Media Newser Philippines' Media Winners and Losers for 2019

By Media Newser Philippines | Friday, January 17, 2020

Photo: ABS-CBN, One News, CNN Philippines, GMA-7
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines
2019 was another colorful year for the Philippine television news industry. Here we had witnessed the rise of One News, the addition of its sister network, One PH, and a surprising renewal of a localized news franchise, CNN Philippines.

Last year we had also seen some of our networks finding new ways to boost their audiences with the help of technology. Chief among them were GMA Public Affairs with its Stand For Truth program, and ANC with its Matters of Fact podcast.

And then there were those countless coverage of breaking news to wall-to-wall reporting of the midterm elections. The industry indeed had a lot of remarkable highlights, but then there were also, sadly, some lowlights — i.e. TV Patrol's coverage of the Barretto feud — and we have managed to compile them here for our annual yearender.

Before we bid adieu to media monitoring this 2020 — hopefully temporarily, not permanently — allow us to give you our Media Winners and Losers for the year 2019. We promise this will be short and sweet.

Screenshot: Asian Academy Creative Awards
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Cathy Yang

Just when we all thought Cathy Yang has given us all, the ANC anchor and managing editor continued to surprise us in 2019. At the beginning of the year, the Market Edge anchor impressed many with her exclusive and wide-ranging interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — his first and only with a local television network during his official visit in the country.

From discussing the state of democracy in South East Asia to the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, Yang also quizzed the world's oldest leader on the issue of President Rodrigo Duterte's withdrawal from the ICC, the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, and the Philippines' claim on Sabah, among many others.

In March, she followed this with a market-moving interview with Ben Diokno, his first since being appointed as Philippine central bank governor. The Philippine market reacted and the peso fell almost one percent to the dollar following the interview, in which Diokno said the currency was trading near the upper end of their forecasts.

Given all of this, it's no wonder why Yang continues to receive plaudits both locally and internationally. Last month, she scored the prestigious 2019 Asian Academy Creative award for Best News anchor — the first for any local journalist or any Filipino for that matter. Just last week, she also nabbed her fourth Asian TV Awards trophy for Best News Anchor, a rare feat for any Asian journalist.

There's really no stopping Cathy Yang!

Screenshot: One News
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

The talk programs: The Chiefs and Agenda

The industry fortunately has an abundance of smart and insightful talk programs. From The Chiefs and Agenda to The Source and Headstart, all of them gave us something to talk about in 2019.

One News' The Chiefs continued to be a success story for the Cignal news channel, driving and generating the headlines with its newsmaking interviews. Perhaps its most memorable came in January of last year when hosts Amy Pamintuan and Roby Alampay interviewed former GMA-7 newsman Jiggy Manicad, who was then making the rounds on TV to boost his Senate candidacy.

But it turned out to be a disaster of an interview that exposed Manicad as a would-be lapdog of the administration. More on this later.

Our newest entrant also came from the Cignal news channel, and it's no other than the Cito Beltran-hosted Agenda. Notable for its long-form discussions on many important issues, some of which are not always being talked about in early bird TV, Agenda became the morning equivalent of One News' most important property, The Chiefs.

Like its evening counterpart, the talk program also boasts strong news value and impressive hosting courtesy of the ever-affable Cito Beltran, who is always up to speed and up to the task of dissecting every topic, whether that be the water crisis, the Bangsamoro law, or the elections and its cast of characters.

If Mr. Beltran used to be the king of afternoon talk during his time at ANC — with the beloved Straight Talk — he sure is morning TV's king of talk with Agenda. We have to thank the Cignal bosses for bringing him back.

Screenshot: ANC and CNN Philippines
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

The talk programs: Headstart and The Source

Also returning to our list — and deservedly so — are two of the premier political talk programs on TV today, ANC's Headstart and CNN Philippines' The Source, hosted by Karen Davila and Pinky Webb, respectively.

Headstart once enjoyed another great year with Karen Davila's high-intensity one-on-ones. Whether that be her much talked about sit-down with the feisty Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, or her very telling interview with Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, who made a slip-of-the-tongue admission that the Duterte administration is an authoritarian regime, Davila always brought her interviewing skills to bear.

Retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban had this to say about Davila when he appeared on the program in October to discuss the Marcos-Robredo poll protest: "That's a very good question. As I said, you're smart. You should've been a lawyer."

The Source also had another banner year, scoring exclusives after exclusives. From top political figures like Senators Risa Hontiveros and Richard Gordon, the program also became a must-go destination for members of the administration, e.g. the elusive Solicitor General Jose Calida, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and former PNP chief Oscar Albayalde.

It was on this very program where Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino made a prejudgment on Vice President Leni Robredo as anti-drug czar, days before she accepted President Rodrigo Duterte's dare to take the post.

"Sa 36 years na serbisyo ko sa pulis, kahit siguro kalahati hindi ko alam. Dito ko lang lahat nalaman. The vice president doesn’t have that. Wala siyang kaalaman sa iligal na droga. Experience-wise, nasa more than 38 years ko nang naging trabaho itong ganito. The vice president doesn't have that experience," Aquino said during the interview.

In addition to her political interviews, Webb also nabbed rare sit-downs with key figures from the judiciary — all gleaming examples of how her power and influence extend beyond politics. Among those who agreed to appear were Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, retired Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Screenshot: ABS-CBN
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Mike Navallo

In a year where there was a particular hyperfocus on issues touching on justice and politics, ABS-CBN reporter Mike Navallo was at the center of it all. From covering the cases filed by the government against its perceived critics, like Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, to the appointment and retirement of Supreme Court justices, Navallo, just last month, also followed the landmark decision on the Maguindanao Massacre case.

His high point, however, came in July of last year, during which the Philippine government went after the opposition and filed sedition cases against Vice President Leni Robredo, then-Senator Antonio Trillanes and three dozen others.

Examining the soft copy of the affidavit by Peter Joemel Advincula aka Bikoy, the man behind the Ang Totoong Narcolist video series, Navallo brought to light the involvement of the Office of Solicitor General in its drafting, breaking the news in primetime via TV Patrol and The World Tonight.

That's how our local TV reporters should be: investigative, probing and persistent in finding the truth.

Photo: One PH
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Wag Po

They may not have the monster audience as local teleseryes in primetime, but One PH's Wag Po has grown into a must-see program in 2019. Surprisingly an appointing viewing last year, the nightly talk program has become a place for sensible discussion — at times even analysis — of the day's news, courtesy of its ensemble composed old-school journalists, namely Ed Lingao, Jove Francisco, Manny Mogato, Lourd De Veyra, Patrick Paez and Melvyn Calderon.

Unlike other talk programs on TV today, this Cignal TV production relies heavily on the hosts, their experience and news judgment, not on any script. It works, actually, as topics being talked about here are (or can be) freewheeling, resulting to a more relaxed, engaging and no-nonsense conversation — be it about politics, health, entertainment, or just about anything.

Thus far, its following continues to grow online and offline, and the bosses certainly have taken notice of that. Aside from its regular airing on One PH and its digital platforms, the program also now has a delayed, filtered telecast on TV5.

Wag Po sanang itong ma-cancel ngayong 2020!

Screenshot: CNN Philippines
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Pia Hontiveros

Returning again to our winners list is CNN Philippines chief correspondent and anchor Pia Hontiveros, who made waves last year with her interviews with former National Youth Commission chairperson Ronald Cardema.

Following his call to President Duterte for the revocation of scholarships of students who join anti-government rallies, Hontiveros had the then-congressman wannabe in a phone patch interview on NewsNight.

Confronting Cardema, Hontiveros asked, "It is very clear here in your own statement, all anti-government scholars. What are you saying, this is a typographical error or what? It's very clear, all anti-government scholars. Hindi ba?"

Cardema tried to spin his official statement, but Hontiveros continued, "Whether it's a typographical error or the way you write your statement, there really is a problem here 'cause like what I said, and yes I did read your statement, it read, all anti-government scholars. It's very clear."

In another interview on Politics As Usual, Cardemas also was schooled on live television for trying to direct his anger at Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, pointing his finger in front of the camera.

Hontiveros wasn't having it and told Cardema on air, "Don't point, don't point. Not even on TV. You can talk but don't point."

Talk about putting a bully in his rightful place!

Photo: Philippine Star/Geremy Pintolo
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Armie Jarin-Bennett and the CNN Philippines team

2019 was generally a good year for CNN Philippines. Performance-wise, it has stabilized following a difficult period in 2018, which saw huge layoffs and viewers erosion. Ratings and commercial loads were both up last year and the brand CNN continued to pick up steam during a contested election year, thanks to a series of televised fora and debates it independently produced.

What's more, the network team led by its chief Armie Jarin-Bennett has successfully renewed its licensing agreement with WarnerMedia — the company that owns CNN — for another five years, which guarantees that CNN Philippines will be on the airwaves until the end of 2024.

This early, the network is already preparing for the localized version of CNN Heroes and it plans to continue its aggressive coverage of breaking news events. So, will it be another year good year for the local CNN station? Will it be able to keep the momentum moving forward? Only time will tell. But we are definitely counting on Ms. Jarin-Bennett to guide the network to the right direction.

Photo: ABS-CBN/Daniel Soriano
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Nadia Trinidad

ABS-CBN in July tapped its then-news production head Nadia Trinidad to be the new chief operating officer of the ABS-CBN News Channel, replacing Cilette Liboro-Co, who was moving to a new role at the network.

No major changes have been made since the veteran journalist took over, and that may be a good thing since there's really no need to fix something that isn't broken. Instead, she just kept building on its past successes, remaining the same news channel that makes and breaks the biggest headlines.

Overall, programs and lineup remain solid and consistent as they were a year ago, with the exception of a few talent changes that were all implemented in a seamless manner.

Trinidad was a smart choice, and perhaps the best choice to head up the news channel and it was evident from the smooth transition of power inside the network. If there's any challenge for her this 2020, it is how she can retain its dominance in an ever-competitive news channel race.

Screenshot: CNN Philippines
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Newsroom Weekend, its anchor Claire Celdran and co.

CNN Philippines' weekend newscast emerged as the surprise of 2019. Everything started low-key in mid of last year — from the arrival of veteran broadcaster Claire Celdran to the anchor chair, to the editorial and lineup changes — and the program found its footing from thereon.

So far since the changes took over six months ago, Celdran and her team have managed to cover many weekend news live and in a more extensive manner. From the aircraft crash in Laguna in September to the earthquake in Davao last month, they have also devoted expanded coverage to the firing of Vice President Leni Robredo as ICAD co-chair.

In essence, Newsroom Weekend has been transformed into a more breaking news-chasing newscast — exactly what the bosses envisioned their programs to be.

There are no signs that they would be tweaking the format that seems to be working this 2020 (and they shouldn't). Just last Sunday, the program had an expanded coverage of the Taal Volcano eruption, which featured Celdran's extensive interview with the likes of Philvocs Undersecretary Renato Solidum and Calabarzon Civil Defense Officer Alex Czar Masiglat, as well as a powerful reporting from correspondent Paolo Barcelon.

The said coverage has since drawn more than 700 thousand views on Facebook — a remarkable number that shows how hungry viewers are for relevant and timely reporting.

Screenshot: Atty. Mel. Sta. Maria
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Digital power player: Atty. Mel Sta. Maria

Only a few people has both the power and influence on TV and online as that of Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, the co-host of One PH's Relasyon and webcaster of his own digital program.

In 2019, the lawyer turned broadcaster remained one of the most in-demand talents of the MVP Media Group, serving not only on his noontime talk program, but also as co-anchor of TV5 and One PH's joint election coverage.

Online, he continued to gain traction and success with his original and buzzworthy digital content, ranging from his usual interviews to legal explainers on timely topics such as divorce, or as simple as credit management.

In November, when TV5 anchor Raffy Tulfo made news after publicly shaming a public school teacher, Sta. Maria took to his digital platforms to offer a reasoned commentary on the disciplinary actions a teacher can take and its limitations. The result: it went viral on social media and managed to hit the 1 million mark.

Now that is how you make an impact!

Screenshot: GMA Public Affairs
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Digital Power Player: Stand for Truth

Another digital effort that sizzled on social media last year was GMA Public Affairs' Stand For Truth, a program specifically developed to cater to the millennial audience. Credit its business model that was built from scratch by Nessa Valdellon and her team, Stand For Truth eventually got a television re-airing treatment courtesy of GMA News TV.

As opposed to other Kapuso newscasts that seem to recycle news story after news story, Stand For Truth features all-original reporting, shot just by using mobile devices. These reports are also simplified so that the Facebook generation will find them easier to consume, easier to digest.

As a plus, what this program also has is the regular presence of GMA News' resident analyst Richard Heydarian, who each and every night offers analysis or explainers on all sorts of issues, whether that be President Duterte's State of the Nation Address, or his so-called independent foreign policy.

In an online world where propagandists and misinformation peddlers often saturate the cyberspace — often targeting millennials who consume social media more than any other generation — it's a relief to have Stand For Truth, a program that really goes to great lengths to deliver the truth.

May they remain a force for good this 2020 and beyond.

Honorable Mentions

  • The World Tonight and its anchors Tina Monzon-Palma and Tony Velasquez
  • BusinessWorld Live, Danie Laurel
  • Unang Hirit and its on-air team: Arnold Clavio, Rhea Santos (co-anchor until August), Ivan Mayrina, Connie Sison, Mariz Umali and co.
  • Matters of Fact Podcast


Screenshot: ABS-CBN
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

TV Patrol

One of the sadder sights of the past year was TV Patrol's apparent wall-to-wall coverage of the Barretto feud. No other newscast covered it as comprehensively (and we say that with sarcasm) as the ABS-CBN flagship newscast, devoting two nights to interview actress Marjorie Barretto and businessman Atong Ang.

At a time when it was supposed to put a spotlight on other issues, (i.e., the inclusion of former PNP General Oscar Albayalde in the Pampanga ninja complaint) this was the best TV Patrol could give its viewers: a family feud treated as an issue of national importance, a story better saved for Tonight with Boy Abunda.

Sure, we can argue that other newscasts like 24 Oras and Aksyon covered it as well, but to allot a whopping 30 minutes for both interviews — an eternity in primetime news — that totally cheapens the program.

We get that it sells, tsismis sells, intriga sells, and the masang viewers aren't likely to care when it's been the norm, when it's entertaining. But the media has the responsibility to give them content that matters and news they should consume. TV Patrol failed on both counts.

Logo: Balitang America
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Balitang America

Once a winner here, TFC's Balitang America has fallen in the losers pile in 2019. Blame the team's shift in priorities, the program has lost its identity and diminished its relevance in the Filipino community in the States.

The program's misfortunes seemed to have begun with the launching of TAYO (TFC's new digital news brand) in early 2019. Since then, resources for the broadcast — to produce compelling and timely news about the Filipino community in the States under the age of Trump— have been reallocated to the said digital effort. Gone were the exclusives, at times investigative reporting of the BA correspondents.

Also, production of program was moved from North America to Manila, leaving it harder for BA correspondents to cover stories as they happen.

What's even worse, the program in July also quietly booted its longtime anchor Gel Santos-Relos out of her anchor chair. There was no explanation from TFC why she was taken out, nor was she given an opportunity to bid a proper on-air goodbye. So much for loyalty. So much for being a Kapamilya.

Changes should be in the wind for the TFC program this 2020. We get the need to appeal to a more younger audience, but this can be done without abandoning its core audience. The changes they did in 2019 were truly unremarkable.

Screenshot: Erwin Tulfo Media
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Erwin Tulfo

Since he basically had nowhere to go on television, following his removal as primetime news anchor of PTV4, Erwin Tulfo became a full-time defender and propagandist of the president in 2019.

Whereas before his task was to deliver the news, these days he is genuinely focused on attacking the opposition, or anyone who goes against or be critical of the president and his policies. His constant and convenient target: Vice President Leni Robredo.

Back in October, when Mrs. Robredo called on the administration to stop its "failed" drug war, Tulfo was quick to hammer the vice president.

"Ma'am,isip-isip rin ho pag may time. Hindi puro tokis ng tokis. Common sense. It's a simple common sense. If you stop this war on drugs what's going to happen? Wala hong iniwan 'yan pag walang pest control, maglalabas ang mga daga, mga ipis. Kailangan ng pest control," said Tulfo on his Tutok Tulfo Reload radio show, before he went through the litany of Duterte propagandists — that if you are against the government's war on drugs, you are likely supporting the drug lords.

If there's any consolation, at least Mr. Tulfo no longer needs to be pretend he is an objective newsman. He also no longer has the same massive audience he used to have. Let it stay that way.

Screenshot: TV5
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Raffy Tulfo

Speaking of Tulfo, the last of their kind in TV-landia also made it to our losers list in 2019. You probably have an idea why.

In November, Raffy Tulfo publicly demanded a school teacher to quit her job during a live airing of his TV5 program Raffy Tulfo in Action, this after the latter asked a student of hers to step out of the classroom after failing to bring his report card.

Initially, Tulfo threatened to file child abuse charges against the teacher since he said the act was a clear violation of the anti-child abuse law. But the parents of the student opted for the revocation of her license instead.

Talking to the teacher on air, Tulfo cautioned: "Hindi ka kakasuhan ng child abuse. [Ang] deal, ikaw na ang kusang magresign sa iyong trabaho ar maging sa PRC ilalakad namin at sasang-ayunan mo para mas mabilis 'yung proseso na ikaw ay matangalan ng lisensiya. Or isang option, ilaban mo sa korte, masasampahan ka ng kasong child abuse. At para po sa akin, ma'am, kung ako ang tatanungin niyo, malaki ang posibilidad na makukulong ka."

Now this isn't new about Tulfo. People that are being accused on his show are more often the not being branded as guilty until proven innocent. Not the other way around. Guilty even before they know the entire story. Never mind due process. Never mind finding the truth.

Atty. Mel Sta. Maria offered a more reasoned view of the case on his online channel: "Administratively, yes pwede siyang i-suspend bilang teacher. pero depende rin po sa grabe ng ginawa. Kung hindi naman po grabe eh hindi pu-puwedeng matangal siya sa eskuwelahan. Kaya po hindi rin papasok ang Revised Penal Code. So 'yung pagpapaalis po ng bata sa classroom para magmuni-muni doon sa nagawa niyang pagkakamali, maari pong hindi pagbawalan 'yun. Maaari pong acceptable mode of punishment."

Moral of the lesson: Not everything can be and should be solved by Mr. Tulfo.

Photo: Rappler/Angie De Silva
Artwork: Media Newser Philippines

Jiggy Manicad

Finally, last on our losers list, but likely first in the hearts and minds of many of his media colleagues, is former GMA News talent Jiggy Manicad, who outed himself as a Duterte sycophant in 2019.

It may not be easy to remember now but Manicad was the same person who used to report investigative pieces on GMA-7 — pieces that exposed the abuses and corruption of those in authority. Once, he had an exposé about a former president who allegedly received millions of pesos of kickbacks from government projects.

That person, or at least that version of him, is long gone. The Manicad we saw during the campaign season was totally a different person, a denier that there is indeed an ongoing threat to press freedom in this country. A die-hard defender who has fully embraced Mr. Duterte's political ideology.

PDI's John Nery was right in calling him a traitor. Frankly, anyone who turns his back on his old profession, in hopes of getting something in return, is one. In his case, he turned a blind eye in order to get the support of the president in his Senate bid. Sadly, that shows how he failed to pass the moral test.

Dishonor Roll:

  • Failon Ngayon for its very cozy interview with President Duterte. Yes, very cozy that you'd think Ted Failon works for this administration

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