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Philippines TV caught in coin crunch

Forced to reinvent itself

MANILA Filipino execs will skip Mipcom again this year as the peso has hit an all-time low.

The Philippines, earlier projected to be the first country out of the Asian doldrums, finds itself trapped in a sluggish economy. Things got worse recently when a group of tourists were kidnapped on Mindanao. Worldwide attention on the kidnappings by Muslim separatist rebels has scared Western tourists from the country.

The tight-money situation has forced local TV to reinvent itself — and to pour more coin into locally produced shows.

Even top foreign program buyer, RPN-9, has shifted gears, introducing, for example, a showbiz gossip show, “The Truth and Nothing But.”

The past year also saw an increase in formats.

Docu dramas (ABS-CBN’s “Katapat” and GMA-7’s “Kasangga”) and public affairs programs have become the new battleground, with TV debate shows emerging as hits.

Reality programming is also making an impact, with shows like ABS-CBN’s “Pinoy Exposed” gaining ground and foreign material like “America’s Most Amazing People” and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” (both on RPN-9) enjoying good viewership.

RPN-9 director for foreign programming Monica Letargo is not hot about Mipcom at all. Neither are the other net reps.

“The exchange rate is very prohibitive. Besides, we can buy directly from suppliers when they come to Manila. It saves us time and money,” Letargo explains.

She confirms that former top-raters like “The X-Files,” “Ally McBeal” and “Roswell” have slipped from the ratings, although “McBeal” remains the most popular foreign show.

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