Over the past four weeks, many people who watch cable television have noticed the bad English grammar employed in a cable TV advertisement featuring male and female Filipino celebrities. The advertisement appears several times daily, on prime time at that, on at least two international cable TV channels—History Channel and CNN Philippines—as indicated at the end of each advertisement.
The advertisement appears to be an institutional campaign against slavery in the 21st century, under the slogan “buy out slavery.”
From a commercial perspective, however, the advertisement appears to have been timed to promote the initial cable telecast of a recent remake of the classic television documentary-drama Roots. The docu-drama tells the story of the horrors of slavery in the United States during the decades prior to the American Civil War.
The advertisement features several local celebrities like Giselle Sanchez, Aiko Melendez, Joel Trinidad, and Ruby Rodriguez delivering separate lines against slavery, and about the plight of many people who still live in bondage all over the world today. There seems to be two versions of the advertisement.
At the end of each advertisement, three selected celebrities deliver a part of the whole line which goes—“... to show the world that you and I, and every human being, is not for sale.” That sentence is grammatically erroneous because it uses a compound subject, the elements of which are put together by the conjunction “and.” Being so, the correct tense of the operative verb should not be “is” but “are.” Any teacher of basic English grammar will readily see the error.
Many black Americans on US TV speak English in such a way that they use the verb “is” when the correct verb should be “are.” People are asking if the advertisement in question is an indirect way of mocking black Americans.
Other questions arise. Why did the cable TV networks allow that erroneous line to go on the air in the first place? Was it a case of clumsy scriptwriting, or sloppy editing, or did the networks let that error happen just to put Filipinos in bad light?
Take the popular cable TV program Science of Stupid, which features a Filipino host, and which has humorous lines delivered in Pilipino, with English subtitles supplied. It seems like the Filipino host is made to look like anything except “scientific.” As a consequence, there are foreigners who get the mistaken impression that among Asians, Filipinos are the
most inferior in the field of science. Perhaps the show wanted to use comedy to convey a lesson, but it seems to put Filipinos in bad light.
Somebody should correct the erroneous spiel in that cable TV advertisement about slavery. As long as the bad English remains in that advertisement, its message will always get upstaged.
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Speaking of cable TV, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte ought to set his sights on Sky Cable, which has a virtual monopoly on cable TV in Metropolitan Manila. The Constitution and existing laws frown against monopolies because monopolies are bad for consumers in a market economy. Since a monopoly faces no competition, it dictates its own prices, and the consumer is at the mercy of the monopoly.
When San Miguel Beer was the only local beer available in the country, its price was expensive. Later on, when competition came from other breweries, San Miguel Beer had to be keep its price competitive enough with the other brands. As a result, consumers had a choice, and the price of beer was determined by market forces. The same can be said of the local ice cream, and cooking oil industries in the country.
There was a time when the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. held a monopoly on the telephone industry in the national capital region. Before the 1990s, it took years before a home was able to obtain a telephone line. When competition was provided by BayanTel, and later on by mobile telephone service providers, PLDT had to shape up. As a result, a PLDT phone line could be obtained overnight.
Sometime in the 1990s, when Sky Cable faced competition from Home Cable and Destiny Cable, the subscription fees it charged were fairly reasonable—around P1600 for every quarter. Complaints were diligently attended to by its telephone personnel. Service was prompt and courteous.
In the ensuing years, the competition was eliminated, and Sky Cable enjoyed a monopoly. Soon thereafter, its subscription prices tripled. Today, complaints are referred to incompetent call center employees who use endless recordings to discourage calls. Reconnection fees, minimal during the years there was still competition, are now in the thousands of pesos.
Sky Cable also interrupts certain foreign cable transmissions by inserting its own advertisements. Are the overseas sponsors—those who pay program sources so their advertisements can reach Philippine cable TV audiences—aware of this?
The “must carry” rule of the National Telecommunications Commission requires Sky Cable (and all cable TV service providers) to carry the broadcasts of all television networks operating in the metropolis, including the competitors of its sister company, ABS-CBN. One such competitor, a large TV network, repeatedly complains that its programs on Sky Cable suffer from chronic technical interference.
It will be difficult to compete with Sky Cable. Cables have to be placed either overhead through existing light posts, or buried underground. Overhead cables will require the payment of regular rent to the Manila Electric Co. (a sister company of Sky Cable) which owns the electric posts. Underground cables will require very expensive excavation throughout the metropolis, and numerous permits from local government units.
Since President-elect Duterte has already warned existing telecommunications companies in the country to shape up or face tough competition from others, perhaps the same arrangement should be made for the cable TV industry in the Philippines. If change will really come, as Duterte promised, the local cable TV industry could sure use that change.