POSTSCRIPT / July 5, 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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As top mind-bender, TV decides winners?

TELEVISION looms large as the biggest single medium that could determine the winners for national positions (president, vice president, senators, and party-list congressmen) in the May 2016 elections.

The idiot box could do this because of its pervasive intrusion into the public mind and its preponderant position as the mass medium of choice of election campaign strategists. Its mind-conditioning potential is awesome.

Campaign budgets for 2016 are still being drawn up, but in the last two elections (2010 and 2013), television took roughly 75 percent of political advertising, with radio and print trailing behind at 15 percent and 10 percent respectively.

In this archipelago of some 100 million Filipinos scattered on more than 7,000 islands, most of the 50,760,000 voters registered so far do not have direct personal knowledge of the character and competence of national candidates.

Knowing this, then Vice President Dadong Macapagal (1957-1961) tried, and Vice President Jojo Binay is now mightily trying, to close that sensory gap by going around to shake hands, project their aura and firm up name-recall.

That Herculean physical effort has now been supplemented, or to some extent superseded, by electronic media — mainly by television.

Most people do not have sensory experience of the national candidates (even just seeing them from a distance). Voters rely on, and are influenced by, their perception of the candidates as bounced to them by media. The key media influencer is now television.

With the audio-visual impact of TV, even lies could start having the ring of truth when repeated endlessly. Character assassination via TV has been found effective.

TV’s reach and influence pervasive

NIELSEN Television Audience Measurement (Arianna) has projected the number of TV households in 2015 to be: total PHL, 17,410,000; urban PHL, 9,900,000; and rural PHL, 7,510,000.

It used to be that with the transistorized radio, there were more radios than TVs. Not anymore. Most low-income households now save money to buy, not a new radio, an electric fan or a microwave oven, but – like the neighbors – a TV set however small.

Private broadcast media dominate the field by their sheer reach and improved programming. Television coverage fueled by relentless competition has grown considerably.

Preliminary data from GMA Network show that nationwide there are 47 VHF (Very High Frequency) and 40 UHF (Ultra High Frequency) TV stations, and 20 radio stations and four relay stations.

Government has Channel 4 in Manila and People’s TV nationwide. It also operates Radyo ng Bayan in Manila and Radyo ng Bayan nationwide, dzRM Manila and dyBR fm, its business and music radio.

On broadcast penetration of households, Kantar Media reported during the last election year (2013):

Television – 80.5 percent PHL, 95.4 percent Mega Manila; Radio/stereo – 75.6 percent PHL, 85.8 percent MM; Personal computers – 20.9 percent PHL, 40.8 MM; Home Internet Access – 12.3 percent PHL, 24.6 percent MM; Mobile phone – 85.4 percent PHL, 95.3 percent MM; Smart phone – 23.3 percent PHL, 30.3 percent MM.

SC lifts limits on RTV political ad

TO HELP level the playing field, the Comelec issued a resolution in 2013 reverting to the interpretation of the Fair Election Act of 2001 limiting political advertising to 120 minutes for all TV networks per candidate, and 180 minutes for all radio stations per candidate.

The original rule setting a lower cap to political advertising was changed in 2004 to apply to airtime allowance for each station. But the Supreme Court in a recent unanimous decision ruled that the resolution was arbitrary and violated press freedom.

Asked by Postscript what the rule now is, Comelec information director James Jimenez said the poll body still has to issue a definitive resolution, but that it would hew to the SC decision.

Parties and candidates awash with money can now go on a RTV campaign with virtually no expense limit. Since a candidate can hide his advertising expenses under his party or spread them among his partymates mentioned in the ad in every station, the accounting possibilities are staggering.

That pertains only to advertising. It does not cover commentary programs where candidates can guest or be interviewed. It also does not cover generous sound bites in the news or favorable mentions by broadcast friends

In political advertising, btw, the rule is PBB (pay before broadcast). It is difficult collecting from candidates, whether winner or loser. There is the story of a Forbes Park matron who tapped a popular actress as a campaign talent in her successful senatorial bid but did not pay her after the down payment.

Cost of chasing a nat’l post staggering

THE COST of a 30-second commercial on prime A programs on a giant TV network is P1.1 million to P1.4 million — or P2.3 to P2.8 million for a one-minute commercial.

For a broader view, note these data culled from BDO’s “Money Talks”:

“During the 2010 elections, it is estimated that TV ad spending amounted to P3.37 billion, or 78 percent of the P4.3 billion in total ad cost spent by the candidates.

“Now candidates for national office can again place 120 minutes of airtime per TV station and 180 minutes per radio station during the campaign period.

“For the first half of 2014, ABS-CBN generated consolidated revenues of P16.37 billion, down by 4.7 percent year-on-year as advertising revenues slid by 13.6 percent year-on-year.

“During election years, higher margin political ads take over prime time slots usually bought by corporate advertisers. Thus election years significantly affect margins, but not commercial loading.

“Political ads are priced at a premium — about 25-30 percent higher vis-a-vis regular ad rates — translating to higher profit margins to media networks. Election spending does not seem to affect revenues much, as advertising airtime is after all limited. Political ads simple replace the regular ads.

“In the 2010 elections, these were the Indicative Real Cost of ad spending by candidates for national elective positions, from Feb. 9 to May 8: TV, P3.37 billion; Radio, P925.97 million; Print, P13.20 million.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 5, 2015)

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