Television in the Philippines was introduced in October 1953 upon the first commercial broadcast made by Alto Broadcasting System (now ABS-CBN), making the Philippines the first Southeast Asian country and the second in Asia to do so. Even before that, during the late 1940s, a number of academic experiments had been done and replicated by Filipino engineers and students.
From 1975 to 1978, the Sinag Awards were given by the Philippine Academy for Television Arts and Sciences (PATAS). The Star Awards for Television are the oldest existing television awards in the country; they are handed out annually by the Philippine Movie Press Club and are voted by the press.
The early years (1946–1959)
James Lindenberg, an American engineer dubbed the "father of Philippine television," began assembling transmitters and established Bolinao Electronics Corporation (BEC) on June 13, 1946. The company was named after his wife's hometown of Bolinao, Pangasinan. Three years later, he was the first to apply for a license in Philippine Congress to establish a television station. After a year, on June 14, 1950, his request was granted. Due to the scarcity of raw materials and strict import control since 1948, he was compelled to branch into radio broadcasting instead.
Lindenberg's attempt to put up a television station did not go to waste. Judge Antonio Quirino, the brother of then-Philippine President Elpidio Quirino, had been trying to get a license from Congress that would allow him to put up a television station. The Congress, however, denied him from getting such license for the fear that he might use it as vehicles for propaganda for his brother who was then running for a second term in the presidential elections of 1953. Because of this, he bought a 70% share in BEC, which earned him to indirect control a television franchise. He changed the name of BEC to Alto Broadcasting System (ABS), after the names of its new owners, Aleli and Judge Antonio Quirino. Lindenberg continued to be a co-owner and served as the general manager.
Before the television station was formally launched, it faced several obstacles. The Central Bank, for instance, refused to grant Quirino dollar credit from the bank, saying that the said venture was too risky. For this reason, Quirino asked help from his friend Marvin Gray, whose family was a friend of David Sarnoff, then president of Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Through the intervention of Gray, Quirino was able to get assistance from RCA.
Prior to the first telecast, Quirino initiated the importation of 120 television sets through the 60,000 pesos loan that he received from the owner of Joe's Electric, who was, in turn, became the first to be bestowed with the right to sell television sets in the country.
Finally, on October 23, 1953, Quirino marked the first official television broadcast in the Philippines with the launching of ABS' DZAQ-TV Channel 3 (DZAQ-TV 3). With the help of RCA, four men underwent technical training in the United States. These were Arcadio Carandang, Romualdo Carballo, Harry Chaney and Jose Navarro.
The ABS studio was a makeshift barn along Florentino Torres Street in Manila. With the transmitter acquired from RCA, the telecasts were received clearly not only in Manila but also in the neighboring provinces. Except for the four engineers who was sent to the US for training, most of the personnel at ABS learned TV operations on the job. The first transmitter for the station was located in San Juan.
DZAQ-TV 3 started out on a four-hour-a-day schedule, from six to ten in the evening. Although ABS was able to round up 52 advertisers for the premier telecast, selling spots for regular programming had proven to be difficult since buying radio ad spots was more cost-effective for advertisers. During this time, TV sets costs less than an automobile, and TV reception depended on electrical power, which was not always available.
The programs aired at that time were usually borrowed films from the foreign embassies, imported old cowboy movies, and actual coverage of a variety of events. When the station ran out of presenting any new feature, stage plays were transported to television. In 1953, less than a month after the first telecast, Father James Reuter Template:Post-nominals, who had radio and television training, produced the first play on Philippine television entitled Cyrano de Bergerac. The three-hour-long play was aired live and all the talents were students.
In the beginning, Philippine TV networks would buy the rights of airing mediocre American TV programs and serials since it was cheaper than producing local shows. In order to entice advertisers, as well as to encourage increased viewership, simultaneous airing of programs on radio and television resorted to promotional gimmicks. Many popular radio shows, including, Tawag ng Tanghalan, Kuwentong Kutsero, and Student Canteen, started their life on TV this way.
In 1955, Radiowealth Inc., a radio manufacturer, began manufacturing television sets. Other local outfits such as, Carlsound and Rehco, also started setting up assembly plants. In 1958, the high taxes previously imposed on imported television shows were removed, which made American shows less expensive than locally produced live programming. In April 1955, Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) was established as a radio medium in 1956 by businessmen Eugenio and Fernando Lopez. In the same year, CBN acquired ABS from Quirino, and merged the two companies under Bolinao Electronics Corporation.
With the establishment of DZXL-TV Channel 9 on April 19, 1958, the Lopez brothers controlled the ABS and CBN television channels.
In 1958, the combined ABS (DZAQ-TV Channel 3) and CBN (DZXL-TV Channel 9) television stations moved to their new studios in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City and the ABS radio facilities moved to the Chronicle Building in the Intramuros District of Manila, the home building of the CBN Radio studios.
Rising popularity (1960–1972)
At the turn of the next decade, TV sets became the most sellable appliance in the urban areas. Also within this period, other VHF TV stations opened. These include the DZBB-TV (established on October 29, 1961 by Republic Broadcasting System (RBS), owned by Robert Stewart), DZFM-TV (established in 1961 by the Philippine government, now defunct), DZTM-TV (established in 1960 by Associated Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), owned by the Roces family, the publisher of The Manila Times), DZKB-TV (established in 1969 by Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS) of Roberto Benedicto), DWGT-TV (established in 1974, run by the Government Television (GTV), state-owned), and DZTV-TV (established in 1960 by Inter-Island Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), owned by Andrés Soriano, Sr. of San Miguel Corporation), DZRH-TV (established on April 11, 1962, by the Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC), owned by Manuel "Manolo" Elizalde Sr.). Among the top rated programs in the 1960s were The Nida-Nestor Show, Buhay Artista, and Pancho Loves Tita. Another local show that has had a prevailing top rating is Tawag ng Tanghalan, the amateur singing contest hosted by Lopito and Patsy.
BEC's DZAQ-TV Channel 3, following the success of the first ever locally produced television drama Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato in 1961, staged in 1963 the first-ever test television broadcasts in color using the NTSC system of the Radio Corporation of America, and would begin to broadcast in color in 1966.
On February 1, 1967, the corporate name of BEC was changed to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation. Also, during this year, Radiowealth Inc. pioneered in the production of 19-, 21- and 25-inch models of color TV sets. Moreover, it was favored by advertisers like Procter and Gamble, Philippine Refining Company, Colgate-Palmolive, Del Rosario Brothers, and Caltex.
In 1969, Filipinos witnessed the live television coverage of the Apollo 11 historic moon landing. It was the first live telecast via satellite in the country. Channels 5, 7 and 13 tied up for the said project, while ABS-CBN produced its own color coverage. On November 14, 1969, DZAQ-TV would transfer from channel 3 to channel 2, while its sister station DZXL-TV transferred from channel 9 to channel 4. On October 15, 1969, Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS) would launch its television network with DZKB-TV Channel 9, which would broadcast in full color.
By the late 1960s, news and public affairs programs were pioneered by ABS-CBN and ABC. The Big News (in English) on ABC's DZTM-TV Channel 5 and The World Tonight (in English) on ABS-CBN's DZAQ-TV Channel 2 were the first news programs on Philippine television, followed in that same period by Newswatch (in English) of KBS's DZKB-TV Channel 9. ABS-CBN pioneered Filipino language news programming in the primetime slots, with DZAQ-TV Channel 2 having Balita Ngayon and DZXL-TV Channel 4 having Apat na Sulok ng Daigdig, with Orly Mercado as its first presenter.
By 1971, the Philippines, through Radiowealth Inc., had become the third country in the world to manufacture color TV sets. By January 1972, the growth of the Philippine television industry was unstoppable. Aside from ABS-CBN's pioneer satellite broadcasts, stations opened up one after the other in many parts of the country beginning in 1961, when DYCB-TV Channel 3, the pioneer provincial television channel, was opened in Cebu City, bringing four hours of locally produced programming with relays of Manila programs.
Martial law era (1972–1986)
When President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972, he ordered the takeover of media firms. Government troops entered radio and television stations and placed them under military control. All media outlets that were critical of the Marcos administration were padlocked and sequestered.
ABS-CBN was seized by the Office of Press Secretary and the National Media Production Center and DZXL-TV Channel 4 was renamed DWGT-TV Channel 4 (GTV-4), the government channel. KBS, IBC and RBS were later allowed to operate with limited three-month permits. ABS-CBN was seized from the Lopez family and Eugenio Lopez Jr., president of ABS-CBN, was imprisoned. By late 1973, RBS, which was then under blocktimer Philippine Productions, was sold to Felipe Gozon, who was also the lawyer of Robert Stewart, because foreigners were not allowed to own businesses in the Philippines. RBS later changed its name to GMA Radio-Television Arts (now GMA Network), popularly known as GMA-7.
On June 6, 1973, fire destroyed the KBS television studios (originally, the ABS television studios) in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. Benedicto took control of the ABS-CBN broadcast center in Bohol Avenue, Quezon City. ABS-CBN, as a network, ceased operations for the next 14 years, and its studios became the broadcasting center of Benedicto's KBS and the government's GTV. A year later, ABS-CBN's DZAQ-TV Channel 2 would reopen as DWWX-TV Channel 2 under Benedicto's Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In 1976, GTV-4 began color broadcasts.
The Benedicto networks (BBC, KBS (becoming Radio Philippines Network (RPN) in 1975) and IBC) served as vehicles of propaganda for the Marcos government while also broadcasting local and overseas entertainment and sports. In 1979, the Benedicto networks moved to the newly built Broadcast City in Diliman, Quezon City. In the same year, Gregorio Cendaña was named Minister of Information. In 1980, GTV-4 was relaunched as Maharlika Broadcasting System (MBS-4).
Initially, the Department of Public Information (later Ministry of Public Information), reviewed everything that was to be aired on radio and TV set up the rules and regulations. Through other government agencies, policies on ownership, allocation of frequencies, station distribution, and program standards were promulgated. In 1973, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas was created, and this agency allowed for self-regulation. A year later, a presidential decree created the Broadcast Media Council.
The 1974 Miss Universe Pageant, the 1975 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight fight, the 1981 visit of Pope John Paul II was shown worldwide. When Benigno Aquino was assassinated in 1983, it was a small item on television news. During his historic funeral procession, GMA was allowed by only ten seconds of airtime coverage. For most of the late 1970s to the early 1980s, RPN and IBC were the most-watched channels in terms of ratings. However, in the years leading up to the People Power Revolution, GMA – which was the only independent station – managed to beat the Benedicto-owned duopoly and stayed at the position for the next two years.
The martial law era also jump-started the beginnings of satellite broadcasts linking the entire country by ABS-CBN thru trial runs, and soon followed by RPN and MBS which started simulcasts of programs from Manila to the provinces across the country, followed on by GMA and BBC. Cable television also began at this time when the government, through the DPI, created the first true cable television firm, the Benedicto-owned Sining Makulay Inc., in the late 1970s, after years of trials which began in 1969.
In 1984, Imee Marcos, daughter of Ferdinand Marcos, tried to take over the GMA network but she was successfully prevented by GMA executives, Menardo Jimenez and Felipe Gozon. Afterwards, GMA founder Robert Stewart decided to move back to the United States and retire following his utter dissatisfaction with the Marcos regime. The resistance of network leadership would trigger the beginning of the end of Marcos dominance in the television industry, for in the months to come, GMA broke from the pack when it began airing interviews by Benigno's widow, Corazon, in 1985 in the lead up to her presidential campaign and the 1986 snap presidential elections that followed.
In addition the martial law period also jumpstarted an offshoot of current affairs programming - public service and non-news informative programs. GMA Network's Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko, launched in the fall of 1975, was the first and longest public service TV program in the Philippines. Having helped millions of viewers be aware of medical issues especially among the poor and lower middle class, its success also in providing medical care to indigent and poor families, as well as its revelations on the state of health facilities in far flung communities, led to the creation of the namesake foundation in 1976 and would also begin a new form of Philippine TV programming, that of medical and health related programs that would inform the public on health matters and on living healthy lives. That was the concept that helped BBC-2 launched its on medical affairs TV program in the early 1980s.
Restoration and expansion (1986–2009)
In 1986, in the aftermath of the historic People Power Revolution which ended the 20-long year dictatorship of Marcos that forever altered television history, the Benedicto networks BBC, RPN and IBC were sequestered by the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG). BBC was returned to ABS-CBN through an executive order while RPN and IBC were handed over to the Government Communications Group. ABS-CBN would begin both satellite and international broadcasts (the latter a first for a Philippine TV station) in 1989.
During the latter part of the 1980s as the once insurmountable RPN and IBC suffered from gross mismanagement and financial crisis which took a toll on their ratings, the struggling ABS-CBN surged ahead to be the undisputed number 1 from 1988 onward. GMA, which retained its owners, faced an uphill battle for ratings supremacy as it ended the 80s as the No. 2 network after a brief stint in the lead, though it did maintain its position as a leading player in the industry.
Yet even as it encounted financial troubles, RPN in 1990 broke ahead as the first Philippine station ever to have 24-hour broadcasts. By then, ABS-CBN enjoyed a significant lead over not just GMA, but also the now-faltering RPN and IBC.
MBS became PTV (People's Television) on February 24, 1986, during the third day of the EDSA Revolution, given the fact that soldiers loyal to President Corazon Aquino and civilian supporters took over the channel's broadcast facilities, and in 2001, it was relaunched as the National Broadcasting Network (NBN), before renaming back to the People's Television Network in 2011, albeit in its current Visayas Avenue studios (which was opened in 1992).
ABC returned to broadcast in 1992. In 2008, ABC became TV5.
IBC became a 100% government owned station in the 1990s by virtue of a compromise agreement between PCGG and Roberto Benedicto, management and marketing were returned to the IBC Board of Directors.
In 1998, ZOE TV was finally launched on channel 11. The channel was blocktimed by GMA Network in 2005, and was relaunched as QTV in November. The channel was again relaunched in February 2011, this time as GMA News TV.
Philippine shows began to be exported to other Asian and non-Asian countries. After the international success of Philippine television (with many TV dramas being broadcast to many countries), Eat Bulaga! was the first Philippine variety show to be franchised in another country. Its first franchise is Eat Bulaga! Indonesia.
Cable television was, in keeping with the 1987 Constitution and the Aquino government policies, removed as a state responsibility in 1988. In this new atmosphere of privatized cable came what is today the cable firm Sky Cable, created in 1990. 11 years later, Dream Satellite TV began operations as the country's first Direct-broadcast satellite television service, lasting up until 2017.
Shift to digital (2010–present)
In 2008, Sky Cable became the first cable network to adopt digital television and Cignal, the country's first digital direct-broadcast satellite television service, made its debut in February 2009.
In 2009, ABS-CBN started to test digital transmission using the European DVB-T standard. On July 11, 2009, ABS-CBN launched Balls HD in Sky Cable, the first ever high-definition television channel in the country. On the same day, Balls also showed the live broadcast of the first ever locally produced coverage of an event in high-definition.
In 2010, Government-controlled television stations in Manila started to test digital transmission using the Japanese ISDB-T standard. In June 2010, NTC announced that the country will formally adapt the ISDB-T standard for digital terrestrial television. In 2011, ABS-CBN started to test ISDB-T transmission and released a trial version of its own set-top boxes manufactured by American communications equipment supplier Atlanta DTH, Inc. GMA Network, TV5, and other commercial television networks also started their own test during this time. However, GMA Network opposed the decision made by NTC and asked NTC to reconsider the European DVB-T for its superior quality.
On February 11, 2015, ABS-CBN Corporation formally launched its ABS-CBN TV Plus service to the public in a ceremony in Quezon City. On October 3, 2015, ABS-CBN became the first national Philippine television network to broadcast in high-definition on cable.
On May 25, 2018, Solar Entertainment Corporation released a DTV product called Easy TV (Philippines) Originally as a mobile TV dongle service, it later distributed digital set-top boxes, as well as freemium digital TV channels. Until its discontinuation on September 30, 2019,
On July 30, 2018, ABS-CBN TVplus conducted free trial of the new set of freemium channels using UHF Channel 16 (485.143 MHz). It includes cable channels from sister company Creative Programs: O Shopping (also aired as overnight programming for ABS-CBN), Jeepney TV, and Myx (which previously has a complimentary channel Myx2 before TVplus launched in 2015). Also included in the lineup are two new exclusive digital channels, Asianovela Channel and Movie Central. Initially, the five new channels will be beamed from Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, with plans to extend its coverage to existing ABS-CBN DTV stations.
On June 1, 2019, ABS-CBN launched a digital TV dongle called ABS-CBN TVplus Go for Android smartphones. It was initially available in Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Benguet, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Iloilo, Bacolod, Metro Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Metro Davao.
On May 5, 2020, ABS-CBN TVplus was affected by the cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and Solicitor General Jose Calida due to the expiration of ABS-CBN's franchise. ABS-CBN's main channel and S+A ceased broadcasting, as well as the regional digital stations operated by ABS-CBN. Some TVplus channels resumed broadcasting on May 8, but in a limited coverage (Metro Manila, Laguna province, Iloilo province, and selected areas of Baguio) through a blocktime agreement with an unnamed third-party broadcast company. On June 1, 2020, Jeepney TV and Asianovela Channel resumed broadcasting and took over the channel spaces of ABS-CBN and S+A respectively.
On June 30, 2020, all the digital channels of ABS-CBN TVplus were forced to stop operations due to the alias cease-and-desist order (ACDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission. However, digital broadcasts of other networks such as TV5 and GMA Network remained on-air on TVplus.
Free-to-air television networks
Major television networks
- ABS-CBN: Prior to its shutdown, ABS-CBN was the first, oldest and largest television network in the country and it is owned and controlled by the Lopez Group of Companies. The network was launched on October 23, 1953 as Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) on DZAQ-TV Channel 3 by Antonio Quirino and James Lindenberg. ABS was soon acquired by the owner of Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN), Don Eugenio Lopez Sr. on February 24, 1957 with CBN launched its own TV station on DZXL-TV Channel 9 a year later. In 1961, ABS and CBN merged to form as ABS-CBN and became the Philippines' largest network. On May 5, 2020, the network was ordered to stop broadcasting by the National Telecommunications Commission after its franchise expired. On July 10, 2020, the Philippine Congress rejected its franchise renewal due to alleged violations in their franchise and other legal issues such as failure to regularize employees, using pay-per-view channel in free-to-air franchise, and political meddling and being biased during 2016 elections. Prior to this, President Rodrigo Duterte himself accused ABS-CBN for allegedly being bias against his administration and vowed to block the renewal of their franchise. But critics of his administration, human rights groups and several media unions said that the shutdown of ABS-CBN is an attack on press freedom and democracy in the country. The network operations was also stopped by then-President Ferdinand Marcos on September 23, 1972 when he declared martial law until its return on the airwaves on September 14, 1986 (a few months after the ousting of Marcos during the People Power Revolution).
- A2Z: On October 6, 2020, ABS-CBN and ZOE Broadcasting Network entered a blocktime agreement that rebrand ZOE TV into A2Z channel on October 10. The channel will be available in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, and other cable and satellite providers including ABS-CBN's Sky Cable. The channel's programming will include some ABS-CBN programs and movies from Kapamilya Channel and its other sister television networks, as well as feature content from ZOE TV's sister station Light TV and its content partners CBN Asia and Trinity Broadcasting Network.
- TV5: Launched on June 19, 1960 by Chino Roces of The Manila Times as ABC, it was the fourth television station launched in the Philippines. On September 23, 1972, ABC was one of the networks forcefully shut down by then-President Ferdinand Marcos due to the implementation of martial law. On February 21, 1992, ABC returned on television and became the fastest-growing network. On August 9, 2008, the network was relaunched as TV5. The network is currently owned by PLDT's media arm, MediaQuest Holdings of Manuel V. Pangilinan.
- GMA Network: Launched on October 29, 1961 by American journalist Robert Stewart under the name Republic Broadcasting System (RBS), it was the fifth television station launched in the Philippines. The network was shutdown on September 23, 1972 due to martial law but returned in December of the same year after it was allowed by the government. In 1974, RBS changed its name to GMA Radio-Television Arts after the takeover by the new management by the triumvirate composed of Gilberto Duavit Sr., Menardo Jimenez, and Felipe Gozon. It eventually became one of the top stations in the country. The network was rebranded as GMA Rainbow Satellite Network in 1992 before it went adopted its current name as GMA Network in 1995.
- People's Television Network (PTV) (flagship state broadcaster)
- Radio Philippines Network (RPN) (20% minority share; currently carries CNN Philippines)
- Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC)
Minor television networks
Religious television networks
- Light TV (ZOE Broadcasting Network)
- INC TV (Christian Era Broadcasting Service International)
- Sonshine Media Network International (Swara Sug Media Corporation)
- Hope Channel Philippines (Seventh-day Adventist Church, Gateway UHF Television Broadcasting)
Regional television networks
- Bandera News TV (Palawan)
- Bee TV (Butuan)
- Brigada News TV (General Santos)
- Brodkast Southern Luzon (CALABARZON)
- CCTN (Cebu)
- CLTV (Central Luzon)
- Davao Christian Bible Channel (Davao)
- eMedia TV (Zamboanga)
- GBPI (Zamboanga)
- Infomax TV (Pampanga)
- NETV (Nueva Ecija)
- PBC (Palawan)
- PBN (Bicol)
- Ranao TV (Marawi)
- SBC (Zambales)
- Text in this article was copied from History of The Philippine Television at the Pinoy TV Radio wiki, which is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA 3.0) license.
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