MANILA, Philippines — Even before President Benigno Aquino III made his biting comments against one of the country’s most popular news anchors, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. itself has been upset about broadcaster Noli De Castro’s habit of injecting his opinion during the prime time news telecast. It, however, chose not to reprimand its iconic anchor but merely cautioned him about showing his leanings in the delivery of news.
A network insider, who refused to be identified for lack of clearance to speak in behalf of ABS-CBN News, said that De Castro and his anchors were allowed to give their insights (to give more context to the news) but not their personal opinion as part of “TV Patrol’s” re-launch two years ago.
“It’s supposed to be a freewheeling banter, which was adopted from the ‘Pulso’ segment in the old TV Patrol. But it was made clear that their comments should only be made at the end and not during the newscast,” said the source.
There were instances when De Castro strayed from the scripted questions and made snide remarks or facial expressions during live reports and the source said De Castro had been cautioned but not penalized by his department superiors.
On the news coverage regarding the surge in passenger arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3, which was cited by the President in his speech, the source said the news bosses were also surprised why De Castro had to cite the terrible state of NAIA-1 during the report. “It might be a fact that NAIA 1 is a bad airport but why say it at that point of a news telecast? He could have made his opinions known in his radio program,” said the source.
The source admitted that officials of the news department were conflicted when they decided two years ago to bring back De Castro who was widely perceived as carrying a lot of baggage after spending nearly a decade in politics — from his tainted victory in the 2004 elections to his subservience to the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to his alleged involvement in the North Rail and Globe Asiatique controversies.
“The management was aware of all the criticisms against him… His political past made his return complicated. But the management stuck with him because they believed in his sincere desire to help and serve the masses,” said the source.
Aside from his ties to the old administration, the source said that de Castro role as main news anchor was at odds with his role as radio commentator in ABS-CBN’s affiliate, DZMM. The source said the public looked to TV Patrol as the their main source of news and management was keen on keeping it free from accusations of bias.
Regina “Jing” Reyes, chief of the ABS-CBN News and Public Affairs, said that any complaints against their news reports or personnel were turned over to its in-house ombudsman for investigation. According to Reyes, there is no pending investigation of De Castro and that the management has not decided whether the President’s criticisms are enough to merit a probe.
“It’s a good and bad thing actually. It’s bad that the President himself made the criticism but it’s also good for us because it shows that we are not biased towards this administration as most of our critics claimed in our coverage of the Arroyo arrest and Corona impeachment,” said Reyes in a phone interview.