MANILA, Philippines - There's no avoiding kid-"unfriendly" TV, however vigilant parents are in regulating their children's viewing habits. Programs that showcase female dancers in skimpy outfits, highlight graphic presentations of crime stories, and allow suggestive liquor ads continue to cause alarm.
Violence, sexual content and foul language have sadly become very much a part of prime-time viewing. Even some shows featuring child stars carry the Parental Guidance warning.
Whatever happened to family shows that promote positive values?
"We receive viewer complaints even about certain shows that are supposedly kid-friendly," says Consoliza Laguardia, chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the government agency tasked with rating local films and TV programs. "I remember one about an episode of 'Mr. Bean,' an animated show, but whose [plot lines] are adult."
"Like education and children's welfare, TV programming for children in the country is characterized by 'tokenism,'" notes Mag Hatol, secretary general of the Southeast Asian Foundation for Children and Television (Anak TV), Philippine advocate for child-sensitive TV.
Hatol points out: "If you add up total programming on all terrestrial channels, we are lucky to chalk up even 10 percent as being really meant for children. Of that meager volume, only 2 percent are locally produced; each show with Pinoy material is constantly on the verge of folding up or cancellation. It's sad for a country whose population is mostly young."
"Among the reasons that child-friendly TV shows like 'Batibot' went off the air was lack of funding," says Chay C. Dionco, project development officer of the National Council for Children's Television (NCCT), which has Bantay TV as a flagship project. Television, she stresses, remains a business enterprise.
Celebrity parents find it challenging to green-light many offerings on the tube.
Who control these shows? What kind of programs would they like their own children to watch?