Magna carta urged for child performers on TV
MANILA, Philippines—Broadcast network TV5 has called for the setting up of guidelines on the participation of minors in television shows—and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) says: How about a magna carta for children?
The idea of such guidelines came up Monday in the wake of a child abuse case filed against the broadcast network and “Willing Willie” host Willie Revillame in connection with the appearance on the popular game show of a 6-year-old boy who gyrated like a macho dancer.
TV5 president and CEO Ray E. Espinosa said it was time that the heads of the MTRCB, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) and TV networks come up with “appropriate guidelines that will apply to all networks and the entire industry with respect to the participation or use of children in talent, game and reality shows.”
On March 12, in a segment of TV5’s early evening game show, young Jan-Jan Suan did a “macho dance.” He was among six contestants, aged 6 to 11, featured in the episode. He got a P10,000 cash prize for the dance.
A tempest has since ensued. Many viewers and several groups espousing women’s and children’s rights cried that the boy was “exploited and humiliated.”
“(As a response to the protests) we immediately issued a moratorium on the appearance of minors on all our talent shows,” Espinosa said on the news program “Aksyon” on TV5.
“We fear committing more violations since we don’t know what guideline we should follow.”
“If we’d really committed a mistake, we are willing to make amends. We are not trying to divert the people’s attention from the issue. For me, it’s a valid and legitimate one,” Espinosa stressed. “But networks can’t keep minors from appearing on their shows forever for fear that they might violate some rules.”
Espinosa said that in a dialogue with the MTRCB, TV5 presented clippings of shows on another channel featuring kids, dressed only in their underpants, doing the same dance steps as Jan-Jan.
“I think this is an industry issue,” Espinosa said. “If the MTRCB found Jan-Jan’s performance lewd and indecent, it should also look into shows in other stations with kids doing the same thing.”
MTRCB Chair Grace Poe-Llamanzares said she was open to Espinosa’s suggestion.
“There should be a summit meeting of all network executives,” Llamanzares said. “We need to come up with a magna carta for children.”
The censors chief has appointed new members to its hearing and adjudication board tasked to review the “Willing Willie” case.
An independent filmmaker, a former teacher and a lawyer now comprise the adjudication committee that will meet with TV5 at the MTRCB office this afternoon.
“All fears and doubts will now be removed on the issue of whether the MTRCB is objective. The focus now should be the case and not the people who hear it,” Llamanzares told “Aksyon.”
Last week, MTRCB members Leah Navarro, Eric Mallonga and Eugenio Villareal “voluntarily inhibited” from hearing the case after TV5 raised the issue of the network’s “right to be heard by an impartial tribunal.”
Court ruling needed
On Monday, the lawyer of Revillame claimed government censors could not issue a ruling or impose sanctions on his client without any court action citing him for such an offense.
Lawyer Leonard de Vera said the MTRCB “would be usurping the function of a court of law … since child abuse is criminal in nature and has parameters that are clearly defined by the law.”
“With all due respect to the MTRCB, it has a valid mandate to protect the public from any harmful or injurious influences that may be purveyed by movies and television. But in this particular case, where criminal liability must first be established before any ruling or sanction against any television show or station can be made, the MTRCB would be exceeding its authority and cause grave injury to my client with a premature judgment on the case,” De Vera said.
Six major corporations—Jollibee Foods Corp., Procter & Gamble Philippines, Unilever Philippines, Del Monte Pacific Ltd., CDO Foodsphere and Cebuana Lhuiller Pawnshop— have pulled out their ads from the game show.
“To discontinue ad placements is really up to the advertisers, although it is not helping the issue,” Espinosa said.
Picket at KBP
In a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday, TV5 said it would work with Revillame and WilProductions, which coproduces “Willing Willie,” to “improve the program and ensure that it will continue to bring fun and entertainment to its many loyal viewers.”
For two weeks starting Monday, ‘‘Willing Willie” will be off the air. It has been replaced by “Primetime Super Sine” and “Magic? Gimik!”
A handful of protesters Monday demanded that the KBP ban Revillame from the air.
Fourteen protesters, composed of students and faculty of the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication and St. Scholastica’s College’s Department of Mass Communication, as well as running priest Robert Reyes, picketed the KBP office in Makati City.
Speakers lambasted Revillame for supposedly offering people “false hopes and promises.”
KBP chair Herman Basbano said the body had received dozens of complaints via e-mail pertaining to the Jan-Jan episode.
Despite demands for swift action, Basbano said “due process should be accorded to every one.”
KBP executive director Reynaldo Hulog said the body’s standards authority had issued a show-cause order giving the network 10 working days to explain why it should not be sanctioned.
After the standards authority renders a decision, the network may appeal the judgment to the KBP board and the body would resolve the matter with finality.
In a statement, Reyes said: “Long before the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan, we have been suffering from the devastating tsunami of unethical and culturally stultifying shows like Wowowee, Willing Willie and most if not all TV shows.”
Such shows “should be stopped permanently,” the priest said. With reports from Volt Contreras, TJ Burgonio, Miko Morelos and trainee Don Joseph Dejaresco
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