|By Roger Strukhoff||
|March 14, 2010 05:23 AM EDT||
The good news is that people are able to watch Manny Pacquiao's fights here in the Philippines free of charge, on the leading broadcast television network, GMA. The bad news is that GMA shamelessly fills its coverage with enough commercials to choke an elephant.
Estimates of poverty in the Philippines vary, but it's realistic to say that 40% of the country's 92 million people fall below a poverty line no matter where it's drawn. Another 20% or so struggle to have more than one meal a day. About 25 million fall into an emerging "middle class," but this is a middle class along the lines of the US in 1963.
So even though the pay-per-view theaters and coliseums were full today with fans of Pambansang Kamao (the National Fist), generally paying between $5 and $20 apiece, the reality is that the vast majority of people here watched the fight on GMA.
And GMA was utterly disgraceful, in my opinion, in loading its coverage with commercials. The pre-fight and undercard stuff started at 10am, with four hours devoted to covering about 75 minutes of fighting.
The main event then started at 2pm, more than half an hour after the result had been announced on a rival network. GMA then layered in more than 100 minutes of commercials against the 47-minute duration of the actual fight, and a continuous stream of banner ads at the bottom of the screen during the actual fighting.
To me, this is exploitation. I would remind GMA that the federal government in the US had to step in against the avaricious networks in the 70s to put limits on the number of commercials they were allowed to run.
At the time, the networks had no clue that one day they would be abandoned as cable channels brought them real competition and as rising affluence allowed viewers to tune them out.
Living in the Philippines is often like living in the US in 1963, good and bad.
The good is that this is still a polite society, conservative of dress, absent of the crass sluttishness that has come to characterize the US. Newspapers (and to be fair, GMA and its rival ABS/CBN) take political coverage seriously, as do the candidates. Traffic, while chaotic, is mostly absent of the self-centered aggression found in the US. Popular singers have real talent.
But, on the other side of the coin...only now are people cracking down on smoking, birth control remains highly controversial, employers are allowed to mention specific age groups and a desire for employees to be "good looking," and the food companies push a non-stop cornucopia of sugar-laden cereal and "smart food" for anxious parents trying to do the best for their children.
And the leading broadcast network thinks it can run about three times a decent number of commericals during an event that defines "must see" for a nation with precious few international heroes.
In other words, the people here are great; some of the companies that serve them, less so.
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