The House committee on public information chaired by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Partylist – BH) has approved the bill to strengthen monitoring, production, and broadcast of child-friendly programs.
House Bill 4503, introduced by Rep. Christopher P. De Venecia (4th District, Pangasinan) seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8370, otherwise known as the Children’s Television Act of 1997. The amendments will bolster the National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT) through the inclusion and clarification of the government agency figures to be members of the Advisory Committee.
The Children’s Television Act of 1997 established the NCCT, the sole policy-making agency mandated to encourage and promote the production and broadcast of children’s and child-friendly television programs for Filipino children.
Under the provisions of the Act, an Advisory Committee assists the NCCT in the formulation of national policies pertaining to children’s broadcast programs. This ensures that quality television programs are offered to Filipino children for their empowerment and holistic development.
The bill primarily introduces changes to Section 6 of the Children’s Television Act, the section concerned with the composition of the Advisory Committee.
One of the bill’s major amendments mandates the addition of a representative of the National Youth Commission (NYC) to the Advisory Committee. The NYC may help address NCCT concerns with respect to adolescents since this is a critical period to a person’s growth and development towards being a mature, responsible, and self-reliant adult.
This was welcomed by NCCT Supervising Administrative Officer Daisy Atienza. She noted that NYC’s participation will be of great importance in the conduct of NCCT research for policy formulation, citing the necessity to shield the Filipino public especially children from negative influences. The addition of NYC to the Advisory Committee allows NCCT greater access to insight, data, input, and information in relation to the Filipino youth.
“The National Youth Commission supports this amendment. Napakalaking bagay talaga na matutukan natin ang telebisyon, dahil isa ito sa mga masasabi natin na pinag-uukulan ng oras ng mga kabataan,” said NYC Chairperson Aiza Seguerra.
Section 6 of the Children’s Television Act of 1997 will also now specify the Head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Committee on Cultural Education and Information and the Officer-In-Charge of the Philippine Information Agency Creative and Production Services Division as members of the Advisory Committee.
De Venecia stressed the need for HB 4503 given that television continues to be one of the most accessible and influential media consumed and preferred by Filipino children.
In February to March 2015, NCCT surveyed 4,395 children below 18 years old from Grades 3 to 10 enrolled in 209 public and private elementary and high schools across the country. The study revealed that many children watch television from 5 PM to 10 PM. This time frame is considered the prime time of Philippine television shows, replete with news shows and teleserye programming.
“Television programs not specifically created for children are detrimental to their growth, even without the presence of vulgarity and violence in its content,” explained De Venecia.
Further, the study showed that most Filipino children watch television for close to three hours on weekdays, and six hours on weekends. This exceeds the recommended daily exposure to television of one to two hours, as prescribed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“There is a need to ensure that the NCCT is advised knowingly and prudently in the formation of national policies pertaining to children’s broadcast programs, since the future lies in the hands of our children,” said De Venecia.
The committee also welcomed further insights from Seguerra and Atienza, who called for more measures that would extend the reach of NCCT. Currently, NCCT only monitors free television, which means cable channels lay outside of its jurisdiction.
Seguerra stated that there are approximately 2.5 million cable television subscribers in the country, noting that many cable channels feature programming with potentially problematic content.