Full of themselves, is what ABS-CBN seems to be, after the presidential and vice-presidential candidates cancelled on their tandem debates for Harapan 2010. In truth, if I were these candidates, I would’ve backed out too, in favor of a miting de avance or campaign sortie in a far-flung province or city. The point is simple: who watches TV, a debate of all things, and who will go out and listen to the music, watch the fireworks, see artistas on a stage?
What this points to, quite simplistically, are markets, is access, is social divisiveness.And the middle class illusion that everyone has equal access to technology.
After all, ABS-CBN’s disappointments is borne mostly of its celebration of its use of new technology that has people actively responding to the debates they have been able to mount so far.
But where I work, teachers who lost their television sets to Ondoy have yet to buy new ones – it is in fact, far down in their list of appliances to buy. Where I work, we also don’t have easy access to the internet. Where I work, a debate is the last thing that will spell the different between voting for Noynoy and voting for Gibo and voting for Villar. Where I work, what spells a difference in presence and promises.
And this is my basis for thinking that ABS-CBN is all hot air here – it cannot, will not, should not speak as if this is the loss of the greater public. There is nothing extraordinary about the debates they have come up with. It does generate interest, yes, and we do watch and make candidates’ mistakes and fab answers our status updates. But that doesn’t mean it does a lot. In fact it fails horribly at asking the right questions, or even talking at length about the more important issue that might actually solve poverty.
Instead, half the time, it’s all punchlines and laughter and sensational statements, the status quos that we live with. Harapan 2010 will not go in depth about globalization or imperialism, America’s presence or foreign ownership of land, agrarian reform or workers’ rights, because that would point a finger at the industry that it is part of, the company it is created within, ABS-CBN as cultural empire, the Lopezes as oligarchy.
If anything, Harapan 2010, while informative, yes, and interesting and fun for the social classes ready to laugh at and praise our candidates, is also about television ratings, and the social and corporate responsibility of a media organization such as ABS-CBN. That in itself is replete with meanings, and cannot be dismissed as simply about being in the service of the Filipino. Utang na loob.