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KBP: Appeal vs. aggregate airtime not driven by profit

(Updated 8:18 p.m.) The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) denied that its appeal against the limited airtime for candidates is driven by business interests, noting that they are motivated by the public’s right to information during the elections. The group's appeal was in connection with the new rule of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) imposing an aggregate airtime allowance for candidates instead of on a per station basis for this year’s midterm elections. This means the amount of airtime will apply “whether appearing on national, regional, or local, free or cable television.” Under Resolution No. 9615, national candidates are allowed 120 minutes of total television airtime and 180 minutes of total radio airtime, while local bets are given 60 minutes for television and 90 minutes for radio. During the 2010 elections, national candidates were allowed the prescribed airtime per station. Filing their letter of complaint addressed to the Comelec on Thursday, KBP president Herman Basbaño said they do not deny that it is revenue season during the elections. “Sinasabi ng Comelec na medyo baka self-serving dahil nga may kita ‘yung mga networks. We do not deny that there is a revenue that will be generated from this… Everybody gets something out of elections. And it’s welcomed by everybody. Because elections prop up the economy,” Basbaño said. He added though that they are against the limited airtime “because they (public) will be deprived of their right to information as to the platform of government of candidates.” Letter to Comelec In its letter to the Comelec, KBP said the limited airtime “deprives the candidates of their right to access a broad mass of voters through mass media…" “Election of officials is one of the significant ways of exercising political rights. However, such exercise of political rights is significant only if it is done with discernment and by a voting population that is informed,” the KBP wrote. The media group added that the limited airtime would compel candidates to campaign in Metro Manila only, thus failing to inform the provinces of their programs and platforms. “The current restriction compels a candidate or political party to focus placements in Metro Manila. This situation also results in depriving voters in the provinces of their right to information,” it said. The group also expressed their fears on penalties and revocation of media license if the network fails to comply with the rules on airtime. KBP said the Comelec rules do not “provide a system, method or means by which the management … would know, on real time, whether or not the airing of the election propaganda is already beyond the allowable minutes.” According to Resolution No. 9615, failure to comply with the Comelec rules would mean criminal liability on the printing press, printer, or publisher and broadcaster, station manager, owner of the radio and television station, or owner or administrator of any website. The network may also face suspension or revocation of franchise or permit. No consultation? Meanwhile, KBP spokesperson Atty. Rudolph Steve Jularbal said the Comelec did not consult with the media group on the prescribed airtime.   He added that their last meeting with the Comelec was last December 26, when the poll body had already decided on the aggregate airtime. “We beg to disagree that there was proper consultation… The meeting came after the announcement na meron nang decision ang Comelec… Walang proper consultation with us as far as we are concerned,” Jularbal said. The KBP has then called for a public hearing with the Comelec. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez insisted that there was proper consultation with the KBP and that their views were considered in the decision. “The KBP was invited. A lot of ad executives and agency representatives were there. One of the outcomes of that consultation was KBP position paper,” Jimenez said, referring to an earlier paper filed by the KBP to the poll body. Comelec to respect opposing views He added that the Comelec would respect the opposing views on the Comelec rules on airtime. “When we issued this (resolution), this is how we feel it should be. If there are opposing views, then we would hear the opposing views. And if we feel that the opposing views had it right, then we are open to amending the resolution or clarifying it as the need may be,” Jimenez said. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. earlier said all media networks should make a sacrifice in cutting down airtime for the elections. "I think everybody needs to be reasonable. ‘Yung business aspect, everybody should sacrifice,” he had said. KBP chairman Ruperto Nicdao, for his part, said making a sacrifice is not the issue. “The KBP and other networks are partners of the Comelec in ensuring free, orderly and honest elections,” he said. The group earlier sent a position paper to the Comelec, calling for a “per station basis” airtime instead of aggregate. The per station basis, according to the KBP, "took into account… the limits of campaign spending, the right of the public to information, the right of candidates to determine the most effective means of advertising expenditure to reach the electorate…" GMA Network Inc. on Thursday also filed a letter-motion for reconsideration on the limited airtime, saying it would be “cruel and oppressive” in terms of monitoring and verifying broadcast logs. “GMA submits that broadcasting entities would surely encounter insurmountable difficulties in monitoring the broadcasting minutes spent by the numerous candidates for various elective positions, and therefore compliance with the New Rules will be cruel and oppressive,” according to the letter signed by GMA Network Chairman and CEO Felipe L. Gozon. -- KBK, GMA News