Media Focus Still Limited to Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates
Discourse Analysis for the Second Monitoring Period (Feb. 21 to March 5)
REPORTS ON the presidential and vice-presidential candidates dominated TV airspace three weeks into the official campaign period, with most of them focused on the conduct of their respective campaigns. The TV newscasts seemed like daily logs on the different candidates’ sorties.
The few reports on the candidates for senator and the party-list groups were mostly about the controversies involving them.
Scope and time frame
For this monitoring period, CMFR monitored the primetime news programs of the three biggest Manila-based TV networks (ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol and TV Patrol Weekend, GMA-7’s 24 Oras and 24 Oras Weekend, and TV5’s Aksyon) aired from Feb. 21 to March 5.
Time allotment and placement
One-hundred and eighty-one (181) reports were election-related out of the total newshole (numbering 754 reports in the monitored TV programs during the period)—or 24 percent of the programs’ combined airtime.
Thirty-six percent of Aksyon’s newshole was devoted to election-related issues, with 83 out of 234 reports (or a total of two hours and five minutes out of the total airtime during the period). CMFR noted that Aksyon provided a variety of reports outside of the daily campaign grind.
24 Oras and 24 Oras Weekend came out with 50 election reports out of 263 reports (a total of two hours). TV Patrol and TV Patrol Weekend had 48 election reports out of 257 reports (a total of two hours and 48 minutes).
Figure 1. Comparison of the overall newshole
Figure 2. Graph comparing number of reports on presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial, and partylist elections
Out of the 181 election reports, 110 (61 percent) focused on the presidential candidates. CMFR noted that the distribution of the number of reports on presidential candidates was almost equal throughout the period, with most reports following their daily campaign activities. The number of reports per candidate included reports in which the candidate was not the primary news subject but was mentioned in the report.
Figure 3. Reports on presidential candidates
Incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay was featured in 55 reports. Sen. Grace Poe was second with 53 reports. Forty-nine (49) reports were about former Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Manuel Roxas II, and 43 about Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Not surprisingly, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was the least covered among the presidential candidates (excluding deceased candidate Roy Señeres), with 30 reports, since she had not been joining campaign sorties and rallies as consistently as the other presidential hopefuls.
The most covered vice-presidential candidate was Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., with 23 reports. Most of the reports on Marcos were on his statements on what supposedly happened during his father’s Martial Law regime.
Figure 4. Reports on vice presidential candidates
The TV news programs gave the least attention to Sen. Antonio Trillanes III, with only 11 out of the 102 reports about vice-presidential candidates. The low number of reports might be due to his running as an independent without a presidential candidate for running mate or any political party.
There has been no increase in media attention on senatorial candidates, who were mentioned only in 34 reports . Boxing champion and Rep. Manny Pacquiao (Saranggani) received the most attention, with 18 reports out of 34. His dominant presence in the news was primarily due to his upcoming boxing match with Timothy Bradley. Another senatorial candidate, former Akbayan party-list representative Walden Bello, questioned the airing of the April 9, 2016 Pacquiao-Bradley fight as it would provide undue advantage to Pacquiao. Bello was featured in six reports.
Figure 5. Reports on senatorial candidates
Similarly, other senatorial candidates landed in the news mainly because of their involvement in political controversies, including their questions about the election law. Their rankings in the surveys also captured media attention.
For example, Richard Gordon gained coverage when he filed a petition for mandamus before the Supreme Court asking it to compel the Commission on Elections to issue Vote Counting Machines (VCM) receipts to voters. Before his petition, Gordon, like most senators, had not been getting any media attention.
Meanwhile, only three out of 181 election-related reports on party-list groups and their nominees were aired.
Controversy also decided reportage of the party-list elections. For example, a party-list group’s first nominee was given air space because of his connection with presidential aspirant and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
In checking the accuracy of the statements of presidential candidates during the Pilipinas Debates 2016, 24 Oras allotted airtime to Sinag Tungo sa Kaunlaran (SINAG) party-list and its first nominee Narciso Santiago III, the son of Senator Santiago. The TV news programs monitored also reported on the Anti-War, Anti-Terror Movement in Mindanao (AWAT) and Gabriela Women’s Party.
Some party-list nominees, however, were interviewed in reports unrelated to the party-list elections. Roxas spokesperson Barry Gutierrez, who is the second nominee of Akbayan Party-list, appeared in news reports identifying him only as the spokesperson of presidential candidate Mar Roxas.
Sixty-six (66) reports in the three TV programs were about campaign sorties and political rallies (see related monitor). Another dominant theme was election law, particularly the disqualification of Grace Poe; the production of receipts of the VCM; and the limitation on TV exposure per candidate in relation to Manny Pacquiao’s April 9 fight with Timothy Bradley.
Political controversies such as Bongbong Marcos’ refusal to apologize for Martial law atrocities, claims that the drug trade in Davao City is continuing, which were thrown at Duterte, and Mar Roxas’ alleged misspending of Yolanda funds were also reported (49 reports).
Development issues were also discussed by 37 TV reports which were mostly about what the candidates had said on the subject. The TV news programs also covered issues related to the implementation of election laws by COMELEC and other government agencies (42 reports).
CMFR found that 62 percent of the news reports was neutral (neither slanted for/against a candidate). Neutral reports included those on the daily campaign grind and on presidential and vice-presidential surveys. The three news programs dealt with election-related controversies with fairness. For example, in the alleged undue media advantage of Pacquiao, Aksyon presented the side of both Bello and Pacquiao in the same Feb. 22 report, even as it explained the basis of Bello’s contention, citing the Fair Elections Act.
However, some reports were slanted for (with 53 reports) or against (with 31 reports) particular candidates. The slant mostly arose from the reporter’s failure to corroborate information from other sources, and was probably due to the current system of one reporter covering one candidate as the reporter’s “beat.” CMFR noted that there were instances in which each party’s side was featured in separate reports aired in the same telecast or in subsequent telecasts. A single news report can be counted as positively or negatively slanted for or against different candidates at the same time.