If you are a broadcast journalist covering the Philippines political beat, there’s only one place you would want to work right now – PTV-4, the flagship station of state-owned People’s Television Network Inc which has been given virtually exclusive access to the country’s new president and his Cabinet.
Earlier this month, PTV-4 was the sole media entity – print or broadcast – accredited to cover President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte’s thanksgiving party at the Cebu Country Club. All other domestic and foreign press were blocked from entering the venue – Foreign media threaten their own access – which is likely to become more the rule than the exception.
This is a Cinderella moment for a broadcaster that has for some time lived in the shadows of the county’s big three – ABS-CBN Corporation, GMA Network and TV5 Network. Plans are now being considered to elevate PTV to the level of other state broadcaster, like the UK’s BBC, Canada’s CBC, Japan’s NHK, America’s PBS and Australia’s ABC.
A major revamp and enhancement programme, started in 2013, is likely to be put into high gear. The network’s development will be headed by Martin Andanar, a former TV5 new anchorman and the incoming Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operation Office. He will oversee the expansion of Quezon City-based PTV’s presence nationwide and globally, as well as the upgrading and broadening of its programming profile and the expansion of its technical capabilities.
He will also already have a good idea of which staff he will want to poach from the other big networks. Appointments of a network general manager and news department director are expected to be announced shortly.
Government capital is available for PTV Inc. In 2013, President Benigno Aquino replaced the original charter that required the network to be self funding, injecting US$106 million to revitalise the station and make it digitally competitive – a move that was unsuccessfully challenged, though not in court, by rival GMA Network.
The desire to bring PTV on par with counterpart broadcasters in other countries and, like them, raise the country’s international profile, has added impetus to the current re-establishment drive. Support is also likely to come from outside: earlier this month PTV and Japan’s NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) signed a US$315,000 Cultural Grant Aid and programme-acquisition package designed to improve programme output.
The network’s golden era was in the 1980s. Starting out life as Government Television on 2 February 1974 and changing to Maharlika Broadcasting System in 1980, it emerged as People’s Television in 1986 as a national symbol of the People’s Revolution which, that year, effected the overthrow of strongman president, Ferdinand Marcos. In 1988 it brought coverage of the Summer Olympics to Filipino audiences – establishing itself as a sports broadcaster ever since – and throughout that decade won a number of prestigious media awards. In 1992, President Corazon Aquino made it a government corporation and since then – up until the 2013 government cash boost – it has funded its own way.