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Vhong Navarro's story is big and prominent because it is - at least based on the traditional elements of news.

A showbiz celebrity mauled at a high-end condo located in the Metro by a bunch of people. Add the allegations of attempted rape. Prominence, proximity, sex, scandal...

The news elements are overlapping, which could partly explain the hypercoverage.

And then, there are the "developments" outside of the police and justice system, reported by ABS-CBN. The influential artists and celebrities are using their powers to express full support for Vhong.

For all these reasons, there's a big coverage of this news.

The coverage is expected to continue. The warring plastic surgery and derma outfits might get into a cat fight over which group would restore Vhong's rearranged face. Would he be Shimmianized?

If indeed there was attempted rape or rape, things would most probably change several ways:

First possibility: The victim would be demonized and blamed for her own plight. They will crudely demand answers to such sexist questions like: Why invite Vhong in the first place? This is already happening.

Second possibility: Vhong might turn into a pariah if investigators and later a prosecutor find sufficient evidence to say there's probable cause to accuse him of attempted rape. ABS-CBN might toss him out of the network and take a more negative coverage.

With charges and countercharges already filed, the coverage may not die down anytime soon. Media is whetting the people's appetite for this as we could see from an initial study released by a media watchdog.

The hypercoverage did not go unnoticed by a media watchdog.

In a statement, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said that it monitored the news programs TV Patrol of ABS-CBN and 24 Oras of GMA Network last January 27 and found them "practically devoted to the Navarro incident to the neglect of other, more important events."

The results of CMFR's monitoring points coverage going into hyperdrive: "TV Patrol devoted 36 minutes and 41 seconds, or 65 percent of its entire air time, on Navarro."

"The news program had a total of eight stories on the incident including reports on the possible procedural lapses of the Southern Police District, an interview with the model and Lee, an interview with Navarro's lawyer, and reports on celebrities and netizens expressing support for the celebrity-host," the CMFR said.

The CMFR also quoted TV Patrol anchor Korina Sanchez's message to Navarro, also an ABS-CBN talent: " si Vhong, magpagaling ka Vhong, mahal ka namin (and to you Vhong, get well soon. We love you)."

GMA Network's 7's 24 Oras meanwhile "used 23 minutes and 55 seconds, or 43 percent of its entire airtime, to report on the incident."

According to the CMFR, 24 Oras showed "seven news reports including an interview with Lee and the model, a report on the NBI investigation on the case, and a statement from GMA management."

At around the same time of media's hypercoverage of Navarro, the Philippine government signed a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which could signal the end of decades of war in the south.

Elsewhere, the police implemented yet another brutal demolition of an urban poor community, this time at at a public land in Quezon City which authorities wish to turn over to one of the country's real estate developers. The incident, marked with violence and arrests, pushed thousands to seek shelter in the streets of Agham Road. They have nowhere else to go.

And barely months after supertyphoon Yolanda devastated huge swaths of the country, survivors finally pierced through PR spin that they are a mere resilient lot. More than 12,000 people marched through Tacloban City in an angry demonstration against what they describe as "criminal neglect" of the Aquino administration.

These three developments, of course, did not find sufficient time in TV news amid the hypercoverage of ABS-CBN and GMA Network on Navarro.

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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Feb 7, 2014
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