First Report: TV, Broadsheets Covered Most Well Known Candidates for Senator in First Two Weeks of the Campaign (Feb. 12-24, 2013)

Written on March 20, 2013 – 3:15 am | by mediaandelections |

Given the special nature of the 2013 campaign and elections, and in general, the role of elections in the making of Philippine democracy, 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 are taking place, and the opportunity for improved and meaningful reporting and analysis the exercise offers to the Philippine media.

From Feb. 12 to 24, CMFR monitored the major publications and television news programs for their election coverage. The newspapers covered were Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and The Philippine Star. CMFR monitored the following TV programs: 24 Oras (GMA-7), Aksyon (TV5), Newslife (PTV 4), Solar Network News (Solar TV), and TV Patrol (ABS-CBN). CMFR is also reviewing the coverage of other newspapers, TV news and public affairs programs, and news websites as part of its regular media monitor.

To know more about the project and its findings, please visit http://www.cmfr-phil.org/mediaandelections.


The news media coverage of print and television during the first two weeks of the 2013 midterm elections was mostly focused on the rivalry between the senatorial candidates of Team PNoy, the administration party, and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (Team UNA). But also emphasized was the involvement of the then three common candidates of both Team PNoy and Team UNA: Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, and Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

Senatorial elections

This year’s midterm polls will see candidates fighting for local, party-list, congressional, and senatorial elections. But the press coverage of the elections primarily focused on the campaign for senator.

Out of 144 stories on the elections, 87 were about the senatorial elections. The log-book reporting type of following the candidates in their sorties—a usual feature of election reporting—marked the first two weeks of the coverage. The news reports were about the proclamation rallies and campaign sorties of both Team PNoy and Team UNA. The reports usually indicated where the event was held, the candidates present and missing, the reasons behind the decision to conduct a rally in the province, and the next step in the itinerary.

Reports about “campaign conduct” accounted for 35 percent of the coverage. Excessive coverage however was given the three common candidates of the two warring senatorial lineups who were later dropped by Team UNA as candidates: Escudero, Legarda, and Poe-Llamanzares.

The first two weeks were also marked by accusations and counteraccusations between Teams PNoy and UNA.

Despite it seeming completeness, the coverage lacked efforts to report on all the senatorial candidates to the public, especially those who are running from minor political parties or as independents. These candidates as well as their platforms and advocacies were hardly mentioned, let alone reported in any depth. Those senatorial candidates running under Teams PNoy and UNA were lopsidedly the subjects of the news reports.

Also overlooked in the daily news coverage were development and policy issues.

Elections in general

Aside from the campaign strategies of the parties, covered in print and broadcast were the election rules, violations, voters’ education efforts and other Commission on Elections (COMELEC)-related issues such as the disqualification cases against candidates from political dynasties and concerns about the automated elections. This year’s midterm polls will be just the second time the Philippines will have nationwide automated elections.

The press also provided a number of reports on violations of campaign rules, such as the illegal display of posters, Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal’s controversial iPad contest, vote-buying, and election gun ban issues. The press did explain the rules on campaign materials, what items are considered election bribes, and the actions to be taken against the violators.

For example, last Feb. 12, both 24 Oras and TV Patrol explained COMELEC’s rules and regulations on where election posters can be displayed. The Star last Feb. 16 (“Gift Giving or Vote Buying” also reported on COMELEC guidelines against vote buying.

Election specials

The TV news programs also included excerpts from their various election specials and public affairs programs. These news excerpts were from ABS-CBN 2’s Kampanya Serye, GMA-7’s Eleksyon 2013, PTV-4’s Hatol ng Bayan, Solar Network News’s Election 2013, and TV5’s Pagbabago 2013.

The three broadsheets had special sections for their reports on the elections: “Campaign Briefs” (Star), “Election News” (Bulletin), and “Vote 2013” (Inquirer).

“Campaign Briefs” gave readers an idea of the platforms of various senatorial bets. However, the information was limited and hardly in-depth. Readers who would have wanted more information about the candidates’ platforms will need to look for other sources. Solar Network News has a separate segment called “Inform in 100” which seeks to educate voters in 100 days about 100 different election-related issues from the history of elections to narco-politics in the country and many others. Stories in this segment were supported by research and contributions from historians and political experts.

Subjects and sources

Prominent as subjects and sources of information in both the broadsheets and TV were the senatorial candidates from Teams PNoy and UNA. The top sources cited were UNA spokesperson Toby Tiangco, and the so-called “three kings of UNA”—Former president Joseph Estrada (who is currently running as Manila mayor), Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. The top administration sources were President Benigno Aquino III and Team PNoy spokesperson Miro Quimbo.

COMELEC chair Sixto Brillantes and spokesperson James Jimenez also landed as top news sources.

Slant

Overall, the coverage was largely neutral. There were some exceptions, however. For example, in a Feb. 13 article (“Senatorial bets dish out promises, vow to improve people’s welfare”), the Star published a photo of its staff posing with senatorial bet Edgardo Sonny Angara. There were several candidates mentioned in the article including Angara but he was the only candidate who appeared in the photo with the staff.

Although it had reports on Team UNA, Newslife’s reports focused mainly on Team PNoy’s senatorial candidates.

Political Ads

In the first two weeks, the political advertisements that appeared during the airing of news programs were for Ernesto Maceda, Richard “Dick” Gordon, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Madrigal, and Makabayan bet Teddy Casino.

Just like in 2007

The reporting during the first two weeks of the 2013 replicated media coverage of past elections. In CMFR’s monitor of the news media coverage of the 2007 midterm elections, the candidates from the administration and opposition parties who were already well-known were amply covered to the detriment of other senatorial candidates.

There was also very little coverage of the party-list elections in the first three weeks of the campaign in 2007, despite these elections’ being national in scope.

Will we see more of the same news media coverage this year that has characterized every election campaign?

– Nicole Marie T. Abania, Mary Anne V. Ablanida, Titus M. Calauor, and Sharmaine A. Ramos

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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