MANILA, Philippines—TV5 sees no reason to axe its controversial show host Willie Revillame who, network officials said, had been unfairly cast in the public eye as a child abuser.
TV5, however, was drafting guidelines on the appearance of children on its entertainment and news programs, according to president and CEO Ray C. Espinosa.
Revillame’s TV show, “Willing Willie,” was temporarily taken off the air starting on Monday amid the uproar over a 6-year-old boy’s tearful performance of a “macho dance” in its March 12 episode.
The child was later handed P10,000 by Revillame.
Espinosa agreed that “Willing Willie” could use some improvement, but said “the incident is definitely not a reason for [Revillame] to be taken off the air.”
The network said it was confident that advertisers who had pulled out would return to support “Willing Willie,” the hit game show hosted by the 50-year-old Revillame who is currently on voluntary leave.
A significant portion of TV5’s revenues comes from the prime-time show coproduced by the network and Revillame’s WilProductions, according to Espinosa.
“Definitely, ‘Willing Willie’ is our flagship program,” Espinosa told Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters on Wednesday night. But he also said “Talentadong Pinoy” is TV5’s highest rating program.
“Obviously, we are in discussion with the advertisers. They pulled out because of the pressure coming from social networking sites.”
Espinosa said certain changes would have to be made to improve the quality of the show’s content.
He did not go into detail, but said the network planned to change the show’s “look and feel.” He stressed that the show—so far one of the few making a profit in the young, aggressive network—would continue to be aired.
‘Abridged and spliced’
A 10-minute video of the boy’s performance was circulated in YouTube, eliciting outrage from various sectors.
A number of advertisers withdrew their placements in response to a clamor from some groups to boycott the show.
The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has launched an inquiry into the incident to determine whether the boy’s rights were violated.
But Espinosa said the video was “much abridged and spliced.”
“It was edited to make it appear that he was crying the whole time,” Espinosa said, adding that the boy cried because he was scared of former basketball player Bonel Balingit, a talent on the show, and because he had been booted out of the game.
Espinosa also said the boy’s performance was taken out of context because of the way the video was edited.
He said that the boy was on the show for over 48 minutes, and that parts of the show in between the boy’s dance were not shown in the video.
4 inquiries, overkill
“I think this issue has generated more attention than the recent issues of corruption in the military,” Espinosa said.
“Four agencies are already looking into it,” he pointed out, referring to the MTRCB, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice.
Espinosa said the accusations against Revillame and the show were an “overkill” and even libelous in some cases.
Earlier on Wednesday, the boy’s parents filed a libel complaint against child psychologist Ma. Lourdes “Honey” Carandang, two bloggers and John and Jane Does, saying the charge of child abuse against them had caused them “dishonor, discredit and contempt.”
Tickets to better life
In a report, Agence France-Presse described Revillame as a fast-talking comedian with a legion of poor fans who crave the thick wads of cash he hands out to audience members.
People who flock to the TV5 studio to watch “Willing Willie” get a chance to win cash, cars, houses and other prizes by dancing and doing other acts on stage, but also by having to recount their problems with poverty and other hardships.
With a third of the Philippines’ 94 million population living on a dollar or less a day, Revillame’s prizes appear as golden tickets to a better life while his show offers TV viewers a temporary escape from their hardships.
Highlighting the desperation of the poor, 78 fans were killed in a stampede in 2006 as they lined up to join Revillame’s previous show on another network.
To many critics, Revillame represents all that is wrong with an industry that they say has for years promoted low-brow entertainment and toilet humor.
But others say Revillame is not the sole purveyor of bad taste, and point to other reality shows that promote greed and open hostility among contestants.
Veteran TV programmer Nessa Valdellon has joined the chorus of calls in the mainstream media for advertisers to invest in shows that provoke critical thinking.
“It’s not just a pipe dream. I believe the Pinoy audience is a thinking audience,” Valdellon told AFP.
Dreams come true
For all that, many critics believe that Revillame will soon be back on the air, with his show only suspended for two weeks and himself defiant about his style of entertainment.
“The program aims to provide a venue for everyone to show their talents, tell their stories, and make their dreams come true,” Revillame said in an earlier joint statement with his employers. With a report from Agence France-Presse