By Gel Santos Relos
Philippine Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto is demanding the pull-out of a reported $63 Million Dollars worth of advertising spots on the international news channel Cable News Network (CNN), after it aired the documentary “Eye on the Philippines”.
The special feature seen worldwide illustrated poverty and hunger in the country through “pagpag” or left-over chicken scavenged from the garbage by the poor, washed, recooked, and sold to poor Filipinos.
Sotto likewise demands an explanation from the Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, and has even threatened to block the approval of the agency’s budget for next year, if the agency fails to justify the funding for the television commercial that has already premiered on CNN last April 30. (Watch samples of these commercials that aired on CNN below)
As we reported on Balitang America, Tourism Secretary Jimenez, while meeting with Fil-Ams in Los Angeles to promote the "It's More Fun in the Philippines campaign -- responded to Sotto's threat saying:
The Philippines is not without its problems, what did they find out [through the CNN ads] in the end? They [the prospective tourists] found out that we are one of the most progressive countries in our part of the world.
If they want to cut the tourism budget for CNN, they have to think twice."
Like all other advertisers that sell products, services, or a cause like cars, universities, support for a candidate etc., the Philippine Department of Tourism bought 30 second advertising spots to air its "It's More Fun in the Philippines" ad, during the newscast/special event coverage commercial breaks. The goal was to attract more tourists to come to the Philippines, who will then buy Philippine made products, patronize services of Filipinos, thereby creating more jobs and possible investments in the country.
Sotto said the Philippines was stabbed in the back, considering the Philippine government has poured a lot of money on CNN's commercial spots to promote tourism in the country.
“What they featured was about pagpag. There are 90 million Filipinos. Why didn’t CNN feature Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar who came from the poor but rose to become a billionaire? He was so poor then but then became an entrepreneur who became a billionaire. Why feature something like those scrounging for leftovers? ” Sotto asked.
The Senator accused CNN of having a hidden agenda in airing documentaries like the one on “Pagpag”, and another feature titled “Manila’s Baby Factory”. He alleged that CNN purposely chose to focus on the hunger and poverty in the Philippines to link these issues to the contentious Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.
To be fair, CNN's "Eye on the Philippines" also presented the good side of the Philippines. I wonder if Senator Sotto has seen this:
Does Sotto expect CNN to air only good news in their documentaries and disregard the ugly and painful realities the CNN reporters found in Manila, just because the Philippines bought commercial spots?
It is unfortunate that Senator Sotto would think CNN, with its $28.974 Billion revenues in 2011, would throw its journalistic integrity in the garbage, censor stories that document the reality of hunger and poverty in the Philippines, just because the Philippines has brought the network some $63 Million dollars in advertising revenues.
Let us set this clear: CNN produces newscasts and documentaries. Advertisers who want to reach CNN's audience to sell their products buy commercial spots-- usually 30 seconder ads aired during commercial breaks.CNN newscasts and documentaries are separate from and are not in anyway connected to advertising spots in terms of content. The Philippine government did NOT pay CNN to make a documentary. The $63 Million is just for airtime to air DoT commercials "It's More Fun in the Philippines".
Doesn’t Sotto understand that CNN is a news channel, which capitalizes on its independence in editorial judgement and delivery of news and information to stay competitive in the global broadcast media market?
Does Sotto really think throwing some $63 Million dollars in ads makes CNN beholden to the Philippines and act as its Public Relations (PR) machinery to produce reports that will gloss over, if not hide, what their editorial board see as serious problems the Philippines is facing?
Does Sotto really believe that buying advertising spots on CNN is buying the news channel’s journalistic integrity? “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” business proposition? Is this the mindset and culture in the world Sotto operates in that he is imposing on other organizations like CNN?
Unfortunately for Sotto, CNN is not the only news channel illustrating this problem of hunger, poverty and overpopulation in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila. Another respected news organization-- the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) also aired a similar story, “Toughest Place to be a Driver..Manila”.
From the BBC website describing the documentary:
“Josh West is in Manila for two weeks, spending time with local people and experiencing the life of a Jeepney driver.
Manila is a mega city and one of the most crowded places on earth. With no safety net poor people struggle to eke out a living with very little.
Scavenging rubbish and selling plastic or metal that’s found in it is one option but Josh is shocked to see that now even waste food is being recycled and sold to people with their full knowledge. It’s cheap and tastes good and for some poor people “Pagpag”, as it’s called, is their only source of regular protein and may be their only meal of the day.”
These documentaries show the impoverished life of real Filipino people in the Philippines. While they may not represent the kind of life of all Filipinos live, especially not the lavish life that Sotto enjoys--- these programs show the reality of a growing number of Filipinos living in poverty.
The job of CNN, BBC, and other news organizations is to report the news and dig deeper and investigate issues. Most of the time, in uncovering the truth, a bad picture of the country is exposed.
These news organizations do that not only to the Philippines, but to other countries like America, United Kingdom, other European and Asian countries. No one is exempt---even if a country is an advertiser. The facts and pictures do not lie.
These other countries and other advertisers for that matter do not and should not dictate what these news organization should and should not air when they advertise. That's tantamount to bribing, don't you think so?
From a marketing point of view, it makes it even more crucial for the Philippines to buy more ad spots, sponsor segments in travel and entertainment programs to show and sell “Why it is more fun in the Philippines” to show tourists around the world the beautiful aspects of the country.
DoT bought commercial spots on CNN to reach the tourist market around the world. After all, CNN leads audience reach across Europe, Middle East and Africa, in addition to its strong America and Asia viewership.
But more importantly, what Senator Sotto and his allies should instead do is to acknowledge these problems exposed by international news organizations like CNN do, in fact, exist. It is their job as people in government to address these issues head on, determine the root cause of the problem, and then develop and execute a plan of action to solve these problems.
That is what the taxpayers are paying them to do, right?
Watch the CNN, BBC documentaries as well as some commercials of the DoT that aired on CNN during commercial breaks:
The British Broadcasting Company Documentary:
ADVERTISING SPOTS OF DoT ON CNN: