On DTT encryption and the future of DTT in the Philippines

To our readers, you may have noticed that DTV Pilipinas has spoken out against the increasingly widespread practice of conditional access on digital terrestrial television, as it limits viewers’ choices of programming and forcing them to purchase network-branded products for the sake of loyalty and maximizing their bottomline.

This practice has been initiated by ABS-CBN when they unveiled their TVplus product in 2015, this is presumably to fast-track the transition to DTT and has the advantage of exclusive channels, although it lacks the other features of other boxes such as HDMI capability. It has since sold around 4 million boxes, and since it is still available at a limited scope (which is Mega Manila, Central Luzon, Northern Luzon, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Southern Mindanao), maybe it is time for them to rollout their DTT service on other areas, as they must have made lots of money, right?

Then came Solar with their own dongle which is yet to hit the market. They have made their cable channels available on DTT, yet only if you purchase their product. This could be a way for Solar to get even with ABS-CBN as a result of the carriage disputes surrounding NBA coverage, but Solar must have forgotten that DTT is supposed to be free TV and NOT cable, right? This only adds to the confusion, thanks to ABS-CBN’s marketing which says, para kang nag-cable na walang monthly fee. Inaalaka tuloy ng tao na para ngang cable, eh hindi naman!

Let’s not forget GMA Network’s long-promised dongle, and has since changed its configuration to add encyrpted channels to its lineup. They may be forgetting that they have yet to expand their DTT footprint in regional areas, like Cebu and Davao, as they have promised, right?

With the major networks busy at commercializing DTT, other networks have begun embarking on expanding their footrprint to benefit viewers and markets longing to enjoy benefits of the new emerging medium. Globe-affiliated BEAM has already added Iloilo and Baguio to their digital footprint (in addition to Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao) while state-run PTV began conducting tests in President Duterte’s hometown of Davao City. The Manila Broadcasting Company has also began to broadcast via digital in Metro Cebu (which I will look forward to watching via my DTT-capable phone once I return there for another vacation, God-willing), and local station eMedia began broadcasting in Zamboanga, not to mention Kakampi TV’s broadcasts in Digos City and Tarlac.

In a short span of two years being an enthusiast of digital terrestrial television, I have since monitored the developments in our ongoing transition, whether a new market or station has began broadcasting, or whether we will be able to complete the transition ahead of timeframe we have set, which is the year 2023, especially since September 2017, when INC TV and NET 25, the television networks affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo, of which I’m a proud member, began broadcasting on DTT after a few years’ absence despite being one of the trailblazers in bringing ISDB-T, which is the DTT standard we use, into the country, alongside then NBN-4. INC TV and NET 25 also holds the distinction of being able to broadcast two high-definition channels in a single frequency (though the Adventist-affiliated Gateway is also able to do such through Hope Channel and GNN). The improved picture quality is a huge boost in the Church’s propagation efforts so I will root for the expansion of the Church’s digital TV broadcast in other areas as well, though it is for the Church Administration to decide.

Looking back, with the widespread practice of encryption and the sale of network-branded boxes, they seem to be looking for short-term benefits like profits over short-term gains. Naysayers may still argue, baka gusto mo malugi or other type of defense, well, other countries may also practice encryption, but not as brazen as this! DTT is free TV, contrary to claims over somewhere over there which we will not mention. DTT’s advantage of more program choices must not be exploited for profit, as it hampers the long-term benefit for viewers and the industry in general. The boxes may be helping in fast-tracking expansion, but detrimental in the long-term.

The government and other broadcasters disadvantaged by the practice must join forces, in order for the practice stopped, for the benefit of the viewing public.


Computer Programming to graders

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to include teaching computer programming, in the K-12 program in grade school.

Pimentel said “Coding is now an essential skill due to the prevalence of computers in our daily lives. It should be treated like reading, writing, and arithmetic, not just as a career option,”

“By teaching code, we can take advantage of children’s fascination with technology to help them learn mathematical concepts in a manner they find entertaining,” he said.

The Senate chief added that the subject  to learn of the grade schoolers “life skills” such as perseverance and problem-solving.

Pimentel said it would also improve the performance of the schools in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.

Source: Manila Bulletin

LTO Campaign produces different outcome

Filipino commuters and drivers reacted to the campaign of Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Inter-Agency Council on Traffic (I-ACT) “Oplan tanggal bulok, tanggal usok” for public utility vehicles (PUV) which started last January 8, 2018.

This campaign was made by the government as part of modernization program and to help restraint air pollution in Metro Manila. This was also intended to keep the safety of the commuters from those dilapidated jeepneys that have bald tires, and have problems in headlight, signal light, hand break and sphere that can cause an accident.

On the day it was implemented it brought problem to the passengers because they didn’t receive a notice that the government will conduct this kind of activity.

   “Dapat nag advice muna sila, para ganito aware kami, kasa may pasok kami, male-late na kami eh” one commuter said.

However, commuters are not against to this campaign because this is for their safety but they should provide an alternative vehicle for them not to experience interruption. Though they know that this is for the sake of the nation.

     “Sobrang hirap eh, kasi hinuhuli po nila yung old na jeepney nakaka apat po na sakay ako, dati isang way lang.” Ruben Quibral, commute.

The most affected of this campaign was the jeepney drivers. This was their only way to have an income and they had no extra money to fix the jeep that they use because other drivers didn’t have their own jeepney they also pay their boundary to their operators.

   “Ipapaayos ko naman itong jeep na ito eh, kaya lang kapos pa sa pera, sabi ng operator kotagotago lang.” Fernandi Tungol, jeepney driver.

Cutting their trip was the only hope of the Jeepney drivers to avoid I-ACT and LTO personnel, aside from that jeepney operators encounter unfairness because they need to pay the fine and pay on their own for the repair of their jeepneys.

       “Wala po kaming pakundangan, gagawin ho namin ito. Sana maintindihan ng lahat, hindi ito dahil sa modernization lang para ito sa kaligtasan ng ating pasahero.” Department of Transportation (DOTr) undersecretary for roads Jim Orbos said.

The campaign is for the orderliness of everyone and for the sake of the people who are involved in this new implementation of the government.

Last quarter of 2017 Agriculture Performance

Philippine Agriculture production increase a  2.20% in growth for the last quarter of 2017 between October to December. These includes the growth in the production of crops, livestock and poultry subsectors.

In contrast to this, fisheries subsectors recorded a 1.18% reduction in the production for the same quarter of 2017.

Lower production levels were noted for tiger prawns, roundscad and skipjack yet subsector’s gross earnings at current prices amounted to Php66.3  billion, up by 7.80% from last year’s record which is Php61.8 billion.

While the crop subsector recorded an increase in production by 2.66% which contributes the 51.20% to the total agricultural output for the year. 4.37% was the recorded increase in the Palay production while that of corn weaken by 5.73%.

Increments were noted in the production of coconut, sugarcane, banana, pineapple, peanut, cassava, sweet potato, eggplant and rubber. In total of the whole year of 2017, 6.69% was the recorded increase growth in production of crops.

In the livestock subsector, a total of 1.84% of output was gained in the fourth quarter of 2017. It is because of the increased 2.75% growth in the Hog production which was the major source of subsector’s growth.

The subsector grossed a total of Php 85.5 billion for the year representing a 14.39% of increase over last year’s record.

Production of poultry had expanded by 4.73% that accounted for about 15.40% of the total agricultural output for the last quarter of 2017.

The poultry subsector’s gross output went up by 4.62%, earning a Php59.3 billion or 15.22% more than the previous year.

On an annual basis, farmgate prices went up by an average of 4.97% in 2017.


Source: Philippine Statistics Authority

Are dengue vaccine considered as a mess?

All the news that spreading around about the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia could do more harm to those have not been infected previously with the mosquito borne dengue virus.

And it is really understandable to be bothered for the parents of those among the estimated 700,000 students who were administered with the vaccine even without being tested first if they had previously been infected with dengue.

According to Sanofi, the French Pharmaceutical company that developed Dengvaxia, said that “analysis confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection for those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection.”

The alarm has been raised and has caused many parents of children now at risk to fear the worst, the lack of information on what exactly is the severe disease that is to come has ignited more speculation.

It is essential to intensity exerting at getting rid of breeding places of dengue mosquitoes and seeing to whereas our surroundings are kept clean and orderly. It should go a long way in to achieve the lasting protection against the ultimate enemy that has caused so much misery to about 200,000 Filipinos each year.

INCTV and NET25 on digital television

Screengrabs taken from our TVplus box

Since the early part of January 2018, INCTV and NET25, the television arms of the Iglesia Ni Cristo through the religious-oriented Christian Era Broadcasting Service International (which also operates DZEM 954) and the more secular-oriented Eagle Broadcasting Corporation, has began broadcasting on full 16:9 in standard definition for both analog and digital television, including cable and satellite. This is after the Church-affiliated television stations restarted full-time broadcasts on digital television on September 5, 2017.

It may also be noticed that INCTV has already been broadcasting on both HD and SD on digital television since December 2017, and while NET25 has also converted to 16:9 on standard definition, its HD version, which arguably has better quality than its SD counterpart, is yet to be seen, as for now its frequency still carries 3 subchannels.

May it also be remembered that both channels have been testing the ISDB-T standard during the wee hours (12:00mn to 4:00am) since 2015, with six subchannels (2 high-definition channels, 2 standard-definition channels, and 2 one-segment channels), as the frequency (channel 49) was being used by INCTV on analog television since 2012 until September 2017, and with this INCTV transferred its analog signals on channel 48.

INCTV and NET25 can be seen on digital television via channel 49 (683.143 mhz) in Mega Manila. Hopefully, an expansion of its signal reach as some viewers complain they are not able to receive its signals and the conversion of INCTV and NET25 to full high-definition with the elimination of the SD feeds, if not expansion to other markets like Cebu, Davao, or Baguio for example would materialize, as the digital TV signal with clear HD quality would be a great boost in the propagation efforts of the Church.

ARC Bids Farewell

After almost a year and a half of broadcasting, the ABS-CBN Regional Channel, along with sister channels Hero TV and Tag, has ceased broadcasting due to “a change in business directions”. In this piece we will discuss the various reasons why such a promising channel closed down.

Lack of programming choices

When this channel opened up, probably most of us (me included) were expecting the entire library of ABS-CBN Regional programming, alongside occasional live programming such as festival coverages and simulcasts from the regional stations, but those haven’t materialized. Also noticeable were the never-ending repeats of dubbed movies, magazine shows, MOR programs, and the airing of select TV Patrol editions.

Lack of support from the mother station

ABS-CBN Regional is also noticeably one of the least prioritized divisions of the network. When the main channel 2 is airing most of its programming on high-definition, the regional stations remains on standard definition. Also noticeable that when TV Patrol relaunched its graphics on July 2016, the rollout was slow. Even until now, TV Patrol Tacloban is still using the 2013 graphics.

Lack of distribution

ARC was only present on Sky Direct, Sky Cable and Destiny Cable Manila, and select cable providers, if any. Add to that a lack of advertiser support, these factors contributed to the channel’s demise.

This was ABS-CBN’s second experiment in having a channel broadcasting regional content, after the Sarimanok channel. ABS-CBN should be able to learn a lesson in this experience, and other networks should seize the opportunity and create a similar channel which will not fall into the same mistake.

A game pitch

We would like to use this opportunity to pitch an idea: a political simulation game where players are given the chance to run the Philippines through different scenarios, either during the Philippine Revolution, Philippine-American War, Commonwealth era, Japanese occupation, the post-war period, the Marcos years, and the post-EDSA administrations.

The players will also have the chance to play one of either the historical figures (like Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, Quezon, Magsaysay, Marcos, Aquino, etc.) or represent political parties as fictional figures (with the Nacionalistas, Liberals, Lakas-CMD, the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-1930 or the more prominent Maoist CPP, and the like).

Players will also have the chance to navigate through economic and domestic policy as well as foreign policy and chart the course for our country’s development.

I am making this case because of my apparent craving for political simulation games and the disappointment that I don’t have the chance to play my own country, as well as other simulation games which requires you to pay, and in this case I would like the game to be free.

To our developers out there, I do hope you to consider this game pitch, not just for myself, but for everybody else.

With 72% of MM homes with DTT, it’s time to expand

A recent ABS-CBN News reports shows that as much as 72% of homes in Metro Manila have digitally-enabled TVs, i.e. those with set-top boxes or built-in tuners. With those figures, maybe it’s time to consider a massive expansion to the regions? 

Source: http://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/04/17/72-in-metro-manila-watch-digitally-enabled-tv
In this article published by ABS-CBN News linked above, it shows that as much as 55% of homes without cable TVs have used their product ABS-CBN TVplus.

With these figures in mind, and with ABS-CBN hitting their targets (with 3.6 million boxes sold), ABS-CBN should probably start to consider setting up more markets for their TVplus, with the Metro Manila market becoming more saturated and other markets with digital TV presence (like Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Iloilo, Baguio, surrounding provinces of Metro Manila) deserving more program choices.

The networks should set up in meeting the five-year period the NTC has given them to complete the transition, as more and more viewers being more aware and more regions waiting for their areas to be finally served, as digital TV offers clearer quality at par with cable or DTH compared with analog.

In this year alone, many developments have happened in Metro Manila. Light Network has  shut down its analog signal, Solar Entertainment increasing it power output, the MCGI launching their Truth Channel, a mystery channel appearing at channel 35, and the Iglesia ni Cristo-owned Net 25 and INC TV finally restarting digital broadcasts, while the regions are still stuck with ABS-CBN channels. 

In light of these developments, we should now start focusing in other markets and increasing coverage, it is much preferable if we meet targets in completing the transition ahead of schedule. 

On Donald Trump’s comments regarding General Pershing

With US President Donald Trump still reeling from the effects of his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and amid the most recent terror incident, this time in Barcelona, he once again entered himself to controversy when he tweeted on a long-debunked urban legend that dates back to the early years of American rule in the Philippines.

He talked about this particular story while he was campaigning, it was where General Pershing was said to have bullets dipped on pig’s blood, ostensibly to “fight” against “radical Islamic terrorism”.

It was immediately fact-checked by mainstream media, saying it never happened. But there must be another fact check, this time by us Filipinos.

At a time where our country is still reeling from the effects of the Marawi crisis which broke out on May 23, amid our long-standing efforts at rectifying the historic wrongs committed against the Moro people, this should be an outrage, as it is insensitive.

This is not about what Donald Trump says is about “radical Islamic terrorism”. This is about the Moro people’s efforts to resist American rule, at a time when the Americans came when Christian Filipinos have already declared independence from Spain and are already at the first steps of nation-building. When the Americans have mostly pacified the rest of the archipelago by 1901, the Moro people have continued their resistance until 1913.

We are at a time where we are correcting this historic injustice by arriving at constitutional reform, shifting from a unitary to a federal form of government. At a time we are trying to build a lasting peace, we are also encouraging economic development in Mindanao after decades-long conflict, to discourage people from resorting to extremist ideology espoused by groups such as ISIS.

Donald Trump should have been circumspect before speaking, as he would risk alienating an ally, as he has offered support for the Philippines to combat the Maute group in Marawi.

The Philippines has already been at odds with the United States since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 2016, over the controversial war on drugs which Trump has praised. In his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte asked for the return of the Balangiga bells stolen since the 1899 Philippine-American War. This would further complicate efforts to resolve long-standing issues haunting US-Philippines relations.

In light of these historical backgrounds on what has transpired, Donald Trump has once again opened himself to controversy with these remarks. At a time when both the Philippines and the United States having populist leaders known for controversial statements, this may risk a diplomatic incident, or a war on words.

Sidenotes: With the terror attacks in Spain and the events in Charlottesville, may we stand united together against hate.