The 2014 SONA in HD

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Pres. Benigno Aquino III delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (Courtesy: Radio TV Malacanang)

(Courtesy: Radio Television Malacanang)

Only tech-versed viewers who habitually flip channels might have noticed. The fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Benigno Aquino III also goes down as the first to be shot in high definition (HD).

There’s little fanfare for the Presidential Broadcast Staff – Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM), which bags the credit for this long-overdue upgrade. They’ve always handled the SONA pool feed, being charged after all with documenting the chief executive’s speeches and activities.

At these events, the SOP for network live news crews is to hook up with RTVM’s feed since they have more camera angles, and more importantly, prime access to the president. However, the RTVM feed was at times of lower quality than that of the networks’ own cameras and fell prey to technical glitches that made it risky to air.

RTVM stayed in the technical cellar for years, as the privately-owned networks bulked up on the latest equipment. Moves to update their tech capabilities went gradually, going only as far as the government’s budget could allow.

Then in 2012, the Philippines was picked to host the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia.

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PNoy meets UP

Bag inspections at the UP 2011 graduation. Shot by Ronin Bautista

Long lines, bag checks, and selective admittance. Dozens of sentries in white polo barongs. The occasional chopper overhead. And at conspicuous areas, broadcast vans and a media platform.

It’s a rare prelude to any commencement rite. I hadn’t seen this much fuss when I went through this ceremony.

But this was no ordinary college graduation, in no ordinary college, and with no ordinary visitor.

President Benigno Aquino III was speaking to the University of the Philippines Diliman’s class of 2011.

It would be the first in 12 years. He would also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from UP–the 13th after Fidel Ramos.

ABS-CBN cameraman looking over the seating for UP graduates (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our cameraman shooting from a reverse angle of the seats. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The potential conflict also made it worth checking out.

After all, a number of the university’s students and professors have not hidden their impatience at the Aquino administration’s delivery of campaign promises.

And wasn’t UP’s budget for 2011 one of the worst cut?

Protests would surely mark the ceremonies.

If you’re a President beginning to feel the heat of criticism and opposition, how do you approach a university known as a hotbed of dissent against sitting leaders?

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Pagharap ni PNoy sa Pinoy

Si Pang. Aquino sa Manila Hotel, Hunyo 24, bago tanggapin ang "Outstanding Manilan" award.

Sunud-sunod ang panggulat sa bayan ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino. Marahil dahil nasanay tayo sa nakaraang pamahalaan, bawat gawin nyang bago ay malaki nang bagay.

Ang pag-iwas sa wangwang. Ang pagkaipit sa trapik. Ang pagiging takda sa oras. Ang magiliw na pakikitungo sa media. At ang SONA sa wika ng lahat.

Pinapakita lang ng pangulo na kailangan nyang mapalapit sa mamamayan. Siyam na taon silang maituturing na nawalay sa gobyernong nasangkot sa mga kontrobersyang hindi nito pinagtuunang isagot.

Kaya naman, bawat pagkakataong makasagot, sinasamantala ngayon.

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Inaugural patrol

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

TV technical people are the unsung heroes of coverage–“first in and last out.” I heard that tag not from anyone in the industry, but from a teacher I met in one of our early-morning features.

While confined to Metro Manila, the many live points of one TV station covering the biggest event of 6 years have to share the same limited reserved space with other stations and other media.

A big deference, of course, to broadcast–them with their OB (outside broadcast) vans, satellites, microwave dishes, scaffolds, lights, cameras, cables, computers, PAs, and staff.

And for an event scheduled for 10 a.m., our live teams were in place at the Quirino Grandstand, Malacañan Palace, Times Street, and Quezon Memorial Circle as early as midnight of June 30–President Benigno Aquino III’s inaugural day.

This inauguration marks my first entry to the presidential palace. Our team spent the previous day waiting to park, getting permits, and then drawing lots with reps from Channels 4, 5, and 7 for setup space.

Each reporter was only allowed to report within those blue borders.

You don’t easily set up in Malacañan. You go through layers of coordination with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and Radio-Television Malacañang (RTVM). A third of that is done from the office, a third via phone, and a third on-site.

Only one live camera per network reporter is allowed inside the Malacañan driveway. All the stations’ vans need to hook up to RTVM, the sole team with cameras inside.

Anyone who watched the President’s historic walk up the Palace staircase live saw the same shot, regardless of the channel.

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