ABS-CBN news chief: Journalism a 'public service'; shutdown deprives millions

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2020 02:38 PM | Updated as of Jul 06 2020 06:46 PM

A store-owner watches TV Patrol moments before ABS-CBN signed off on May 5, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (1st UPDATE) — ABS-CBN Corp. treats journalism as "a public service" that around two-thirds of the Philippines' 100 million people lost due to the 2-month broadcast shutdown of the network, the head of its news division said on Monday, as the network's application for a new franchise faced allegations of bias. 

The staff of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs brave calamities, armed conflict, and health crises to give voice to survivors who need help, and deliver information that could save lives, said Integrated News chief Ma. Regina Reyes. 

"Every reporter, writer, producer, anchor, every editor in the newsroom knows that what we do is not just a job; it is a response to a call to tell the truth and work for a cause greater than ourselves," Reyes told lawmakers at the 12th hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise application. 

"Ang paglalahad ng katotohanan at paglilingkod sa bayan ang layunin ng bawat mamamahayag. The very nature of journalism, of truth-telling, is public service," she added. 

(Stating the truth and serving the public are the goals of every journalist.) 

The shutdown "has deprived more than 69 million Filipinos of the kind of information, analysis and commentary, and public service provided by ABS-CBN News," including migrant workers, and those without internet connection and are reached solely by the network's signal, said Reyes. 

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on May 5 shut down ABS-CBN's free television and radio services despite its earlier commitment to let the network stay on air while lawmakers deliberated on its license renewal. 

Last week, the NTC also closed down ABS-CBN's digital broadcast, following the advice of Solicitor General Jose Calida, who in February sought to nullify the franchise of the network due to alleged abuses. 

The Supreme Court last month junked Calida's quo warranto plea for being moot. 

ABS-CBN 'IMPERFECT', STRIVES TO BE 'FORCE FOR GOOD' 

ABS-CBN journalists "strive to keep biases in check, and to report on newsworthy events, persons, and issues in an accurate, fair, and balanced manner," Reyes said. 

A network ombudsman investigates complaints against news personnel, and a standards and practices unit ensures journalist's adherence to ethics code, she added. 

"Pero tulad ng ibang bahagi ng aming kumpanya, hindi kami perpekto – wala pong news organization na perpekto. Sa kabila ng mga pag-iingat at pagbabantay ay inaamin po namin na nagkakamali rin po kami. Gayunpaman, agad din po kaming umaaksyon para itama ang mali," said Reyes. 

(But like other aspects of our company, we are not perfect — no news organization is perfect. Despite the precaution and vigilance, we admit that we also make mistakes. Nonetheless, we immediately act to correct the error.) 

"Just like those in government, journalists and the news media operate as trustees of the public. As such, our first loyalty is to citizens, and our primary obligation is to the truth. We know that as we hold power to account, we ourselves are accountable to the public we serve," she said. 

According to Reyes, the company immediately issues an apology regarding any factual errors in its reports. 

"Kapag nalaman po namin ang pagkakamali agad ay inihahabol po iyon within that particular program, kung ito man po ay spelling error, graphics, factual error... Kapag factual error, we make sure that we air the correction within the same program," she said.

(When we detect an error, we try to air the correct version within the particular program, if it is a spelling error, wrong graphics, factual error... If it is a factual error, we make sure that we air the correction within the same program.)

"We take feedback from our viewers and complaints very seriously. I personally would like to state that I take those feedback and complaints very seriously, at ito po ay inaaksyunan natin, una, sa pamamagitan ng pagtatama ng istorya o report. Pangalawa, sa paghingi ng paumanhin kapag nagkakamali po tayo. Ginagawa po nating public yan, at pangatlo, may kaukulang imbestigasyon at parusa sa mga nagkakamali," she said. 

(We take feedback from our viewers and complaints very seriously. I personally would like to state that I take those feedback and complaints very seriously, and we take action by first, correcting the story or report. Second, we apologize for our errors. We do it publicly, and third, we investigate and we impose necessary sanctions to those who committed the mistake.)

ABS-CBN News upholds this accountability "as vigorously as we uphold press freedom, freedom of expression and free speech — all fundamental rights deeply anchored in our constitution and well-settled in jurisprudence," Reyes said in her opening statement. 

"In these most trying of times, we continue to deliver the news each day, knowing that doing so is an opportunity and a privilege not just to be a witness to history, but to be a force for good," she said. 

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.

Watch a livestream of the hearing here: 

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