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Television was introduced in the Philippines in 1953 with the opening of DZAQ-TV Channel 3 of Alto Broadcasting System in Manila. The station was owned by Antonio Quirino, the brother of the incumbent Philippine president, who was set to run for re-election the following year. The station operated on a four hour-a-day schedule (6 – 10 p.m.) and telecast only over a 50-mile radius. This television station was later bought by the Chronicle Broadcasting Network which started operating radio stations in 1956. CBN was owned by the Lopezes who were into various business concerns. The acquisition signalled the birth of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network, now considered one of the major broadcasting companies not only in the Philippines but also in Asia.

The Lopezes also owned The Manila Chronicle, a leading daily at that time. ABS-CBN therefore became not only the first pinoy tv in the Philippines but also the first cross-media entity owned by a family — a situation which remains until today. Subsequently, the Lopez group added a second station, DZXL-TV 9. By 1960, a third station was in operation, DZBB-TV Channel 7 or Republic Broadcasting System, owned by Bob Stewart, a long-time American resident in the Philippines , who also started with radio in 1950. The first provincial television stations were established in 1968 in Cebu, Bacolod, and Dagupan by ABS-CBN. The network is supplemented by 20 radio stations located nationwide.

Economic constraints during these early years of television forced a dependence on imported programs from three U.S. networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC. Importing programs was cheaper than producing them locally. In addition, canned programs appeared to be more popular among local audiences, even though initiatives were made in educational programming.

The commercial thrust of Philippine broadcasting has made it unique among other East Asian countries, where the electronic media are controlled and operated by the government. While this free enterprise environment made local broadcasting globally competitive, the same environment made it difficult to produce and broadcast public service and “development” oriented programs.

Philippine television’s early dependence on US programs may be partly responsible for “colonial mentality” that has continued to afflict Filipinos during the past several generations. The commercial orientation of TV also engendered a “that’s entertainment” mentality in both the advertisers and the general public.

Television programming is oriented toward urban interests, and many provincial stations function merely as replay or relay stations. A few produce their own local programs, but this is constrained by prohibitive production costs. Even the strengthening of TV signals has not reduced the one-way traffic of images from the urban to the rural areas. The consequences, in terms of homogenization of urban values and lifestyles and the erosion of traditional values in the countryside, are bewailed by social critics who blame the media as one of the forces contributing to social violence.

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