CMFR Monitor of the News Media Coverage of the 2010 National and Local Elections (Feb. 10-27): Aquino was the most covered presidential candidate in print

Written on March 13, 2010 – 8:26 am | by mediaandelections |

DISCOURSE  ANALYSIS
PRINT
(FEB 10-27, 2010)


AQUINO WAS THE MOST COVERED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Print focused on the presidential campaign
to the neglect of the senatorial and party list elections

The Liberal Party’s Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Cojuangco Aquino III was the most covered candidate in the country’s three biggest newspapers during the first three weeks of the official campaign. Manuel “Manny” Villar of the Nacionalista Party followed closely. A far third was administration candidate and former Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.

Compared with that of the presidential candidates, print coverage of the  vice-presidential and senatorial candidates was far less. More disappointing was the coverage of party-list groups despite serious concerns over whether all of the groups that had been accredited by the Commission on Elections —187 as of press time—really represent “marginalized” sectors as the Party List Law mandates.

The country’s biggest papers provided what seemed to be extensive coverage of development or policy issues. But the coverage  was mostly  superficial, with  these issues being barely discussed  in the reports.

In fact, more than half of the front-page reports analyzed did not provide sufficient background information for readers to understand the issues being discussed.


Scope

The broadsheets monitored were the Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and The Philippine Star. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) analyzed the front pages of these three papers from February 10 (a day after the official campaign started) to 27.

CMFR looked at the reports on the presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial, and party-list elections. Reports on the elections in general, such as the country’s preparedness to undertake its first nationwide automated polls in May and election rules, were also included in the monitor. Reports exclusively about local elections were not analyzed.

The monitor included the front-page commentaries of Inquirer columnist Amando Doronila. Photos published on the front pages that did not have accompanying reports (“stand-alone” photos) were also included in the monitor.


Number of front-page reports

From Feb. 10-27, almost half of the front-page articles/items in the three papers were about the presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial, party-list elections and general issues about the campaign and upcoming elections (200 out of a total of 478 articles/items or 41.84 percent). A number were at the same time on several levels or categories of the elections.

1 Number of front-page reports

Of the three papers monitored, the Inquirer had the most reports about the elections (81), closely followed by the Star (79). The Bulletin provided 40 election-related reports on its front page.

Of the 200 reports included in the monitor, 120 (or 60 percent) were on the presidential elections. There were 61 reports/items on the vice-presidential elections.

Some old problems in the coverage of previous elections persist. These include the extensive focus provided the presidential candidates, often at the expense of the public’s knowledge about the senatorial and party-list candidates,  and understanding of the issues related to the senatorial and party-list elections. In the three weeks of coverage, there were only 55 reports about the senatorial elections despite the fact that there are 61  candidates for senator.

In its monitor of the 2007 elections, CMFR recommended, in  the coverage of the 2010 elections, that the media “broaden  coverage of the party-list elections, smaller parties, and lesser known candidates to offset the advantage of well-funded parties and individuals who have the means to advertise over television as the now preferred medium for political advertisements.” In the first three weeks of the campaign however, only 15 out of 200 reports (7.5 percent) reported on the party-list groups and issues.

A number of reports focused on the conduct of elections in general, especially the preparedness of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its partner Smartmatic-TIM in ensuring the integrity and transparency of the polls, which for the first time will be automated nationwide. The Bulletin’s Feb. 27 account on the status of the poll machines to be used was one such report (“All election machines delivered today—Comelec”)

Some accounts, such as Amando Doronila’s Feb. 22 commentary (“Scenarios of doom of polls fail”), focused on the current power shortage in the Philippines and its possible effect on the May elections. The arrest and detention of 43 health workers in Rizal also became an election issue, with some candidates commenting on it and/or addressing the human rights situation in the country.


Placement

Of the 200 election-related reports, 34 (or 17 percent) landed as banners or lead stories in the three papers. Forty-five (22.5 percent) were published above the fold of the front page, while most (121 or 60.5 percent out of 200 stories) were published below the fold.

2 Placement


Subjects

Among the presidential candidates, it was Aquino who was most reported on  in the three papers during the first three weeks of the campaign. Aquino, whose political viability as a presidential candidate rose dramatically  after the death of former President Corazon Aquino a few months before the elections, was a subject in 76 reports by the Bulletin, the Inquirer, and the Star. Aquino’s chief rival for the presidency, Villar, was a close second with 69 reports.

Aquino and Villar were frequently reported in the three papers as addressing various issues, including endorsements by celebrities and religious groups and their high rankings in the surveys.

Villar was a daily news staple in the period monitored because of numerous controversies attached to him, such as the C-5 road extension project controversy, his supposedly lavish campaign spending, and allegations that he is the secret candidate of the incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The papers reported Aquino’s support by numerous celebrities (including his  sister Kris Aquino), the Comelec’s initial ruling against celebrity endorsements, the controversy regarding the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and Hacienda Luisita. Aquino was also the focus of many reports days before and during the 24th anniversary of the EDSA People Power I anniversary which occurred in the first three weeks of the campaign. In 1986, People Power I overthrew  the Marcos dictatorship and installed Aquino’s mother, Corazon, to the presidency.

Teodoro of the ruling Lakas-Kampi CMD received only 38 reports/items while former president and convicted and pardoned plunderer Joseph Estrada was a subject in 38 reports. Other candidates were in only a few reports, among them Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon (19 reports); evangelist Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva (18); Sen. Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal (17); Ang Kapatiran’s John Carlos “JC” delos Reyes (11); and environmentalist Jesus Nicanor “Nicky” Perlas (10). Vetellano “Dodong” Acosta, whom the Comelec later disqualified, received the least number of reports (4).

Many reports about the presidential candidates focused on their day-to-day campaign sorties. Although some were on the issues they addressed in various fora or debates, only a handful tried to extensively discuss their position or stand on the issues. For example, the Inquirer’s Feb. 10 report on Teodoro (“GMA no-show in Gibo’s proclamation rally) merely listed his platform on various issues (such as education, infrastructure, and land reform) without offering any  explanation why his platform is focused on those issues.  The same was true of a report on Sen. Richard Gordon on Feb. 14, also in the Inquirer (“Gordon wants tax on text to hike teachers’ pay to P40K”).

3 Presl Candidates

Except for a handful (the exceptions include the Inquirer’s account of the reaction by some candidates to  the “Morong 43” controversy), most accounts on the vice-presidential candidates focused on their support or reaction to controversies involving their standard bearers. As in the coverage of presidential contenders, the papers monitored extensively provided straight, diary-type accounts of what was going on on the campaign trail.

There were some attempts to discuss the views of the  vice-presidential candidates on an issue or policy question. The Inquirer and the Star on Feb. 10 for instance reported the seven-point agenda of Nacionalista guest vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda.  But other than merely outlining her agenda, both the Inquirer and the Star failed to provide in-depth discussion of it, or how she would realize her goals when she wins the elections.

Legarda and Manuel “Mar” Roxas (of the Liberal Party) were the most covered among the VP candidates. There were 27 reports about Roxas, while Legarda got 22. The third most covered candidate was Makati mayor Jejomar “Jojo” Binay (15 reports), followed by administration candidate Eduardo “Edu” Manzano (10 reports). Other VP candidates received less than 10 reports in the weeks monitored.

4 VPresl Candidates

The most covered senatorial candidates  were either incumbent senators or are already well-known, such as Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (14),  Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.  (11) and survey front-runner and actor Ramon Revilla Jr. (10). A few new contenders for the Senate also received some coverage, among them  former Bukidnon 1st District Rep. Nereus “Neric” Acosta Jr. (9), Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros Baraquel (8), and jailed general Danilo Lim (8).

A sizeable chunk of the coverage of the senatorial candidates was on their reactions to various controversies and the  findings of polling institutions such as Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.

One exception to the papers’ mostly covering the already well known was a story by the Inquirer, a Feb. 26 feature on Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino senatorial bet Jose Apolinario “Jun” Lozada, the namesake of a controversial whistleblower of a national broadband network project controversy (“The pros and cons of being ‘Jun Lozada’”). Although Lozada is relatively unknown, the Inquirer provided readers his background, including his career experience as a former diplomat, congressman, and Cabinet official.

5 Senatorial Candidates

The controversies involving some party-list groups and their candidates, especially accusations that they are administration or opposition fronts, generated only a few reports. Among the most covered groups were Ang Galing Pinoy (AG), which reportedly has Arroyo son and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” as lead nominee, and 1-UTAK, which has  Arroyo ally and energy secretary Angelo Reyes for lead nominee. AG and personalities linked with AG were in 19 reports, while 1-UTAK and reported allies were discussed in four reports. The Gabriela Women’s Party nominees were cited in the coverage only for their positions on the “Morong 43” controversy.

And yet substantial discussion is needed on the original intent of Republic Act No. 7941 (the Party-list System Act), and on whether the Comelec- accredited groups  in fact meet the law’s requirements. Another urgent issue the media have not addressed are the rules on the selection of a party-list group’s candidates.

6 Party list groups


Themes

Many reports did not just focus on one theme. One report, for example, may discuss several themes at once, such as “campaign finances”, “development/policy issues”, and “poll automation”.

The usual controversies during the period monitored (“Other issues”) dominated the coverage (90 times). Discussions on development/policy issues (53 times) came in second, although it should be stressed that despite the seemingly high number of instances when development/policy issues were mentioned, these were not discussed in any significant way. Not much discussion of the candidates’ positions on these issues was provided in the coverage. Campaign conduct, such as on the campaign trail and campaign strategy, as well as political advertisements (52 times) and various Comelec-related issues, such as election rules and voters’ registration (41) were also among the most covered themes.

7 Themes

As mentioned earlier, development/policy issues were mentioned in numerous reports but were at best merely given cursory explanations. For example, the Inquirer’s Feb. 17 account listed numerous issues that the presidential bets supposedly discussed at a forum. These included the budget deficit, the power crisis, poverty, corruption, among others, but the account merely mentioned these issues in passing (“Noynoy annoyed by moderator’s bias for Villar”)

8 Devt Policy issues

Among the other issues discussed during the period monitored were the current power crisis (19 times), endorsements by celebrities or media figures (19 times), the commemoration of EDSA People Power 1, and quick references to People Power 2 (14); and the support of various religious groups (9).

9 Other issues


Photos and artwork

Among the three papers, the Inquirer had the most photos and caricatures for its election-related reports (78 as opposed to Star’s 28 and Bulletin’s 8).

10 Use of photos and artwork

Aquino was not only the most covered candidate during the period monitored; he also had the most number of photos in the three papers (17). His cousin, Teodoro, had 12.

While the presidential, vice-presidential, and senatorial candidates had  their photos and caricatures featured during the period monitored, there was no photo or caricature that featured the party-list groups and their nominees.

11 Photos of candidates

12 Caricatures


Sources

The presidential candidates who were most reported on were also the most cited sources among them. Aquino, who was covered in 76 reports, was the leading source cited in 34 reports. Villar, who followed Aquino as the second most covered candidate, was cited in 27 reports.  The third most-covered candidate, Teodoro, was a source in 15 reports. There were 10 instances in which Estrada, the fourth most-covered candidate, was used as a source.

13 Pres'l Candidates as sources

14 Senatorial Candidates as sources

Because of the controversies surrounding them during the period, AG and those personalities linked with the group such as Mikey Arroyo were the most-cited party-list sources.

15 Party list Candidates as sources


Background

Virtually one in every two articles/accounts on elections did not contain any background information on the subject of the report. This was largely evident in the case of the Star, with 64 out of 79 articles/accounts (81.01 percent) failing to provide adequate background information on the issue being discussed.

Some items that were independent from other reports/items on the front page (such as “stand-alone” photos) did not have space for background information. Thus, background information on those items were marked “N/A” (not applicable).

16 Background


Slant

The coverage was largely neutral (175 out of 200 reports/items or 87.5 percent). Some of these however, especially in the case of the Bulletin, seemed based on announcements and notices from the camps of the candidates.

Some reports contained more than one slant for or against a candidate, institution, or group. CMFR included all stories/items for or against any of the candidates, groups, or institutions. It is thus possible that a report may have been slanted for someone/something and at the same time slanted against another candidate, group, or institution.

During the period monitored, the Bulletin had the highest number of positive slants (13) while the Star had the most reports with negative slants (11).

17 Slant

18 Positive slant

19 Negative slant

CMFR Monitor of the News Media Coverage of 2013 Elections

Given the special nature of the 2013 campaign and elections, the media’s role as credible and critical sources of information and analysis during the election season bears watching. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is monitoring the news media coverage of the 2013 campaign and elections in the context of both the special circumstances in which they were taking place, and the opportunity for improved and meaningful reporting and analysis the exercise offered to the Philippine media. 

CMFR has been monitoring media coverage of Philippine elections since 1992, and in every instance has made recommendations towards the improvement of media coverage. These efforts have not been unrewarded. Changes in media coverage incorporating some of the recommendations of the CMFR monitor in 2004 were evident, for example, in the media coverage of the 2007 elections.


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