Chair Eugenio “Toto” Villareal of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), suggested putting up a “comedy academy” during a recent meeting with ABS-CBN officers and personalities.
Critics construed this as an actual school that would impose an MTRCB-approved type of humor on comedians and, therefore, curtail freedom of expression.
Villareal told the Inquirer, by way of clarification, what he meant by “academy”: “It would be a venue for comedians to get together and discuss best practices in their field—among themselves.”
He pointed out that this idea hews closely to the principle of self-regulation, as specified in the board’s mandate.
“The MTRCB has ceased to be an aggressor,” Villareal said. “Its role is not merely regulatory, but also developmental. It should serve as a compass for the industry. It should initiate dialogue and positive change.”
Villareal saw an opportunity to pursue the board’s “developmental” role when the controversy surrounding the “rape” joke at the May 17 concert of comedian Jose Marie Viceral, aka Vice Ganda, erupted in the media.
The joke was directed at GMA 7 news executive Jessica Soho but was taken by some sectors as a slur against women in general.
On June 5, MTRCB met with ABS-CBN, of which Viceral is a contract artist, to tackle “comedy bar” humor on television. Tomorrow, the board will meet with GMA 7 representatives; on June 27, with TV5.
During the June 5 meeting, the board cited a number of new laws that could impact comedy—among them the Magna Carta of Women and pertinent edicts on the protection of children, the aged, disabled, indigenous people and other marginalized sectors.
“There is even a specific provision in the Broadcast Code of the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas) which states that TV game show contestants should not be subjected to ridicule,” Villareal said.
A number of comedy bar talents, like Viceral, have crossed over to television, he noted. “The MTRCB initiated this series of meetings so that problems concerning risqué humor could be avoided in the future.”
Villareal related that Viceral “actively participated” in the three-hour meeting. “He took down notes and assured us that he would pass on the information to his writers.”
The meeting, Villareal said, was a perfect example of how the board could fulfill its role as a conduit between industry stakeholders and the government and the public at large.
To bridge what he saw as a gap between the industry and the public, he said the MTRCB had likewise initiated workshops about the present film and TV rating system in schools all over the country.
The board recently launched a new infomercial on the rating system, directed by acclaimed indie filmmaker and board member Milo Sogueco.
Monday last week, the board signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Cinema Association of the Philippines so that the infomercial could be shown in all movie houses nationwide.
Sogueco explained that the infomercial seeks to “educate the audience on responsible viewership” in very simple, understandable and practical terms. He said the knowledge would empower audiences to make informed decisions on what movies to watch.
The infomercial shows that every member of the family, especially parents, should be aware of the rating system. It also highlights the theaters’ responsibility in implementing the film rating rules and regulations, Sogueco said.
(In the infomercial, theater employees are portrayed by board members who are also actors. Gladys Reyes plays a ticket seller; Bobby Andrews, a security guard; Jackie Aquino, an usherette.)
“The theater should be as vigilant and knowledgeable about the rating system … in order to responsibly enforce these rules,” Sogueco added.
Villareal remarked that industry stakeholders—like network officers and theater owners—and the public are really the board’s partners.
Sogueco agreed, stressing that the board’s goal is actually to teach “excellence—in TV programming, film production and responsible viewership.”