TV Coverage of Napoles Testimony

Janet Lim-Napoles appeared before the Senate today to testify regarding the Pork Barrel scandal. The much-anticipated testimony was covered by most free TV outlets. However, in an apparent deference, ABS-CBN’s free TV channel 2 and Studio 23 opted not to cover the event in full. Instead they only gave updates and partial live feeds on the ongoing testimony. Also, both AksyonTV and TV5 opted to end their coverage by 12:00 p.m. in order to air the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Give every network credit for pooling their resources in order to bring ongoing updates and live coverage on the Napoles testimony. However, I have to criticize both ABS-CBN and TV5 for a variety of reasons. ABS-CBN, for its part, decided to air the entirety of the Napoles testimony exclusively on its cable networks DZMM TeleRadyo and ABS-CBN News Channel. And while they did air a snippet of the live coverage on Channel 2, it is simply not enough. They may have a high number of cable subscribers on its affiliate SkyCable, but they did not oblige to the most important commodity in television viewership: the masses.

TV5, for its part, ended their coverage to give way to the NCAA Final Four. Unfortunately, they covered the entire tournament on both TV5 and AksyonTV when in fact, they only need to air it on TV5 and defer the Napoles coverage to AksyonTV. For some reason AksyonTV wanted to simulcast the NCAA tournament as a ‘test broadcast’ in an effort to improve its signal and reach, something they have also done in the recently concluded PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. But on this day, AksyonTV failed to be the 24-hour news channel that viewers hoped, and their non-airing of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago‘s press conference following the testimony was an insult to the network.

As for GMA News TV, they were able to commit in full to the testimony, even if they have incurred several no-shows in the past. They realized the importance of this issue, and I have to commend them for a job well done. Despite their reputation as a non-24 hour news channel, and their emphasis on tabloid-like reporting, they were able to give way to something national in scope, at least for today.

With the entire nation watching, Janet Lim-Napoles is now thrust in the spotlight, in what has been the most controversial scandal that rocked the government since the plunder case of President Joseph Estrada. And television networks are taking notice.

ERRATUM: TV5 continued to air the Napoles testimony and deferred to AksyonTV for the live NCAA Final Four coverage. Still, it would have been better if TV5 pushed through with the NCAA coverage and gave the Napoles coverage to AksyonTV instead.

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