Two marginally related things that, taken together, paint a rather bleak picture of the Philippine media landscape this week.
GMA 7 has decided to shut down its Iloilo City news operations, a move that will see 20 employees get retrenched as the regional station transitions into a sales and marketing office.
Among those who lost their jobs, although they will get their salaries until December and will be receiving compensation that has been reported to be generous, are some employees who have been with the Manila-headquartered network for 10 years.
The retrenchment comes after job cuts in other regional stations in the Visayas, including the one in the regional center Cebu City, earlier this year.
Management explained that the cuts were necessary to lower costs.
“Lugi kami eh. Wala nang ratings eh. In short, wala nang silbi. Lahat naman ng managers ay ginagawa ito. Kung hahayaan mo lang, eh ‘di maba-bankrupt ka. (We were losing money. Ratings were low. In short, there’s no use. All managers do this. If you let this happen, you’ll be bankrupt),”
The network will likely get by on stringers and by stretching its shrinking news-gathering force but job cuts, especially in the provinces, will always mean weaker coverage overall and will always mean important stories from outside the capital will likely remain outside the consciousness of those in Manila.
And then, there is this story on US President Barack Obama’s visit to Manila for the APEC conference this week, which asks: Did Obama do the “pabebe wave” in this selfie with PHL Navy captain?
The answer, as is usually the case with headlines that end with a question mark, is probably no. Pabebe wave, of course, refers to the signature move made famous by the AlDub kalyeserye that has been running for four months now, has boosted the network’s revenues, and has influenced its coverage to date.
The pabebe wave has, no doubt, enriched the network that airs AlDub and keeping it in the public consciousness makes strategic sense, but, when it drives the news, we are all the poorer for it. Cutting back on regional coverage, especially in an election year, may make financial sense to the company, but it is a loss to the public that the news is supposed to serve.