New witnesses came forward and told ABS-CBN News that television ratings done by AGB-Nielsen Media Research Philippines in Bacolod City were indeed manipulated, as told by an informant who first revealed the information last month.
A TV Patrol World report Thursday said the new witnesses, identified only by the pseudonyms “Rico” and “Jonel” affirmed the statement made by “Gary” who said in December that metered ratings conducted by AGB-Nielsen in Bacolod were tainted.
Rico and Jonel told ABS-CBN correspondent Julius Babao that in 2006, an official of a television network approached them for their services to survey viewers’ preference with regard to TV programs.
They said that after two months, the same official ordered them to do something different. They said that the network official ordered them to find out which homes in Bacolod were being monitored by AGB-Nielsen.
“May ipinakita sa amin si [name of network official] na picture ng device kung saan inilalagay ‘yung maliit sa ibabaw ng TV saka may box na ganito kalaki. Tapos direkta na ‘yan sa telepono,” Gary said.
(The network official showed us a picture of a device. You put the smaller one on top of the TV with a box. Then the device is directly connected to a telephone.)
Asked what the purpose of the device was, the network official said that it the gadget is used to monitor TV ratings to gauge which station is on top in terms of viewership.
Jonel said he asked the network official why they were being ordered to seek out homes with AGB-Nielsen TV meters.
“Para daw magtaas ang ratings ng [name of network] sabi ni [name of official] (So that the network’s ratings will go up),” Jonel said.
Rico said that from that point on, he and the others visited Bacolod’s villages to locate homes with AGB-Nielsen panel meters. He said that they searched for months before finding the subjects.
Upon locating the homes, Rico said he and the others talked to the owners.
“Sabi namin sa may-ari ng bahay, sa hirap ng buhay ngayon dapat maging praktikal na lang tayo. Makakatulong din naman ito sa inyo. ‘Yung 500 sa allowance n’yo o sa kuryente na ninyo, pambayad ‘yung 300. Ang sabi nila papayag na ako.”
(We told the homeowner that with the hard times they are facing, they should be practical. We said that with the P500-allowance, P300 would help them pay for electricity. They agreed.)
Jonel said their job was made easier by AGB-Nielsen technicians whom they tailed from the firm’s Bacolod office.
He said they staked out the AGB-Nielsen office every day and followed the technician by motorcycle to homes where they installed the panel meter.
“Tapos magkabit ng AGB device kakausapin namin ‘yung bahay. Manang, may pumunta sa inyo tao dito, kung gusto n’yo bigyan namin kayo ng 500 manood lang ng [name of network],” Jonel said.
(After the technician finishes installing the AGB device, we’ll talk to the homeowner. We’ll tell them that we’ll give them P500 just to watch this network’s programs.)
Rico, for his part, said that aside from homes with newly-installed panel meters, they were able to convince other AGB households to switch channels.
He added that some AGB technicians also collaborated with them.
“Pag nagpunta na ‘yung technician ng AGB i-ano nga ‘yung listahan ng ibang mga nakabitan ng device at ituro niya sa amin. Kapag naituro niya may 200 siya sa amin.”
(After the AGB technician finishes installing the device, he’ll give us the list of homes. If he gives us the list, we give him P200.)
Among the homes visited belong to a woman named “Letty.”
Letty confirmed what Rico and Jonel revealed first revealed to Babao.
“Manood daw kami ng [name of network] bigyan namin kayo ng grocery at monthly na 500. Hindi kami pumayag (We were told to watch this network, then they will give us grocery and P500 monthly. We didn’t bite).”
Letty said that while she did not agree with the request of Rico and Jonel, other homeowners in the area switched channels after being offered goods and cash.
According to Rico and Jonel, 11 of the 13 AGB subjects they visited in Bacolod agreed to switch channels after their offer.
ABS-CBN: Libel suit meant to divert issue
ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., meanwhile, said Thursday said the P15-million libel suit filed by GMA-7 against the Kapamilya network is meant to divert attention away from the issue of TV ratings manipulation.
“We are disappointed but not surprised by GMA-7’s reactions to the discovery of TV ratings manipulation. It appears that they want to prevent the media from mentioning GMA 7 in connection with cheating in the ratings,” ABS-CBN spokesman Bong Osorio said in a statement.
“Let’s remember that the issue here is about having a clean TV ratings process, the reason we filed a civil case against AGB-Nielsen Media Research. Filing defamation charges against ABS-CBN diverts attention from the real issue.
We are confident that the truth will come out,” he added.
He said several affidavits filed by Maya Reforma, AGB-Nielsen general manager, before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court identified GMA 7 as the broadcast network behind the efforts that compromised panel homes in Bacolod.
Osorio issued the statement after GMA sued ABS-CBN, its executives and talents, of allegedly accusing GMA of tampering metered households of research firm AGB Nielsen.
Included as respondents in the libel case were dzMM station manager Angelo Palmones, dzMM news manager Alona Magtalas, dzM reporter Junry Hidalgo, dzMM program hosts Cristy Fermin and Jobert Sucaldito, “Bandila” overall-in-charge of production Luchi Cruz-Valdes, “Bandila” executive producer (EP) Boyet Agustin, legal department head Atty. Maximilian Uy, “Bandila” news anchor Korina Sanchez, “Entertainment Live!” overall-in-charge of production Malou Santos and Luis Andrada, “Entertainment Live!” EP Lani Gutierrez, “Entertainment Live” and “The Buzz” headwriter Romer Gonzales, “The Buzz” EP Nancy Yabut and “The Buzz” headwriter Ian Reyno.
In a statement, GMA said that “nowhere in Ms. Reforma’s affidavit submitted in court did she accuse or state that GMA-7 cheated in the ratings nor was it involved in the ‘ratings manipulation’ in Bacolod City…”
“In reckless disregard of truth, with malice and in bad faith, and with obvious intent to defame and ridicule GMA Network before the public, ABS-CBN distorted, spliced off, and suppressed the accurate and complete statements of Ms. Reforma,” GMA said.
Copies of Reforma’s affidavits filed before the QCRTC, however, revealed that AGB Nielsen found 79 among 532 AGB Nielsen metered homes in six cities were exposed to “activities” of GMA.
She also told the court that AGB-Nielsen has replaced the 79 tampered homes from its television audience measurement panel. “We are also considering removing Iloilo as a sampling point,” she added.
ABS-CBN earlier sued AGB-Nielsen after receiving reports that a third party was contacting and bribing metered households in Bacolod in an effort to influence the TV ratings. The court later ordered AGB Nielsen to stop gathering and releasing data on nationwide TV ratings for 20 days.
79 tampered homes
In separate affidavits, Reforma said the 79 panel homes were persuaded to watch GMA shows in exchange for monthly prizes including P500 in cash, groceries, umbrellas, pens and medicine.
“Panel homes who declare themselves to be watching ABS-CBN are asked to become a member of the GMA Kapuso viewers in order to receive a monthly supply of groceries and P500,” she said, describing one of the activities.
She added that of the 79 homes, 63 homes were visited once while 16 were visited twice or more times.
She said statistical tests conducted by AGB Nielsen showed that 16 of the 79 homes “showed a significant change to favor GMA in its viewing behavior.”
She noted, however, that the evidence obtained by AGB Nielsen “strongly indicates that the tampering was confined to Bacolod and for the period from July to September 2007.”
She said the research firm reprocessed all the original data it gathered from the television audience measurement panel while excluding the tampered households contacted by GMA Network. “Based on our evaluation, AGB Nielsen found that viewing data did not significantly change even after the exclusion of the contacted panels from the original data,” she said.
She said, however, that the exclusion of 12 tampered homes in Cebu “caused some days to expected drop for GMA [ratings] but not at the expense of ABS-CBN which remained the same.”
She said the firm also commissioned a coincidental survey involving thousands of survey respondents in various cities and provinces. “The coincidental survey confirmed that viewing trends/patterns were consistent with panel data in respect to the GMA, ABS and Overall viewing levels,” she said.
Vivian Tin, ABS-CBN Research and Business Analysis chief, said that from a sampling standpoint, 79 tampered homes from 532 homes in six cities is significant.
“That’s about 14.8 percent of the 532 homes. [AGB Nielsen] says that it has no impact on the data. I don’t think they have grounds to say that until they replace all those homes and rerun and they can only do that after checking the entire panel,” she said.
She also pointed out that a one percent difference in the ratings is significant because of the size of the broadcasting business. “A small percent is a big amount of money so it’s very hard to make judgment on what is big or what is small,” she added.
She said the breach also opens up questions about current and future effects of tampering. “Once your homes are identified, you don’t know where and when they are going be visited. It’s not only a current breach, there’s going to be a continuing breach because the identity is already out.” she said.
“So the important thing is to clean, identify everyone in the national panel that was breached and clean the panel homes,” she added.