Padilla: Gerbner reading Cardo Dalisay

Obiter Dictum

I THOUGHT I was skimming through fake news when I read about Albayalde flagging ‘Ang Probinsyano’s’ portrayal of the Philippine National Police. But in the same week, the DILG mulled filing a case against the TV series while the PNP also announced it will cease from allowing the same show the use of the organization’s personnel, equipment, and facilities. Does ‘Ang Probinsyano’ really pose a threat to the Philippine police?

The longest study of the ill-effects of mass media on society was by George Gerbner of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. For more than 20 years, Gerbner’s Cultural Indicators Research Project examined the impact of growing up and living with television and developed the cultivation theory which posited that stories told by a culture shapes an individuals’ values and behavior. The Mean World Syndrome was a conclusion of the Cultivation Theory which deals with the impact watching television has on the way people see the world. The effects of cultivation was broken down into two levels -- the general beliefs about the way we see the world and our specific attitudes towards realities which includes hatred or reverence for the law. The study further suggests that the development of attitudes is based on what is already existing in our society that the media takes and represents in various and different packaging. The study also argues that immersion in television produces a “mainstreaming” effect where differences based on cultural, social, and political characteristics are muted in heavy viewers of television. The result is that heavy television viewers internalize many of the distorted views of the social and political world represented by television.

Watching television was a 24/7 ritual in Gerbner’s time. Today, television fights for that dominance with social media as the web and digital devices have given popular websites like YouTube a more ubiquitous and an almost unregulated presence. Though television stations upload their shows in the YouTube, no single channel dominates it on a specific time similar to television making analytics fleeting and excruciating. Thus, whatever shapes that mean world index now is not solely because of television but can also be attributed to social media’s overreach.

‘Ang Probinsyano’ has occupied Philippine prime time since September 28, 2015 and translates to around 813 episodes of 30-45 minutes per episode from Monday to Friday. Though originally based on FPJ’s movie of the same title, the TV series is currently in its Robin Hood-like chapter, earning the ire of some and clearly, Albayalde’s. But here’s the catch: Gerbner’s study involved 3,000 television programs, 35,000 characters to provide continuous and consistent monitoring of violence in primetime television for more than 20 years. Thus, if P/Insp. Ricardo Dalisay is solely to blame for a decline in PNP image, let’s give the Vendetta at least 17 years more to wreck mayhem on TV and totally occupy all of social media. Maybe it will get real then.


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