Virtual wars (or Leveled up election coverage)

Live from Maguindanao Day 19
4 days after Halalan 2010

SHARIFF AGUAK, MAGUINDANAO–When they monitored how the 2007 polls were covered, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility wrote: “For their efforts alone, the three TV stations –ABC 5, ABS-CBN 2, and GMA 7 — took election coverage to a new level. They made the coverage of the 2010 elections something to look forward to.”

And indeed, the TV networks did not disappoint.

In May 2010, they fused hi-tech form and relevant substance to mark the first time many Filipinos used machines to count their votes.

It’s not just the much ballyhooed “Star Wars”-like effects that have captured viewers and reignited debates among Kapamilya and Kapuso fans. More notable was the increased focus on context, issues, voter education, and citizen empowerment.

After all, the 2010 polls have been called a crossroads in Philippine politics, held at the twilight of a long and controversial presidency, with the youngest, more socially conscious, and most technologically-connected populace participating.

Tech coups

Viewers on election day raved about the ABS-CBN Halalan war room suggestive of NASA. GMA 7, like ABS, boasted heavy partnerships and widespread deployments, and a revitalized channel, TV5, showed how it could compete with the two.

Sets of Halalan, Eleksyon and Pagbabago 2010

Unlike the cellphone-ruled 2001 and 2007 elections, 2010 was the first one dominated by online social media.

Tips, complaints, jokes, and comments on Twitter and Facebook filled airtime. ABS-CBN led the surge with its multi-platform “Boto Mo Ipatrol Mo” campaign.

Plus, the networks gave audiences a visual treat.

Each had touch screens showing everything from candidate profiles to citizen journalists’ reports to 3D diagrams of the election process and results.

The coup was augmented reality. The term refers to blending realistic computer-generated images with news presentation, thus “augmenting” the viewing experience–not unlike movie special effects.

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