The Philippines in a newscast
(The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2015 - 10:00am

A passenger bus explodes off Bukidnon. Heavy rains and flooding wipe out houses in an Iloilo village. An earthquake shocks Bohol and neighboring islands in the Visayas. For a country that is made up of thousands of islands, news stories come quick and in most cases, in multitudes.

The challenging part is breaking in these stories on national TV. Issues of logistics, production, language barrier among others, all come to play and sadly, the news does not gain national attention — so that help, when necessary, is hard to come by.

To address this, GMA News TV created Balita Pilipinas Ngayon (BPN). Four years since its launch, the pre-primetime afternoon newscast continues not only to carry but also to shift focus on local stories gathered from different parts of the country.

Headlined by seasoned reporters Maki Pulido and Mark Salazar, BPN brings to the national forum stories on public affairs, politics, crime, health, weather, geo-hazards, traffic — all happening in the regions. The program aims to strengthen and bring to the public’s attention what happens, where as it happens.

“The difference is in the content,” describes Pulido on what sets BPN apart from regular newscasts. “There are stories that you won’t hear or see in other newscasts because we have stories from different corners of the country, particularly in areas many are not familiar with. Even I sometimes encounter stories on places in the country I’ve never been to.”

“Focus is given really on the information coming in from the provinces,” agrees Salazar. “In fact, even other programs on GMA and I heard those from other networks, too, they monitor BPN because they get more extensive news gathering since the stories are delivered straight by our reporters from the regions.”

As with any other TV program, BPN also proves to be a challenge when it comes to production.

Salazar shares, “At times when we break a story that is happening in a remote location, it is important that we are familiar with the culture of the place, its political landscape, even ’yung mga pinanggagalingan o hugot ng mga tao doon. Live interviews can sometimes leave us in shock, but we must keep ourselves composed and dig deeply from our stock knowledge about the region being discussed.”

“Breaking news while anchoring. That’s challenging,” adds Pulido. “Breaking news almost always comes in around BPN’s timeslot which is at 4 p.m. And you have to annotate.”

Despite these roadblocks, the BPN team is rewarded with the appreciation the program earns from its viewers.

“We feel the validation because we get positive feedback from the provinces where they feel their integration through our stories,” says Salazar. “So in a way, I feel that BPN becomes an instrument in getting the audience involved, wherever part of the country they may be.”

For her part, Maki believes that the program creates a sense of unity among the audiences, “In reverse, too, for us who are located here, we get to learn about what happens in another region that is of importance in the national scene. It makes you aware that your experience is the same as theirs; or in reverse it angers you because something happens to them that should not have.”

Just this year, BPN received a Certificate for Creative Excellence from the US International Film and Video Festival (USIFVF) for its episode that chronicled the onslaught of Typhoon Glenda in the Philippines. The newscast made use of reports from GMA’s whole reportorial team, including its network of regional news teams and stringers to give its viewers a clear view of the storm’s aftermath that left parts of Luzon heavily devastated.

For the BPN anchors, such success is attributable mainly to the hardworking team behind the program, particularly those who gather and produce stories from the regions.

“We owe it to the regional reporters. They are basically our content providers,” remarks Salazar.

“They’re made up of a lean group in the regions so you can imagine them covering, writing for their newscast, and on top of it all, managing to stand up on-camera to deliver a live report for BPN,” expounds Pulido.

Salazar goes on to add, “It’s also challenging for them to deliver their reports in Tagalog. Since their proficiency is in the local language, we get an authentically regional feel from news teams that are out there in the trenches.”

Asked about their learning from four years of doing BPN, the anchors say it has deepened their sense of being Filipinos.

“Personally, I can say that I have come to know more about the Philippines. I am now more familiar with the different parts of the country. Being a reporter, I travel a lot. But in BPN, it’s different. I get introduced to places, events like festivals I never knew existed,” shares Pulido.

“I have come to appreciate regional stories more. It’s one thing when you hear about it and it’s another thing when you get to listen to how the regional reporters convey it, when you get to see how they write it,” says Salazar. “You become familiar with their own perspective, how they view their localities, their culture, their people.”

With the approaching presidential elections, Balita Pilipinas Ngayon is sure to bring to the viewers stories of national and regional significance keeping the public well-informed and updated. Developing into a more conversational style of breaking the news, BPN hopes to strengthen its hold as the regional newscast on national TV.


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