Our major television broadcasters are known for their wide reach influence, that their programs are seen throughout the country via relay stations or satellite transmissions, their programs gets the large chunk of audience shares and advertising revenue, but there is one noticeable problem, that is the lack of presence in the regions as mostly all programs are being produced by the main stations in Metro Manila, though some are shot in other locations across the country (or in some cases, abroad).
This has posed a particular problem in the scheduling of some programs, which has to be preempted or aired on a one-day delay basis.
In the United States, network affiliates have the option of scheduling some programs outside the prescribed time slots, thus giving them room for their own scheduling, such as newscasts, or syndicated programming (i.e. those produced by third-party entities or production outfits owned by the network). But as in our case where most of them are owned-and-operated by the networks, this poses significant problems.
There is also significant opposition as some would argue that there will be a lack of a “unified” scheduling as slots are being preempted for regional programming, and to be honest, I think this is an invalid argument. Being a diverse country means that television programming has to reflect that reality.
Add to that is the facilities are not at par with the national station, which hampers news-gathering capabilities and not being able to catch up with modern standards.
The solution for that is to seriously invest in their regional stations (but given GMA 7 has since limited its regional stations to Cebu, Davao, and Dagupan to save costs this will be going to be a problem, at least for now). That means, better facilities, like better news gathering equipment, better studios, new satellite uplink systems, more OB vans or livepacks, high-definition cameras, so on, so forth.
The networks must also give room for regional opt-outs, and with that including the National Capital Region. To cite an example, Spanish public broadcaster Television Espanola reserves the 2pm slot to regional newscasts (including Madrid), and through livestreaming this is being replaced by the final half-hour of its breakfast news program Los desayunos de TVE (TVE Breakfast). If we do it here (and with ABS-CBN having their own regional TV Patrol versions since they started to invest in regional content since the 1990s, producing one for Mega Manila), that will free up the national newscasts’ airtime for news of genuine national importance, and thus will expose the audiences in Metro Manila to the diversity of this country and events happening outside the capital, and the regional audiences having to complain why contents of newscasts are full of crime stories mostly centered in the NCR.
In the morning hours, the problem centers on the national breakfast shows (ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda and GMA’s Unang Hirit) being interrupted at 6:15 am to give way to regional breakfast programming. The solution I propose is limiting the running times to 2 hours (5:00-7:00), and schedule the regional breakfast show at 7am, as the dynamic of the regions is different from that of Manila.
There is also the need for a clean feed for the networks and devoting space for regional programs, so no one will ever have to cut abruptly to give way to regional programming (or missing out some programs), and even the opportunity to catch programs first before Manila does, also allowing them to charge advertising rates per region (thus increasing revenue).
Also setting up regional hubs will help, with choices of Baguio for Luzon, Cebu for the Visayas, or Davao for Mindanao.
These moves are radical and mostly costly, but in the long term we will see the pay off, and this will help the television industry in the Philippines grow and mature.
Having a unified broadcast schedule is not wrong, but the need to create a diversified scheduling dynamic will strengthen that idea as it will reflect on the reality that we are a nation of many cultures and languages and the need to build on that identity. It will not only help marketing strategy but will also help people recognize that your network truly cares for you, no matter where you are.