a handful of people through blogging, and just hope for the best in the next 100 years or so.

In this age of Twitter, Facebook, Kindle and the iPad, television is still the best tool that could be employed to change an entire society’s mentality. According to figures from TIME magazine, “across the developing world, around 45% of households had TV in 1995; by 2005 the number had climbed above 60%.” That’s not a lot if you compare it to western households where there are more TV’s than people, but it still means that there are more people who own TVs than those who have access to the Internet.

This is exactly the case in the Philippines where the majority of the population is still not connected to the Net. This means that there are a lot of Filipinos missing out on the Internet revolution. Perhaps the Philippine broadcast industry, most notably ABS-CBN whose shareholders are associated with President Noynoy Aquino are aware of this. Maybe that is why they can rest on their laurels as their minions on television continue to work their magic on their catatonic audiences. It is so easy to entertain these folks by publishing photos of P.Noy accepting his first paycheck or visiting television networks for precisely that, a photo op. Never mind that the real problems of the country remain unresolved.

It comes as no surprise that despite the noise we and some other like-minded people created on the Net to elevate the level of discussion during and after the election, it hardly makes a difference to the way our public officials behave. You could only wonder if P.Noy himself is Internet savvy because it seems that he is not aware of any criticism of him coming from the Net. Maybe it could be a case of his handlers filtering information they perceive as negative from coming to his attention.

Funny enough, P.Noy once questioned the amount of time television networks devote to entertainment shows compared to “socially relevant programming.” Although what he said is true of our television networks, this also is indicative how much in the dark he may be about how the television networks owned and operated by his pals helped give him more exposure on air (and more space on paper) during the election campaign than any other candidate.

It is high time that television be used as a medium to transform the lives of the marginalized portion of Philippine society rather than dumb it down further. If P.Noy is genuine about his desire to change television programming, he should start with shows that catapulted his sister to stardom. Chat shows that talk about people and their love life rather than explore ideas of substance should be purged from local television.

Shows that encourage dependence on hand-outs and escapism like Wowowee should not be revived again and should be replaced with programs that encourage self-sufficiency and self-reliance like those that provide information that could help in the development of one’s skills such as crafts shows or science and technology documentaries. TV networks need to develop shows that promote entrepreneurship and skill development. They should create original programs and not just copy off western reality TV shows.

Telenovelas or drama shows should be limited to the adult time slots because kids are impressionable and tend to mimic reel life in their real lives. Likewise, drama shows tend to stunt the development of the human brain and make them susceptible to gullibility as in the case of those who voted for P.Noy in the last election. It makes sense to apply the mind conditioning that helped propel P.Noy to power for use in helping Filipinos get used to using their critical analysis faculties a bit more.

They say, and I totally agree, that television has the most transformative impact on women. In India, a study conducted by Robert Jensen and Emily Oster found that when cable TV reached villages, women were more likely to make decisions over child health care and less likely to think that men had the right to beat their wives. TV also played a role in adult education in Gujarat, India. It was said that those who routinely watched Bollywood songs and dance clips had seen significant improvement in their reading skills.

Of course, television is a double-edged sword. It has its drawbacks. Too much television has been associated with violence, obesity and social isolation. But to be sure, TV has done more good than harm worldwide. A good show can actually encourage people to read more books.

Television can change people’s lives. At the moment, Philippine television networks are contributing to changing Filipino lives for the worse because of their penchant for sensationalism and nonsensical shows. One can only hope that the powerful television executives can find it in their hearts to change the course of the plot so the Filipino people can look forward to a happier ending.

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31 Comments on “Television can save the Philippines”

  1. Well, it is always about ratings. Mainstream networks may want to produce shows that would enrich the minds of the Filipino people but they know that they will risk their company from getting profits.

    For them, sensationalism is one key to good ratings. Since most Filipinos are “usiseros”, they would like to learn about the lives of the actors they idolize off-cam.

  2. I’d like to put some blame on Tito, Vic, Joey, and on their shows Eat Bulaga and Iskul Bukol. A few decades ago, we were warned that television had the power to shape society, and that these Big Three of the noontime shows ought to recognize that they carried a huge responsibility.

    Yet their shows taught nothing but mediocrity, indolence. They just catered to the uneducated pinoy’s addiction so that they could make money. Look at what define’s our society now – ang masa, the typical botante na inaabuso ng mga politiko.

    1. Joey and Vic still have to explain Pepsi Paloma, dont they? This girl was allegedly raped by those guys. But we Filipinos have short memories and are too quick tp forgive without knowing all of the facts first. And their show lives on… amazing…

      1. Yeah, this is from wikipedia:
        “holding the record of being the longest-running noontime variety program on air in the history of television.”

        The way they brought up the masa mentality should be made criminal. They should be put in jail for the crime.

    2. Edit: … defines.
      X’s: I guess shaping society can be compared to good parenting. Reforming the pinoy masa mentality looks like its going to need a lot of “tough parenting”.

  3. Just to share, I lived in an era when internet speed makes people invent a different, colorful language, so I watched much cable TV. And it was because of Discovery, I knew about more topics that would capture my interest. Hence, my thing for rare books, occult, and for junk science.

    The word GiGo comes to mind, garbage in, garbage out. As far as I’ve been conscious, mainstream TV has been what it is. Sad. Mediocre. Degrading. The list goes on. And sadly, if you are someone with only half a brain or less, you’re likely to believe everything in it. Lies, when repeated, can become truthful to some.

    The people behind Dumbwell TV are to blame, of course. Then again, it’s not just the ratings. The money is in it, as usual. And so the cycle just keeps going. Unless we see at least one program deviate from this vicious cycle, we’ll keep seeing more of them.

  4. I’m so glad you cited an India study at the end, because I keep seeing the comparison of ‘western countries’ in your articles and that can’t be much use to Filipinos.

    Much better to focus on other developing Asian countries to see how they have fared (the ups and downs) from similar beginnings. When I get frustrated by life in the Philippines, it’s because I’m comparing it to the years I spent in Malaysia and Thailand and what I’ve seen travelling elsewhere in South East Asia. I don’t expect it to compare with the developed world, I’m just trying to understand why it’s all going so wrong.

  5. My exact sentiments, Ilda.

    However in the Philippines, the dumber the shows, the higher the ratings and ratings turns to profit for the Private Network Companies. The TV revolution we needed will not be around for centuries.

    We still have the overlooked PTV4 though that caters to crafts, agriculture and micro business, however Japan Video Topics is much better.

  6. Television can transform lives; it can also have a negative effect on your life, …there are good programs in the Cable Channels…like: Science programs, History channels, Cooking channels, Biography channels, Livelihood channels, News channels…etc…if we just watch “Wowoowees”, and soap operas…where a Nanny married her Boss, and live happily ever after. Then, we are just wasting our time…Better get out, and take a hobby, or take a walk for a good exercise. It will do more good to your body and mind…

  7. Filipino politicians have their own “balwarte” (a place where majority of people vote for them). When a newscaster asked a well known politician where’s Noli de Castro’s [Former vice president who returned to become a news caster] “balwarte”, his simple answer is

    “Anyone with a television”

  8. “You can lead a carabao to water but you can’t make him drink.” Same thing here. TV stations can produce educational & informative shows but they can’t force Filipinos to watch those.

    1. Chino,

      What will that get us exactly? A media outlet directly controlled by the national government and whose content and perspective will be determined by government censors. As opposed to what? Private media companies with reporters beholden to and paid for by political personalities.

      1. Actually, in the United States, public broadcasting systems only receive enough government money to keep the lights on. Much of it is funded by private organizations and individuals and run at the state level, hence all these telethons and “This program was funded by” lists at the beginning of shows.

        AND their programming is more wholesome than what passes on “private” cable networks. Ah, good ol’ Mr. Rogers…

        1. Actually, Frank, I was referring to the way government sponsored media in the Philippines tend to be operated. Nothing to do with ‘Mr Rogers.’ Incidentally you can’t deny that government funded media in the US have their own biased leanings. These days, institutions like NPR tend to skew left.

  9. Or course, television can change the lives of the Filipinos or other people. In the Philippines, television changed Filipinos from being idiots to morons.

  10. “Government don’t want a population capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people smart enough to run machines and dumb enough to passively accept their situation”. – George Carlin

    Our Media has a social responsibility to make Philippines/World a better place by promoting/influence an intellect society and leave a positive impact on our people. And not just pursue profit from news maker at the expense of making our people dumb or brainwashed.

    “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” by Malcolm X

    “Whoever controls media controls the mind” – Jim Morrison

  11. I love PBS in the US. It was life transforming for me when I discovered PBS. Unbiased news and information are priceless and open your mind. It’s like a breathe of fresh air after being confined to a room of stagnant, polluted air of useless TV shows. I do not have cable anymore. There are many junks in TV and I am glad for PBS (which is government and viewer funded). Internet could be a good source of information too if you know where to find it. However, internet is also like a wild west. Anyone can just write and blog there.

    1. Television has nothing to contribute? Transforming (international) public opinion about something like US intervention in other countries and ending the Vietnam War isn’t significant? Or providing the impetus for Civil Rights legislation? Is it not the viewers’ fault if they restrict themselves solely to patronising mindless afternoon variety shows and then complain that there isn’t anything worthwhile being shown?

      1. Nothing trustworthy. I’m no expert in foreign history but how many wars do you think was fought because of what is heard or seen in the media or rather how many opinions was made with influence to make it necessary to fight a war thousands of miles away from your homeland?
        From what I understand of the Vietnam War the non-practitioners painted communism as the satan-approved type of government that needs defeating when it’s really no different from republics, democracy, despotism etc..anyway, I will not argue about this.

        I don’t approve of the mindless dribble they produce but I don’t tune in to any form of the common media. I simply don’t trust the makers will remain faithfully neutral in their programs. At some point in time they will begin to smuggle ideologues, effectively brainwashing the masses.

        1. You’re absolutely correct. It’s pointless to discuss this if you have no idea what you are talking about. Regarding mass media or political systems like communism. (Incidentally, Communism, unlike other political systems or ideologies is directly responsible for ONE HUNDRED MILLION DEATHS. An atrocity which democracy has never been party to. It is hardly just like any other political system.)

  12. Yes I don’t have impressive knowledge or interest about political systems, but the mass media man…I spent a sizable amount of my growing up watching, listening to it. I have many fond memories of local comedies (e.g. Home Along da Riles) and imported shows/cartoons.
    Lately the tv programs, entertainment and news, (foreign) are filled with that one ideology or more that is spreading throughout the western world, and romantic drama(local).

    I dropped it, I realized I don’t need it. Sure they are not all “stained” but why should I nitpick every show for something I can like when I can drop it entirely and do something else less draining? This is all my opinion but the essence of what I said earlier is there.

  13. Joke time!

    Why aren’t people bored on the same storylines of teleseryes?

    Because stagnation attracts mosquitoes.

    What do you call this bargain store with a television screen?

    If it’s Filipino TV show showing in your TV, then it’s your TV.

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