SEA Games: best for less
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco () - August 27, 2001 - 12:00am
National Broadcasting Network (NBN) is struggling mightily against time and budget to bring the telecast of the Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asian Games to the Philippine viewing public.

Despite the odds being against them, NBN chair Mia Imperial is confident the government broadcast network can pull it off through a compact, versatile team of production, technical and on-camera personnel.

"When I first saw the budget, I really thought it would be challenging," said Imperial, who was appointed to run then-People’s Television 4 in February. "The majority of the expense is in dollars."

Now that NBN has secured the bulk of the financing it has needed (in the neighborhood of P10-15 million), the next step is to make sure the coverage will not be a financial loss, like the Sydney Olympics last year. Imperial herself is meeting with sponsors to ensure greater advertising revenue for the coverage.

How has the change in name and image (from PTV to NBN) affected the perception of advertisers?

"We have a new name, and now people realize we are a new network," Imperial explains, signaling the change that will theoretically catapult NBN out of the bottom of the ratings and into prosperity. The SEA Games will most likely be seen on NBN’s website, as well, which is one of very few in the country to make use of streaming video for its news stories.

"I also want to produce features, so that we can show the other side of the Games," she adds. Para hindi lang puro laro. There are so many things we can show: the preparations of the athletes, the lives of Filipinos living in Malaysia. The coverage will be the richer for it. It can be much more colorful."

Since the Philippine broadcast rights holder is coming in at the last minute (the games begin September 8), there will be added difficulties. The available studio space at the International Broadcast Center will most probably be small, and the crew’s hotel will inevitably be far from the venues, an added burden to the challenged unit.

The last time Kuala Lumpur hosted the SEA Games was in 1989, and it remains a black spot in the memory of most of our athletes. There were fistfights and questionable scheduling of games in basketball, a walkout in tennis, and protests in other sports. It was also the last time the Philippines lost the gold medal in men’s basketball, an unacceptable situation rectified in Manila in 1991, thanks to a team made up of Johnny Abarrientos, Marlou Aquino, Jun Limpot, Vergel Meneses, Bong Ravena, Nonoy Chuatico and others.

NBN is pursuing the SEA Games coverage despite the fog of uncertainty hanging over the centerpiece event of men’s basketball. Imperial and NBN general manager Joey Isabelo coined the phrase Laban para sa bayan to sum up the network’s sentiments.

The production group will be headed by Bong Barrameda, who has been vital to the network’s past successes in the Olympic Games and SEA Games broadcasts. Despite the constraints of time and budget, NBN is confident it can deliver a comprehensive, high-quality broadcast, for less.

"It’s going to be difficult to do it on the budget we have," Imperial elaborates. "Just to show you how we’re cutting costs, I will not even go myself. I’d rather stay here and look after sales."

In addition, sports broadcasting being a specialized profession and NBN being regulated by government agencies, network management will have to justify the fees of its announcers for the Games externally to the Commission on Audit, and internally to its union, a stiff challenge by itself.

At the end of the day, NBN is attempting what nobody else would: Bringing in the full magnitude of an event of the complexity of the Southeast Asian Games on a shoestring.

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