The way you sound tonight

DRAWING AN audience entails substantial research into the demographics of the  viewing public. According to ABS-CBN’s current affairs head Luchi Cruz Valdes, the audience profile became more masa in the late 1990s.
When ABS-CBN launched TV Patrol as its primetime newscast in 1987, it banked on the concept of bringing radio—which was then the masses’ primary source of information—to television.
From dzMM’s Radyo Patrol, radio commentator Noli de Castro was brought to TV Patrol.  At that time, according to Valdes, De Castro “personified the kind of radio reportage that was so close to the masses.”  Taking one more cue from radio, ABS-CBN executive Freddie Garcia introduced the use of Filipino in television news.
It is no coincidence that Mike Enriquez, one of GMA-7’s anchors for its primetime newscast, 24 Oras, also came from radio.  A radio talent for more than 20 years,  Enriquez joined GMA-7 Network in 1995 as one of Saksi’s hosts.  Enriquez was GMA-7’s answer to ABS-CBN’s De Castro.

Nature of the medium
There was a time when news anchors spoke simply and calmly. But when radio personalities were brought to television, that changed considerably.
Radio personalities brought with them to TV their bombastic style of talking.
Valdes says that by the mid-1990s, there had been increasing complaints against loud news anchors, mainly by the AB class who were also used to hearing newscasts delivered in English.
Responding to the complaints, she says ABS-CBN adjusted by reformatting TV Patrol and renaming it TV Patrol World in 2004.  She also notes that GMA-7 reporters now usually deliver the news in a calmer way.
Still Valdes says there was a need for the network to attune itself to the audience, otherwise the ratings would drop.
“What’s the point of preaching to an empty church?” she asks.
Something else happened.
ABC-5 news head Ed Lingao says, “When news programs started making money, the ratings began to matter more and more and in order to rate more, news programs mixed in other elements into the pot, like entertainment.  Soon, anchors not only had to deliver entertainment news, they had to be entertaining as well.”
He says it was ABS-CBN that pioneered in “tabloid television” when it put in newscasters who focused on crime, heartbreaking stories, opinions, or entertainment. He adds that ABS-CBN also started erasing the line between opinion and news when it introduced the late-night newscast Pulso: Aksyon Balita and put in radio commentators as anchors.
Valdes, however, says that the entertainment segment in ABS-CBN’s news programs was among the strengths of TV Patrol  in 1988. She adds that ABS-CBN’s ratings even improved with the introduction of segments like the “Good News” and “Citizen Patrol.”
She adds that the news program continues to have the same categories when this was launched in 1987: hard news, sports, showbiz, features, world news,  and crime.  The only portion that was deleted was the editorial, which they figured did not belong to the newscast.
Justifying the inclusion of showbiz stories in the news programs, Valdes says TV news has entertainment in the same way that newspapers have such sections.  Admittedly, however, she says that the innovations shocked the AB class which saw the newscast “being turned into something masa overnight.”
Cheche Lazaro of Probe  agrees, saying, “From a practical point of view, it (entertaining style) is what catches the audience’s attention.  Viewers enjoy being entertained.”

Winning formula
So what makes a TV news program click?  Is it the anchors or the segmentation?  Do networks format their shows mainly to rake in ratings or to inform the viewers?
Lingao says that mixing crime, sex, and violence with a “barking” newscaster seems to be a winning formula for the two biggest networks and for some of the smaller stations who copied that style.  He adds that before TV Patrol, other networks had newscasters who “read with slow, gravelly voices.”
Valdes, however, points out that ABS-CBN’s use of radio personalities as anchors was not for entertainment but for attracting the masa.  She points to GMA-7 and says the radio reporting format—along with Enriquez’s bombastic style of news delivery— must be a factor in 24 Oras’s number one standing for the past two years.
“At the end of the day, it’s still about credibility, approachability.  It’s still about accuracy, fairness in the reportage… it’s still the basics of journalism,” she says.  She adds that for breaking news, the news deliverer is no longer a factor and is overshadowed by speed and a complete video.
Nevertheless, Lingao contends that the larger networks go the extra mile to foster anchor loyalty, since it boosts the network’s image as well as its ratings.
“That is why networks are very protective of their anchors and their image.  For this reason, anchors are also the highest paid people in the news departments of the big networks,” he says.
Most networks, however, agree that in delivering the news, the basic qualities of firmness, clarity and vocal modulation are necessary. “TV is an audio and video medium. All programs will try to satisfy the requirements of the medium,” says John Manalastas, news unit production manager for GMA-7 .
And that means not just looking good, but sounding good as well. n
—Junette B. Galagala

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