Sparing the details: on media restraint

Ted Failon, host of Failon Ngayon

News and current affairs programs nowadays have apparently lost all restraint in depicting heinous crimes. This is regardless whether their time slot is in the late evening or five in the afternoon when children are glued in front of their television sets. The most recent Failon Ngayon episode sounded like a television version of the popular tabloid column Xerex in the 90s.

I urge you don’t misinterpret my intention in writing this; my sympathy goes to the victim of the gang rape.

In an interview with her, the woman recounted how she was repeatedly abused; her three abductors ravaged her while a gun was pointed at her. She was crying, anger was clearly sensed in every word she dropped while giving an account of what happened that evening.

Right from her work as a guest relation officer in an establishment on East Avenue in Quezon City, while waiting with her sister for a jeepney ride home, three men forcibly pulled her inside a van, brought her to an unknown location and gang raped her. Except for some extreme close up of the victim’s un-rouged lips or teary eyes, otherwise the camera focused the entire time on Ted Failon, the program host, as he listened intently, like any responsible program anchor, to the story of the raped woman.

She is married and has children. Her children, according to her, are her reasons for holding dearly to her life, the reasons why she did anything the rapists told her to do if only to keep herself alive.

But what struck me as strange was how Failon Ngayon failed to edit using that very familiar onomatopoeic toot, probably out of lack of regard for decency, ignorance, or malice, the more graphic descriptions of the crime. “Pinasubo po nila sa akin ‘yong ari nila habang ‘yong isang lalaki ay pinapasok ang kanyang ***** sa ari ko (They forced their penises into my mouth while one of the men inserted his ***** (a more graphic Filipino word for penis) into my vagina,” she said while the camera zooms in on the flowing tears to her mouth. “Nakatutok po ang baril sa mukha ko, nang kumatok ang driver at siya naman po ang humalay sa akin, naalala ko pa po ang kanyang tattoo, pinipilit niyang ipakain sa akin ang kanyang ari habang ‘yong isang kasama naman po niya ang nasa likuran ko (The tip of the gun was at my face, when the driver knocked on the door, I remember his tattoo. He forced me to take into my mouth his penis while one of them was behind me).”

I understand the requirement of the program to remain faithful to the account of the victim of the crime and to maintain the ever-important television value of realism (a result of the public’s uber-fondness for reality TV programs that border on unevaluated fanaticism). To be very explicit about it, however, to broadcast the details as if letting the public know what the rapists did to her will enable the people to protect themselves from these criminals, is stepping beyond what is acceptable on national TV broadcasts, not to mention it is useless. Useful if its object is to titillate, but hardly if the crime is rape. The media need to leave it to the court to dissect the gritty elements of the crime and spare the viewing public, the children most especially, the horror of the crime.

In the mean time, I am well aware and am grounded on reality enough to know that the news and current affairs departments of the biggest TV stations in the Philippines will not bother reading this post much less heed the simple call for self-restraint. Nor will they change anytime soon.


6 thoughts on “Sparing the details: on media restraint”

  1. I also have the same thoughts over the Bitag program, though I do know that in one way or another, they are doing the common Filipino a favor. Not only with the videos, but also the words used, especially when the host talks with the perpetrators in a very “kalye-like” talk.

    They should know the extent of their responsibility.

  2. i think ted did not intend to make it that way..unfortunately, it sounded so self-centered aiming to push the rating that they had set aside your concern. It may be unintentional for Ted but somebody from the staff should have remind him since they are all professional.

    1. i also think so, joan. it must have been a simple lapse in judgment, however, in terms of the lapses they’ve already made, I’m wondering if this is more deliberate than an ignorant mistake.

    1. aside from definitely agreeing, were there points in the essay which you find logically unsound?

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