Walang balita

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By Gary Covington

Looking In

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


WALANG kinikilingan.

Walang pinoprotektahan.

Walang balita.

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GMA's programming people keep fiddling with the early evening local news. Now it logically precedes the national news; now it doesn't. Now it's at 5 p.m.; now 4. 30. Now it's 30 minutes long, now, an hour and somehow that 60 minutes has to be filled up.

Half of the hour is advertisements - Tuesday 25 minutes, Wednesday 27, Thursday 26; no stopwatch required, there's the time ticking away down in the right-hand corner of the picture. Segment times? I'm not sure how this works but it must depend on the quantity of pre-recorded news versus the evening's duty reporter who is hanging on the end of a live feed, the time devoted to each feature unrelated to its relevance, importance or even newsworthiness.

For example, Tuesday's fire on Quirino merited an uninterrupted 12 minutes, an unwarranted length of time for such a minor blaze – nothing like last month's monster Boulevard conflagration - with the reporter almost literally kicking over every charred timber and buckled GI sheet. No other item on Tuesday's news rated more than two minutes. Twenty seconds was all it took to tell us a Korean firm was planning to submit a proposal for a citywide light railway people-mover. Important news I'd have thought, news that might affect all of us while a piddling downtown fire - 10 cheek-by-jowl coco-lumber and plywood flimsies destroyed - gets a solid 12 minutes? Half the total program time?

Wednesday no item merited more than two minutes except a promo-puff for the forthcoming Araw ng Catalunan Pequeno (5 minutes) and six minutes detailing how the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) was laying down a ten-inch strip of asphalt on selected bits of the Davao/Bukidnon highway. Close-ups of a guy pouring out sticky goo, another tipping asphalt; longer shots of road-rollers, flagmen, bollard movers, shovel-leaners. This was Major Tedium and Tek did his best; would this make the road safer for bikers who were continually coming to grief at the step where the inner and outer lanes didn't quite meet? Other motorists? Ongoing rehabilitation of an almost new highway? More close-ups. Bucket. Asphalt. Roller. Roll on tomorrow. Yawn.

Thursday was a better news day but still demonstrated how the program relies on its live reporter to fill in the time. Two items were longer than two minutes. First came an interview with Davao's police chief speaking on various issues - crime up 11 percent; progress on the recent killings of prominent figures, P1.3-million reward up for grabs for this one, nothing for information leading to the arrest of whoever murdered a tricycle driver the same day - then an interview with 2nd
I/C LTO (Land Transportation Office) who's getting good at this; quiet and sober comments on the latest LTO penalties for illegal PUVs as opposed to a representative of the various PUV driver's groups who, handed a microphone and the camera all to himself, started well but soon clicked into rant mode. Not for long. Cut. Time for some ads.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 24, 2014.

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