Columns

Offline: Comparing US and PHL broadcast news

The sudden and unexpected firing of Tucker Carlson from Fox News and Don Lemon from CNN had their followers wondering what was the real reason for their forced departure.

It did not make sense that the two popular anchors would be removed without even giving them the benefit of an honorable exit, where they could bid their fans and followers good-bye.

Fox and CNN both expressed their thanks for the long service given by both men to their networks, and wished them well in their future endeavors. The farewell messages were as generic as they come. In the case of Lemon, he accused his now former employer of being dishonest for not revealing the truth behind his axing.

Carlson pretty much received the same treatment. He had his usual show last Friday and appeared to have no inkling that it would be his last.

This was odd considering he was Fox’s top talking head, although his show did not quite bring in the advertisers to back his popularity.

Lemon did not have the same level of popularity, but he too was considered an important, if frequently too opinionated, member of CNN’s broadcast crew.

It is also no secret that Carlson was the favorite newscaster of the extreme right, and Lemon of the left.

Both men can be considered to still be youngish and at the top of their game, and will find new homes in other networks soon enough.

What happened to them is considered as newsworthy enough to merit extensive air time in other networks. It’s become a case of news media reporting on news media, which shouldn’t be the case, but it is.

The situation in the Philippines has its similarities, but also marked differences.

The firing or exit of top print and broadcast newsmen and women is not unusual. It’s happened many times in the past, and I daresay it will happen again in the future.

In a lot of cases, the newsfolk – I just coined that word – stepped on some big toes, either of their organization’s owners or friends of their owners.

In other cases, the anchors got too swell-headed or too corrupt to the point that they were bringing their companies down with them, with the almighty advertisers abandoning the shows of the dirty anchors.

I can relate a few examples.

I recall a dear and now departed friend who submitted his resignation on the spot because he felt insulted by the owner’s telling him that they would be supporting a pair of siblings running for national position.

Coy, ain’t I?

I, of course, refer to now senators Alan Peter and  Pia Cayetano, who approached the owner of an old but no longer large newspaper seeking support. Since the owner never hid the fact that he was an active public relations practitioner, he promised the siblings full support. He then called my friend who was editor-in-chief and in a short meeting that henceforth, the paper would provide full backing to the pair.

My friend excused himself, went to his office, and typed out his resignation effective immediately.

The person I refer to is named Ping, and he left the paper on a matter of principle. His case has happened multiple times because most media owners do not really appreciate the independence newmen need in order to be effective.

In another, more recent occasion, a top columnist of the country’s largest broadsheet was told that her column would no longer be appearing in the paper.

She was one of their most well-read opinion writers and remains a widely respected economist. In her case, no warning came. No one from the top executives so much as bothered to talk to her in person to explain that the current administration was not too happy with her constant attacks on the president, whom she attempted to teach the rudiments of economics to no avail.

I am sad to say that I was connected with both newspapers in different times, and now have no respect for the first example, and only a small measure of respect for the latter.

In local broadcast media, there are a number of radio and TV anchors who serve as blocktimers and who earn tons of money from two sources.

One is advertising revenue, while the other is their charging godly sums to interview men and women running for local or national positions.

One formerly well-known TV and radio man has become so notorious as to be deemed too toxic to hire.

He very likely earned millions during his days in the sun, but in recent years has been reduced to offering his comments on various issues, and we media practitioners know full well that he was angling for a government post in the previous administration, and appears to be doing the same thing with the current regime.

It says a lot that two presidents whose administrations have or had a number of questionable personalities still treat this aging broadcaster like he was infected with leprosy, AIDS, and coronavirus all at the same time.

So these are but a few cases of both good and bad journalists being dropped like hot potatoes, or in the first case dropping his employer with his middle finger aimed at the owner.

All are well known, and in some respects can be considered local equivalents of Carlson and Lemon.

Tucker Carlson became a larger than life personality because he was able to tap into the psyche of the followers of Donald Trump and became the de facto spokesman of GOP extremists.

 In many ways, he is like Frankenstein’s monster, a creation of his bosses at Fox News who gave him too much power to the point that even he believed that he was untouchable.

More than anybody, Carlson is the anchor who caused the serious legal problems the Murdochs are now facing.

The worst part is that while he praised Donald Trump to high heavens, behind the scene Carlson said that he actually hated the guts of the 45th POTUS.

There have similarly been many print and broadcast journalists in the Philippines who also have no shame, in fact they take pride, in being mouthpieces of certain politicians. They may lost their credibility but manage to remain employed.

One former broadcaster from the former Big Two that was ABS-CBN and GMA now finds himself in the limbo that is ALLTV, the troubled and essentially inconsequential broadcast station of billionaire Manny Villar.

It goes without saying that the US and the Philippines have their share of news anchors who are addicted  to fame and fortune, and would sell their very souls to make their wicked dreams come true.