GMA News TV vs. ABS-CBN

CHICAGO – The recent dismissal by the Philippine Court of Appeals of a 100-million-peso (US $2.3 million) damage suit filed by GMA News TV against rival ABS-CBN was about a simple breach of contract between ABS-CBN and its news agency Reuters and Reuters’ failure to emphasize tell its sub-clients to honor its sub-contract with the Lopez-owned news organization.

GMA News TV had no ground of suing ABS-CBN for P100-million damages in connection with ABS-CBN’s statement that GMA News TV stole ABS-CBN’s exclusive footage of a live coverage of the arrival of Iraqi hostage victim Angelo de la Cruz in 2004 because ABS-CBN was just being truthful in its report.

I would not blame the ABS-CBN if it files a counter-suit against GMA News TV to refund retainer’s fees for expenses it incurred when it hired lawyers to defend it in court.

I would not be surprised if ABS-CBN demands punitive damages from GMA News TV if only to underscore the fact that if GMA News TV or other news outlets notice that they are running footages, photos or stories not their own, they should immediately “cease-and-desist” from further airing, broadcasting or printing such video, photo or story until they are sure that they have permission to get the items on the air or in print.

Instead of apologizing to ABS CBN for violating ABS-CBN’s copyright and blaming Reuters Television Service for feeding it with an “embargoed” live coverage, GMA News TV filed the suit against ABS CBN, which is the aggrieved party.

If GMA News TV has no courage to face ABS-CBN for its mistake, it can always get a third party to mediate, like the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), of which ABS-CBN is a member.

After all, one of the KBP missions is to advance and sustain “the highest standards of quality in the broadcast industry through the exercise of self-regulation for responsible broadcasting.”

If I were GMA News TV, I would fire my lawyers for even initiating the lawsuit when these lawyers failed to exhaust mediations.
According to a front-page report of Manila Bulletin (Nov. 27, 2011), ABS-CBN conducted a live audio-video coverage and broadcast of the July 22, 2004 arrival of De la Cruz at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the subsequent press conference.

“On account of an existing agreement, ABS-CBN’s news coverage was also carried by Reuters Television Service, on the condition that any footage coming from ABS-CBN would be categorized by Reuters under “embargo” against use by other subscribers in the country (Philippines).

“Since GMA was a subscriber of both Reuters and CNN, it received the live video feed of the coverage of the arrival that was beamed by Reuters from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“Immediately, GMA carried the Reuters feed in its flash news report simultaneously with its one live broadcast.

“GMA later explained that it did notice that what Reuters was airing was footage of ABS-CBN and that live video was under embargo in favor of the Lopez-owned station.

“Following the incident, GMA claimed that ABS-CBN aired a report about its alleged violation of ABS-CBN’s intellectual property rights.

“GMA then filed a complaint against ABS-CBN for alleged defamatory statements it issued against it. The complaint was initially dismissed by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City for lack of probable cause.”

If news organizations in the Philippines give credit to journalists and rival organizations where credit is due after asking permission of the item’s use, maturity would have finally come to them.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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