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Corruption in the 2019 SEA Games live broadcasting contract?





RJ Nieto

Organizers take pride in hosting a record number of sports in this year’s installment of the Southeast Asian Games, but it appears that they had no intention of making all the 56 sporting events as accessible as possible to the Filipino public that paid for hosting them, or they’re simply too stupid to realize what they’ve done.

The Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chose only two networks — ABS-CBN and TV5. While both have multiple channels at their disposal, there’s simply no way for both of them to air all 56 events live.

Phisgoc Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano and COO Tats Suzara ignored this reality and decided to grant live broadcasting rights exclusively to these two networks, to the detriment of sports that these two networks will inevitably fail to air live, and of the general public whose taxes paid for hosting the games.

Water polo is a prime example.

For whatever reason, neither ABS-CBN nor TV5 was there to broadcast live the crucial November 29 match between our men’s team and Singapore’s, so the Philippine Water Polo Team itself took the initiative to live-stream the game on Facebook.

Some time in the second half, online viewers heard a Phisgoc official telling the cameraman that live-streaming is prohibited. The stream abruptly ended, to the irritation of thousands watching the game online.

Being an avid fan of the Water Polo team myself, I vehemently protested against Phisgoc’s rules. I told Phisgoc officials that the rule is grossly disadvantageous to taxpayers who wish to support our hardworking and talented water polo athletes.

I argued that the Filipino people, whose taxes paid for these games, have the right to watch live whichever game they want in the most convenient way they want to.

Hours later, a high-ranking SEA Games official told me that he would allow live-streaming if the official live broadcasters aren’t available, and I took his word for it.

On December 1st, I went to the New Clark Aquatics Center to watch the game between the Philippines and Malaysia. Neither ABS-CBN nor TV5 was there, so I started live-streaming the event as soon as it started.  During the 2nd quarter, and just like what happened to the Philippines-Singapore match, a Phisgoc official approached me and told me to stop streaming because I am not an “accredited broadcaster.”

I asked, “So how will Filipino water polo fans watch the game live?”

No answer.

Exasperated, I told the Phisgoc official that it is the right of every Filipino to watch the games, and Phisgoc rules make it impossible to do so. I also told them I will not stop streaming the water polo match, and the only thing that can stop me if they forcibly throw me out of the premises.

After the match and out of sheer frustration over Phisgoc’s corruption and/or stupidity, I told my 1.4 million Facebook followers that I would stop live-streaming altogether.

I said covering such events is expensive, and I have used my hard-earned money to pay thousands for gasoline, telecoms, and manpower, to do so. I wanted to do it for you guys for free as part of public service, but Phisgoc illogical rules prevent me from doing so.

The post has garnered over 16,000 reactions to date, which likely prompted Phisgoc to issue an advisory shortly after the post.

The relevant part of the grammar-optional advisory stated:

“The live-streaming of portions of the games via social media shall be uploaded and shared on personal platforms and social media accounts only.”

Phisgoc, in so many words, basically told me that nobody except ABS-CBN and TV5 could stream the games live, even if neither are streaming the game, even if the live-stream is for non-commercial use.

Surely, streaming a game that both networks ignored should be no problem, unless the live-stream takes away viewers from the other games they chose to air.

As they say, never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

With the generous assumption that Phisgoc officials concerned are not morons, there is only one possible explanation that I can think of: Phisgoc wants to protect the ratings of its two exclusive live broadcasters.

But worrying about TV ratings is not Phisgoc’s job. Instead, Phisgoc should worry about whether taxpayers get the most value out of the billions of public funds used to stage the SEA Games.

I blame neither ABS-CBN nor TV5 for this. It is their job, as a commercial enterprise, to optimize returns on investment.  Capitalist enterprises are by nature greedy, and the government’s primordial responsibility is to put a cap on that greed for the sake of the people it governs.

Either Phisgoc forgot that, or Phisgoc never knew that the entire time.

With that said, I believe that a review of the live broadcasting contract is in order, as soon as the SEA Games end on the 11th.

The live broadcasting contract is disadvantageous to the government.

I believe some Phisgoc officers engaged in malfeasance or, worse, violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

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