Channel 7’s Felipe L. Gozon

HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - December 2, 2019 - 12:00am

When Felipe L. Gozon marks his 80th birthday on Sunday, he will be riled by having to make a choice from two options. Like most seniors, the wages of aging are ganging up on him. He must now quit and do nothing but watch television. His mind and heart dictate otherwise, he still has a long way to go and mountains to climb. It was not easy going but today Channel 7 of which he is the CEO is the biggest and most popular broadcast network in the country. This may seem enough but Gozon is meeting head-on the forthcoming challenges brought about by digitalization, the drift away stationary TV sets. An innovative industry leader, Gozon is studying trends abroad, how to “monetize” the digital channels, increase subscription.

Much of what Gozon knows about marketing, and executive prowess were self taught. To please his father, Felipe took up law in Diliman. Basically motivated by activity, he found his classes boring and he drifted into the billiard halls of the district became good at it that soon he moved to the bigger billiard halls of Espana. He was also making a little money from bets. After one of those exciting contests wherein he won, he turned around to find out that his father had watched him all the time. 

Felipe said his father did not talk with him for weeks. Chastised, he went back to Diliman and graduated from there in 1958. He moved on to Yale where he got his master of laws degree in 1965.

I have three favorites in channel 7; Jessica Soho’s State of the Nation, a daily news program with the news stated without adornment and editorializing. Jessica has worked hard and has won a lot of awards for her perspicacity and devotion to truth. I appreciate Howie Severino’s documentaries on current issues which inform us with perspectives and insights not found in the newspapers. His documentaries are made with great care and faithfullness to facts. They are also entertaining. My favorite weekly program is Winnie Monsod’s “Bawal ang Pasaway,” a candid interview with a newsmaker and a person of authority. Winnie’s questions are very penetrating because she studied the subject at hand and it is difficult to evade the probing inquisition knows. This is interviewing at its best and for Filipinos who do not know what happens behind the scenes, it is revealing. Unfortunately, for all the information that we get from Winnie, Jessica and Howie, we cannot internalize well enough for us to make the correct decisions when we cast our votes.

On the table is GMA’s plan to go into movie production. Gozon sees a lot of future in the industry. He has been observing what the Koreans have done. On a recent trip to Seoul he saw how they make their world famous telenovelas, the structures that they set up, the sets that could be used for the whole year, the latest technology they have developed. He knows that at the heart of good movies are good stories translated into superb scripts. I told him that the Korean telenovelas are scripted by leading writers in Korea steeped in both Western and Eastern traditions. He acknowledges the great talent that exists in this country and he will mine it.

In the meantime, he is enthusiastic about the achievements of GMA’s engineers. They have made an affordable and compact device that can empower a digital TV receiver; When connected to a smartphone it can receive internet connections, online videos. This brainchild is patented and is a major achievement of the network’s technology department. It will be on the market soon.

Felipe Gozon is very strict in his observance of the responsibilities that are embodied in the government franchise which permits broadcast media to operate. 

Foremost is the responsibility to truth for which reason Channel 7 always proclaims that the information it propagates is the truth. But like all private media, television exists on its advertising revenue and that revenue is always determined by the popularity rating of its programs. 

Channel 7 supports several philanthropies in health, education, public welfare and culture. It immediately springs to action when a calamity strikes and assists in relief work. At the moment its foremost philanthropy is the rebuilding of Marawi, of housing, and most important, the healing from the trauma of war and the restoration of faith in our institutions.

Felipe Gozon thinks radio and movies and print media, TV will continue to exist, perhaps not as pervasive or ubiquitous as we know it today, even after the advent of convergence, digitization, internet and new technologies/platforms for content. He does not believe that TV will be like Kodak and EasyCall (pager) which were extinguished by the smart phone. Almost all Filipino homes now have TV sets.

As for the country, says Felipe Gozon, “it is my hope for our people to be more nationalistic and disciplined, for our electorate to vote for the deserving, for government and, to some extent, even private companies, to minimize corruption and govern with integrity. And for those who wield power, to think more of the public welfare than self gain or family.

The constant striving for excellence is often contradicted by the need for high ratings a contradiction that must be resolved at the great risk to one’s self respect. Then, there is the continuing search for depth and meaning, and relevance in programming for the public good. In meeting all these challenges and prevailing, Felipe Gozon has won a slew of awards and commendations. His fullest satisfaction, I think, comes from the fact that he had brightened the lives of millions while serving them the truth as well. Felipe L. Gozon had reached the top. It can be very lonely up there. And to stay there, in his venerable age, he can’t stop running. I pray he will have more than my 95 years!


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