Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Willie Revillame's Challenge: News/Reality versus Surreal Entertainment

Whom will the Filipino People choose---watching painful reality as it unfolds or scantily-dressed girls with a wife beater as surreal host?

This is what the controversial host Willie Revillame wants us, televiewers, to decide when he unveiled his newest show, "Willing Willie" over at ABC 5.

The controversial host wants to defeat TV Patrol, the longest-running news and public affairs program in Philippine television and GMA Channel 7's " 24 Oras" in the ratings game. Revillame wants to prove to everybody that he has the star power to trounce a Ted Failon or a Mike Enriquez in the ratings game.

For more than two decades now, the Filipino primetime evening viewing habit has been news and public affairs. This is the only time when everybody runs home and tries to catch the latest news or gossip in town.

With Willie Revillame around, will Filipinos change their viewing habits? Will Revillame successfully redefine Philippine television?

And if Revillame succeeds, will he finally alter the very face and nature of Philippine journalism?

It will be bad news for the public and for the Philippine local media if Revillame succeeds in his dastardly plan. Why?

I am sure that both networks, ABS-CBN Channel 2 and GMA Channel 7 would find ways on how to adapt to a problem such as Willing Willie.

When ABS-CBN tried to defeat RPN 9 news programs (which were the no. 1 news programs during Martial Law), the news network of the Lopezes adopted the tabloid style of reportage. Many people at that time commented in the way ABS-CBN 2 presented the news. Yet, it clicked. The people responded with high approbation. Tabloidism replaced BBC.

Gone were the BBC or CNN type of reportage and was replaced by gory, often violent news. These sensational news stories found extreme support from a public deprived of such staple ware for more than 20 years and those stories resonated because people, for a very long time, were treated with sanitized news reports courtesy of a regime-controlled media. People desired to know what is really happening, and when they saw how gruesome life was, enjoyed it. 

Now, the threat comes from a very controversial host who wants to prove that entertainment, and not news, should be presented to a people, hungry not of information, but of something to uplift their tired spirits affected by much poverty and daily strife.

If Revillame's ratings improve, then, these two giant networks will definitely either replace their programs with entertainment shows or stay with their news and public affairs programs but will alter how news is presented.

The different twist will either be more celebrity or entertainment news to counter Revillame's or more gory and more sensational news stories to catch more attention and provide the "shock factor" which has been the success element these news programs used for decades.

News programs will definitely present more crime stories than before, more gory scenes, more sensational news topics and more "exclusive stories" to at least neutralize the Revillame threat. 

Reporters will either do more baring and daring stories, more exclusives that are below the gut or probably sing and dance while doing the news. News networks would probably recruit more beautiful or cute faces to try and counter Willie Revillame's dancers or bring back the "Voice" in Philippine journalism--Kabayan, to the fore. The only question is, is Kabayan more attractive than Revillame?

If Revillame succeeds, this will be the beginning of the end for local Philippine journalism. News and public affairs programs will again be pushed either prior or after the primetime evening slot, just like what happened in the middle of the 1990's. 

Really, Revillame is doing us, Filipinos, a great disservice. His slapstick comedy, his sarcasm and his bravado will find its target for sure, since Filipinos are tired of seeing the same old things under what is perceived to be a new road to change. 

If he wins, Revillame will set back years of effort trying to make the Filipino an intelligent and more informed member of the global community. If he succeeds, Revillame will again make the Filipino a star-struck, teary-eyed dreamer, dreaming of getting that fast buck from a miscreat and meeting that scantily-clad dancer somewhere, somehow. 

If Revillame succeeds, he will influence behavior and will bring us to a time when nothing is important anymore, nothing is relevant anymore, nothing is reality anymore, but surrealism. Yes, surrealism.

I am sure Revillame will succeed, the only question is, how fast will he do it or how slow will people adopt to the change in their viewing habits.

It has been proven that people preferred a Spanish telenovela before rather than TV Patrol. Filipinos have this tendency of choosing a beautiful artista and be entertained rather than see a girl stuffed in a drum somewhere in Tondo. Filipinos once swooned by the charms of an Argentinian soap opera star than the charms of a Korina Sanchez. Will history repeat itself?

Will Filipinos choose Revillame than a Kabayan or a Mike Enriquez? I am sure that Revillame will eventually succeed since our news programs are getting to be boring to the boorish and too scandalous to a perf. 

Aside from re-programming, networks will probably replace their news editorial teams with those whose experience is entertaining crowds rather than journalism. Maybe the solution is getting back to the BBC style rather than going to where Revillame wants news and public affairs teams to go--to the slack and the slapstick route. As they say, to catch attention, you need to be different.