Two news programmes critical of Arroyo cancelled; investigative news magazine to stop print

alerts-button-1.jpgTwo television news programmes that were critical of the administration of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have been taken off the air by its home station network ABC 5.

According to a release by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a SEAPA founding member in the Philippines, “Dokyu” and “Frontlines” were allegedly cancelled by network owner Antonio Cojuangco.

ABC 5 said in a statement that the cancellation was due to the show’s low ratings.

“The cancellation of certain shows is merely part of management’s overall business strategy to discontinue programmes that are not achieving their ratings targets,” the statement said.

In an online report by rival network ABS-CNBN (www.abs-cbnnews.com ), Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez was quoted as saying that the government was not involved in the cancellation of the shows.

“Frankly, I have not sat in any discussion where this particular thing has been talked about,” Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez said a video of Gen. Danilo Lim, former chief of the Philippine Army’s Scout Rangers, calling on soldiers to withdraw support for Arroyo was made using ABC 5 facilities.

“Mr. Cojuangco is involved in all destabilisation attempts, especially in the 24 to 25 February 24 (2006 coup attempt)… (he had) direct connections with Gen. Lim… (and ABC 5 made) the video on the supposed withdrawal of support (by soldiers),” Gonzalez said.

ABC 5 senior reporter Jove Francisco said in his weblog that though he was “saddened” by the withdrawal of the programmes, he believes that the network’s new “business strategy” will work out well in time.

“We can’t pre-empt our bosses and say anything about it yet, but once this new direction’s launched and revealed, everything will make sense and will be logical,” he wrote.

Shortly before this, “Newsbreak”, a monthly investigative news magazine that also carried exposés against the administration, announced that it was about to close its print edition.

Cojuangco had been one of the major financers of “Newsbreak”, which will now publish their reports online.

“This is our second-to-the-last hard copy edition . . . It hasn’t been easy competing in the harsh marketplace where glossies dominate. One of the lessons that have left an indelible imprint on us is this: The applause of the market is hard to win,” “Newsbreak” Editor-in-Chief Maritess Vitug wrote in the magazine’s 29 January 2007 issue.

“But we will continue our work online, the platform that is transforming journalism by opening the doors of our profession to citizens all over the world and, at the same time, forming tightly knit communities and audiences in cyberspace,” Vitug continued.

The http://www.abs-cbnnews.com report also quoted Vitug as saying in a text message that “Cojuangco might have been forced to stop financing the magazine.”

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