TV anchors and the news

TV anchors and the news
What you see and what you get
By Junette B. Galagala

They look smart.  They’re sleek. They look you in the eye when delivering the news. And in a job that strives to give an exact picture of a highly imperfect world, they personify perfection.
They are the news anchors, the practitioners of a profession in what must be the most merciless medium in journalism. They not only have to look good—they have to look credible. But at what cost does perfection—and the image of credibility—come?
“News anchors appear at least five days a week in a medium that, unfortunately, also has to be visually appealing,” says Ed Lingao, news manager for ABC-5.  He points out that in the 1950s and 1960s, the most powerful and prestigious American broadcasters like Walter Cronkite cringed at the idea of news anchors wearing makeup.
Certainly, it is more than just makeup that television anchors are expected to wear. In the Philippines, clothes are also a concern.
Lingao admits, “Five wardrobe changes a week with four weeks in a month, and so on, plus daily studio makeup would amount to a hefty sum that could otherwise go to news operations.”
And so, enter the advertisers.
“In this sense, they (advertisers) help defray production costs,” Lingao says.

The ex-deal
Known as the exchange deal, or ex-deal, companies offer certain production necessities in a show, like the anchors’ clothing and accessories, hairstyle, makeup, and skin care.  In return, these companies are acknowledged in the rolling credits at the end of the program (known as the closing billboard or CBB).  This serves as payment for the goods and services; cash is not a component in ex-deals.
For ABS-CBN 2 newscasters, the station hires a stylist who goes over the news anchors and suggests the clothing styles suitable for them. At first, the stylist would serve as go-between for the designers or boutiques and the anchors, requesting that they lend clothes for specific anchors for a week.  Through the stylist, the reporter receives an initial two or three sets of clothing for free.  From then on, the newscaster is expected to buy his or her own outfits according to the suggested fashion.
John Manalastas, news production unit manager for GMA-7, says, “It is common practice for stations to allow ex-deals for their anchors/hosts for goods and services used, in relation to the performance of their on-cam (on-camera) work.  They are free to give their inputs as to their preferences, and as long as program managers agree with these choices as conforming with the needs of the program, these form part of the program’s closing credits.”
At ABC-5, anchors make arrangements with sponsors of their choice and are assisted by the network.  The station then reviews and confirms the deal.  Usually, it is the marketing department that fixes the deals for broadcast companies.

Invisible costs
Clothing allowances are generally not part of networks’ bonuses for employees.  Luchi Cruz Valdes, Channel 2’s current affairs head, says that in ABS-CBN, those who appear on cam are “under tremendous pressure to look good.”  She says the company can pay for the suits but these would be “a drain on our resources.”
The network therefore helps anchors find ex-deals so that they “won’t have to lack in clothing (or) in accessories that are necessary for you to project a decent appearance.”
Previously, news anchors had to coordinate ex-deals on their own.  Better-known newscasters would often have sponsors ready and willing to offer their goods and services in exchange for the graphic credit at the end of the show.
Valdes, however, emphasizes that merchandise are not acquired for free in exchange deals.  She says that ex-deals are business propositions, and in ABS-CBN’s case, corporations are actually buying airtime.  She adds that even the size of the graphics needs to be regulated so that “everything should be worth what you give them.”
Singapore-based Channel NewsAsia, an Asian news channel, also subscribes to the same arrangement for its news anchors.  MediaCorp News, which owns and manages Channel NewsAsia, contracts sister company MediaCorp Studios Pte. Ltd. to see to the newscasters’ wardrobe, hair, and makeup.
MediaCorp Studios provides hair and makeup artists and facilitates the loaning of clothes suitable for the newscasters.  The clothes are chosen according to the newscasters’ preference and the type of show they host. The clothes are returned after use.  The boutiques and department stores then receive a three-second on-air acknowledgment as payment.
When credits do not appear at the end of the show, either the anchors chose to wear their own outfits or the suits were taken from the company’s wardrobe stock.  This occurs when the shops run low on supplies.

Ads for survival
Since media corporations largely thrive on advertising for income, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) suggests that a program’s sponsors be acknowledged in the CBB.
The KBP prohibits the citing of product or service providers—such as “hairdressers, clothes, makeup, shoes”—within the program. It also says that commercials should be discernible from the news and that advertisements using news personalities and employing the news format be banned.
Indicating that the practice of having credits scrolled at the end of the news is fair and justified, Lingao points out that a network “aims to make clear that these credits are no longer part of the news, while at the same time giving credit to those who provided some sort of support to the news organization.”  He says that the CBB acknowledgments are different from direct product endorsements that some news readers do.
He says, “The point of rolling the credits after the newscast is to precisely isolate the main news from advertisers.  The same goes with airing commercials only during commercial gaps, not during the newscast itself.”
According to Valdes,  ex-deals have absolutely no effect on the credibility of the newscasters.  Neither do they become beholden to their advertisers. She points out, for example, that the network has  done stories about cosmetic surgeon Vicky Belo’s clients who have complained about her services.  Belo’s side was also aired.
Han Chuan Quee, vice-president for corporate services of MediaCorp News, adds, “As far as we know, viewers do not see any compromise to an anchor’s credibility by wearing any particular brand of clothes.”
In a business deal, all parties know what to expect from one another.

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