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.

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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.

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. 

PTV 4 begins its new morning lineup

Beginning this week, PTV 4 will have a new morning program lineup.

  • 6:00 am Ulat Bayan Sunday edition replay (Monday)/PTV News Headlines replay (Tuesday-Friday)
  • 7:00 am Bagong Pilipinas
  • 8:00 am Bitag Live
  • 9:00 am Daily Info
  • 9:30 am DOSTv
  • 10:00 am TV Shop

It is noticable that Bagong Pilipinas, the successor to both Good Morning Boss of the PNoy administration and Good Morning Pilipinas of the early months of the Duterte administration. It has also extended its airtime to one hour, reminiscent of its predecessors.

Bitag Live, hosted by Ben Tulfo, is due to start tomorrow, an a replay of ASEAN Spotlight took over its timeslot today. This will be Ben Tulfo’s second blocktime program on PTV after Kilos Pronto which airs at 5pm. Bitag Live first aired on UNTV 37 and moved to Radyo5 92.3 News FM and remained until the public spat between him, his brother Erwin and former colleague Ed Lingao. It may cause concern to some that PTV’s impartiality may be compromised as it is becoming home to most of the Duterte administration’s staunchest defenders.

Daily Info has also moved to a timeslot reminiscent to that of Teledyaryo sa Umaga and GMA News TV’s News To Go’s former timeslot, and would be a perfect fit for the timeslot as it presents itself as a fast-paced newscast. It will be followed by DOSTv.

Lastly, it is noticeable that TV Shop has reduced its running time. This should be a start as PTV needs to beef up its programming to fulfill its mandate in bridging the government to the people through quality content. 

How about a “Buwan ng mga Wika”?

Once again we will celebrate the “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa” which commemorates the decision of the now-Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino to adopt Tagalog as basis for our national language, which will again reignite debates on whether we should keep it as it is or not.

The author of this blog is firm in its position in making fundamental reforms or changes in our official language policy, complementing the shift from a unitary form of government dominated by Manila-based, Tagalog-speaking elites to that of a federal government which reflects the reality that we are a multi-ethnic, multilingual nations and such reform will recognize that diversity.

Filipino has long been seen as merely a variant of the Tagalog language spoken in Metro Manila and its peripheral provinces, or even Tagalog itself just being repackaged as a national language. And because of its prevalent usage in mass media and government, this is being seen as reason why usage of other regional languages are in decline, complicated by the prevailing discrimination among non-Tagalogs, in other words, Imperial Manila. We’re also used in the wrong notion that the non-Tagalog languages (Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Maranao, Tausug, Ilokano, Bikol, etc. etc. ) are mere dialects of the Filipino language. Is it really that so? How are we going to change this?

One of the ways to rectify this is to change the way we celebrate the month. It is time to celebrate the diversity of languages and start calling it Buwan ng mga Wika, or Month of Philippine Languages, as there are 176 languages existing in this country and they are among what makes us Filipino. This only a small way in helping to correct the decades-long injustice created by our existing language policies.

What do we propose other than changing the character of the celebration every August?

  • Establish a Philippine Language Institute, which will act as the common regulator of all the languages in this country which will help in their protection and preservation for future generations, and will also act as a learning institution to help Filipinos in further studies in learning other languages
  • Encourage the use of 3 or more languages, which can be achieved through constitutional provisions and an educational curriculum which will promote multilingualism
  • Promote a multilingual mass media, with newspapers in national circulation and radio and television stations broadcasting in the various languages in the country
  • A provision in the Constitution which establishes all our languages as co-official alongside English and Spanish

And as a bonus, reform Filipino as a language combining all the existing languages in the country, fulfilling what it was supposed to do, which is bridging the islands with a common language with vocabulary from all languages in the Philippines, and not just a mere extension of Tagalog.

With this month, we hope we can help in fulfilling meaningful change in our language policy, rectify long-held misconceptions, and embrace our diversity. Malipayong buwan sa mga Nasudnong Lengua! (A happy Month of National Languages!)

Do you think the Philippines deserves a Last Week Tonight-esque program? (And an assessment of news satire on Pinoy TV)


(Photo credits: a screengrab of an episode of Last Week Tonight. Copyright 2014 HBO, no copyright infringement intended)

Do you think this country deserves a television program which follows in the footsteps of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver?
To those unfamiliar, Last Week Tonight is a news satire program which delves into different subjects (Climate Change, Net Neutrality, President Donald Trump, Brexit, among others) in a humorous fashion. There are clips of the show available on YouTube. We might as well provide one here: 

https://youtu.be/FVFdsl29s_Q
Now back to the question, with the messy state of Filipino politics and its divisiveness (especially now), and the need to explain its complexities in a way the ordinary Juan dela Cruz will understand, is it really timely that we produce one? 

We’re no stranger to news satire but there are times programs like these didn’t last, either because of a lack of audience response or diminishing audience interest after an initial huge following, or because of political sensibilities which results in such shows being axed.

Examples are:

  • IBC 13’s Sic O Clock News with Jaime Fabregas and Ces Quesada (which also featured the late Rene Requiestas)
  • Studio 23’s Wazzup Wazzup with Toni Gonzaga and Vhong Navarro
  • GMA News TV’s May Tamang Balita with Ramon Bautista
  • TV5’s Word of the Lourd, The Weekend News with Ramon Bautista, and Kontrabando

This program might be a good pitch for the established networks but will it work in the long term? May this show be perceived as a mere copycat of the original HBO program? Or will it exacerbate the already divisive political atmosphere, especially when it touches on issues like President Duterte’s rape jokes, the Marcoses’ political comeback (mga dilawan!) or the so-called Leni-leaks and other issues surrounding the Liberal Party (Dutertrolls). (Sidenote: I would want to see this show poke fun regularly at Trillanes and his Magdalo as he is a bigger joke than Pacquiao). And in the US, shows like these tend to skew towards the political left (which is also my political leanings though I don’t associate myself with the traditional Filipino left, that is the CPP-NPA-NDF, MAKABAYAN bloc, or its affiliated groups).

No one knows exactly, it’s hard to predict what the audience might think or look for, but let’s see if it will be a similar success. 

Thoughts on PTV News’ shakeup

Last June 28, PTV decided to update its on-air identity, reflecting a renewed thrust as a public service station following in the footsteps of foreign counterparts BBC, NHK, CGTN, among others. 

Days later, Kathy San Gabriel and other staff were abruptly dismissed from the network and was never given the chance to bid farewell on-air. It was also during this time reports on alleged corruption over at PTV started to surface. (Check Snow Badua’s Facebook page.)

And on a surprising move, PTV decided to rebrand its newscasts formerly under the uniformed brand PTV News. These are:

  • Sentro Balita, anchored by Alex Santos and Angelique Lazo, who was recently narrating the Para sa Bayan documentary series narrating PTV’s history since 1974 (Princess Habiba Sarip-Paudac is now station manager of Salaam TV)
  • Ulat Bayan, anchored by Aljo Bendijo and Katherine Vital
  • PTV News Headlines, anchored by Charms Espina and Richmond Cruz

This may confuse viewers for quite some time who are already quite accustomed to the PTV News brand. In my opinion, PTV should have settled in reviving the Teledyaryo brand in use since 2001 during the Arroyo years and survived the first 2 years of Noynoy Aquino’s administration. [A common problem for PTV is whenever there is a change of administration, there will be a change in branding.]

Lastly, PTV News must strive to avoid to being perceived as a lapdog of any sitting president and promote itself as a credible source to an audience quite exasperated with mainstream media. 

Some TV Patrol regional editions are still not conforming to the updated graphics

We would like to call the attention of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs and ABS-CBN Regional, as some of the TV Patrol regional editions are still not yet updating their graphics package similar to the mother newscast, as most of the regional editions have already followed suit.

These are:

  • TV Patrol Cagayan Valley (produced from Santiago)
  • TV Patrol Northern Luzon (produced from Baguio)
  • TV Patrol North Central Luzon (produced from Dagupan)
  • TV Patrol Pampanga
  • TV Patrol Tacloban
  • TV Patrol Caraga (produced from Butuan)
  • TV Patrol Northern Mindanao (produced from Cagayan de Oro)

Most of the regional editions have already followed suit since the mother newscast relaunched its graphics package on July 4, 2016, among the first to comply were TV Patrol Socskargen (from General Santos), TV Patrol Central Mindanao (from Cotabato), TV Patrol Chavacano (from Zamboanga), and TV Patrol Central Visayas (from Cebu). They were followed by the rest which slowly but progressively updated their respective graphics package albeit in differing scales (some maintaining the old headline graphics like Bicol and Negros, maintaining the old OBBs, etc.).  Now that 11 months have lapsed since the initial graphics change maybe those above mentioned should start catching up.

Maybe this could be perhaps a wakeup call to the ABS-CBN management that they should also be focusing on maintaining and updating the regional broadcast facilities instead of relying mostly on high-budget teleseryes as the regional networks serve as theri backbone in serving the rest of the country with such diversity in culture and language. 

Cancer six times a day

Yung pakiramdam na lahat tayo ay nagsasawa na sa mga teleseryeng may paulit-ulit na storya, walang tigil na gantihan, patayan, landian, at kung ano pa man yan FIVE TIMES A WEEK, well, pati Sabado may teleserye na din.

Dahil sa malakas na hatak sa ratings ng Ipaglaban Mo!, ang legal drama anthology ng ABS-CBN sa Saturday afternoon slot, napilitan ang GMA Network na i-extend na lamang hanggang Sabado ang drama na Ika-6 na Utos na umeere Lunes hanggang Biyernes pagkatapos ng Eat Bulaga, na pinagbibidahan nila Sunshine Dizon at Gabby Concepcion. Kamakailan lamang ay sinubukan ng GMA na tapatan ang Ipaglaban Mo sa pamamagitan ng isa ring crime anthology na pinamagatang Case Solved kung saan naman host si Dingdong Dantes.

You may remember during the past few years ay GMA ang nauuna sa Saturday afternoon slot, with Startalk. Pero matatandaan na during the past years ay muling mas nagkakaroon ng advantage ang ABS-CBN sa iba pang timeslots, kabilang na din ang Sabado ng hapon. This shows how GMA is severely disadvantaged when it comes to programming.

But the larger problem, dahil sa kakulangan ng strategies at creativity when it comes to content, ay no choice na ang network kundi mag-extend na lamang ng teleserye, sa panahong nagsasawa na sa 5-days-a-week format ng teleserye, repetitive storylines, at mga run na dumedepende sa success ng teleserye. [Inamin ko na fan ako ng Ang Probinsyano pero nabwisit na ako nung ginawa nilang pugante at kriminal si Cardo. Halatang pinapahaba lang para tumaas ang ratings.] Dahil sa ganitong strategies ay dumadami na lalo ang nagdedepend na lamang sa downloaded series sa internet (mapa-US, South Korea, Japan man yan). Swertehan na lang kung naka-cable ka.

This is both a sign of desparation for GMA in particular and Philippine television in general. Wake up call na ito mga bes. Ayusin niyo programming niyo, introduce better concepts, bawasan ang teleserye, kundi mababawasan pa kayo ng viewership.

Regional television in the Phillippines

In a television industry dominated by Manila-based giants with much of their programming seen across the country and much of their relay stations owned by the networks themselves, regional players may be unfamiliar to most of us. But these broadcasters play a huge part in providing news and entertainment to their respective localities and reflects the diversity of our nation. We’ll take a look at the most prominent examples of regional-based broadcasters in the Philippines.

Central Luzon Television (CLTV 36)

CLTV 36 or Central Luzon Television was established in the year 2007 and has since become the largest, if not among the largest, regional television networks in the country. Based in Pampanga, its coverage area and programming targets much of the Central Luzon region. Its signals can also be seen in some areas of Metro Manila and even Cavite albeit on a low signal. It airs news, public affairs, infotainment, and some entertainment programs. It is also seen on Cignal Digital TV.

NE TV 48

NE TV 48 is a television station based in Nueva Ecija. NE TV is also similar in format to the other local stations and we hope NE TV has the resources to expand in DTT.

ConAmor Broadcasting’s Brodkast Southern Luzon

For Southern Luzon, there is Brodkast Channel 6, based in Lucena. It lacks the social media presence and we don’t know much about the station and its offerings, but from what we know from their very limited social media presence they simulcast programs heard from their radio stations DWTI and Kiss FM. The station’s parent company is owned by a local politician. We don’t know whether they’ll be able to shift to DTV given their very limited presence, let alone sustain operations.

Bandera News TV

Bandera News TV is a relatively new player based in Palawan. With a teleradyo concept it is expected they could expand to DTT.

PBN Bicol

PBN Bicol operates TV stations in Naga and Legazpi, but is primarily affiliated with TV5. It remains to be seen whether they will have the resources to expand to the digital TV sphere.

Cebu Catholic Television Network (CCTN 47)

Cebu Catholic Television Network or CCTN is the Catholic television station run by the Archdiocese of Cebu. It shows not only religious programs but newscasts as well. It also provides livestream features. It is also expected they will have the resources to expand to DTT.

Bee TV

Bee TV 7 is a local television station owned by the Northern Mindanao Broadcasting System, formerly affiliated with GMA Network and People’s Television Network. It has since become an independent television station. With social media presence, we also expect this station to have enough resources to expand to DTT though it is still a fledgling station.

Brigada News TV

Brigada News TV is the teleradyo counterpart of the General Santos-based multimedia broadcasters. With its FM news stations spread across the country and with it being a strong local player, it is expected Brigada will have the resources to expand to DTT.

Davao Christian Bible Channel

Davao Christian Bible Channel is a small religious channel based in Davao City, but it should not be a reason for it not to have the resources necessary to shift.

GBPI

GBPI (Golden Broadcast Professionals) operates Channel 11 which is affiliated with TV5, with some local programs such as daily newscast Dateline Zamboanga. It is expected that GBPI will have the resources to expand to DTT.

eMedia

eMedia is a local news channel in Zamboanga, operating on channel 37. With this, we also expect the station to expand in DTT.

Ranao TV 13

I recently discovered that there was a local TV station broadcasting in Marawi City branded as Ranao TV 13. It broadcasts on channel 13 and produces TV programs simulcast on an AM and FM affiliate. If it weren’t for the Marawi crisis I wouldn’t have discovered the station’s existence, I wish I would have learned earlier so I would have been able to include the station on my piece. Regardless, I do hope the station will have the resources to shift to digital TV, most especially the recovery and rehabilitation efforts to be undertaken once the Marawi crisis is over. 

Conclusion

The above stations mentioned are the most prominent examples. There may be those not mentioned but we have to consider the very limited information we have. Given the dominance of national networks, we have to consider these local broadcasters as well as they provide service to their respective localities and cater to their respective regional tastes. These stations reflect the diversity of our nation and they as well deserve a chance to be on par with the national networks especially that in a few years’ time we will bid analog TV goodbye and we’re facilitating a shift to digital TV.