Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why can't local TV stations give us a good story?

TV Times, 12-18 March 1978


Now a couple of years removed from active participation in the television industry (Author's note: This was written, as you can see above, in 1978. I left television work in 1976.), I could not help but listen with both sympathy and amusement as Ma-an Hontiveros, producer and co-host of
Ms.Ellaneous, and Freddie Infante of Network Marketing Corp.talked eloquently and passionately about the problems of the industry. The three of us found ourselves sharing the front table at a seminar on the communication arts and chewing on the same morsel: the Philippine television industry.

The realities, the "givens" of the industry, it seems, have not changed, much less improved, in the two years since I left it. Freddie said it was all a question of "money" (though Channel 7, we understand, should be the last to complain about money these days). Ma-an sounded off with her usual persuasiveness on the problems of independent producers: low ratings, ultimatums from management to reformat or else, inadequate technical facilities, the desirability of government subsidy, the reluctance of advertisers, the need to compromise standards in order to stay on the air.

These were the old complaints and I heard them all long ago, from network executives who sanctimoniously lectured from their plush swivel chairs and from production assistants who sweated it out on all-night stands in studios and editing rooms.

Unfortunately, however much I may sympathize with them, many of the people in the industry will still have to answer for the poor content of local television. Not the form, sometimes not even the format. The
content. I can excuse technical incompetence for a time as unavoidable while Filipino technologists take the time to learn their craft or buy their cameras. But I cannot excuse shallow plots and infantile storylines.

It certainly should not cost too much money--and the station's stockholders should not lose much, either--to look for young, new, fresh talents who write well, are less tired and more energetic. My main quarrel, after all, is still with the quality of the stories--rather than the quality of the technology--that are shoved through the TV tubes by writers who should probably be given a long vacation.

Why are our local dramas not only spineless but also stupid? Why can producers not choose for dramatization original storylines that deal with more than soupy and syrupy tales of love and longing? And if we cannot get original storylines, we shall surely not mind adaptations. The great storehouse of world literature exists precisely for us all to enjoy. Why shouldn't local television mine it? Besides, there is Philippine history. Television, if it will only take on the challenge, can make our country's history live and breathe for this generation through dramatizations that will truly touch the minds and hearts of Filipino televiewers.

To reason out that the mass audience will turn off when presented with a good story is judging the case before it has been tried. The viewers who really wait to watch Nora Aunor will watch Nora Aunor, whether the story is good or bad. So why not give them a good story?

What saddens me particularly is why, if producers like Armida Siguion-Reyna with her
Aawitan Kita and Ma-an Hontiveros with her Ms.Ellaneous can apply intense dedication and enormous energies to their productions and come up, week after week, with shows that exhibit intelligent care and concern for the sensibilities of the viewing audience, we cannot seem to expect the same from all other producers who make a living from television. If the Palanca Memorial Awards Theater and Fort Santiago can decide to risk oblivion by coming up with a creditable monthly rather than pull in the gravy with a bad weekly, why should network managers not demand that all local dramatic productions exhibit at least narrative strength, or not be exhibited at all?

-- NBT

No title in original published column

No comments: