MTRCB: 'Comedy Academy' for TV networks

MANILA, Philippines - In light of recent controversy regarding media ethics and comedy, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) Chairman Atty. Eugenio Villareal proposes a "Comedy Academy" in order to regulate humor on television, while retaining the artists' creative freedom.

In an interview with Rappler on June 7, Villareal presented an in-depth discussion of what is deemed as "comedy bar humor" and bridging freedom of expression with broadcast ethics.

'Comedy Academy'

On June 5, MTRCB called a meeting with ABS-CBN producers and comedian Vice Ganda, described by Villareal as a "developmental chat" where they tackled the "migration of comedy bar humor to television."

Chairman Villareal, also a professor of law, cleared that the meeting was instructive and was carried out in an almost-classroom-like setting. It served the purpose of laying out concrete guidelines, regulations and laws regarding comedy writing and gag delivery for television and film.

Villareal noted that ABS-CBN was open during the discussion, which lasted around 3 hours. Handouts containing snippets of relevant laws, such as the Magna Carta of Women, Magna Carta of Persons with Disabilities and Children's Television Act of 1997, were given to the parties.

"They agreed to be more deliberate in preparing for their gags," said the MTRCB Chair.

Villareal himself suggested that networks create within themselves what he calls a "Comedy Academy," where open, constructive and creative discussion may be made among writers, producers and artists.

"There will be creative comedy because laughter is important, it's part and parcel of our human existence.  Laughter actually becomes more effective if it translates to joy, that inner transcendent na kaligayahan (happiness)."

"Si Vice ang nagsabi sa'kin niyan at agree kaming dalawa doon." (Vice told me that, and we both agreed.)

A Comedy Academy will allow a balanced and deliberate manner of handling an artist's creativity and, at the same time, responsibility.

The concept has yet to materialize, but Villareal assured that the MTRCB already makes use of an ajudication process in which MTRCB officials are available 24 hours for questions from television networks.

"We have already required our networks to appoint gender focal persons. In MTRCB, we are perfectly available to also participate and give them input."

Seminars and workshops on media laws, and gender sensitivity programs with stylists, artists and writers are also being conducted.

MTRCB is set to meet with GMA on June 20, and with TV5 on June 27.

Watch the interview with Villareal here:

Comedy bar humor

Comedy bar humor, according to Villareal, banks on "okrayan" or "lait" (insults) in making fun of an individual. Oftentimes, degrading punchlines and sexually-charged gags easily provide amusement to the crowd.

While what happens in comedy bars may poke fun at individuals in the name of "fun," Villareal emphasized that the comedy bar environment must not be carried over to television.

"Television is totally different, there are norms to be followed," he said.

"There is the broadcast code," he explained further. "There are very concrete norms; no put-downs, no ostracizing of people on account of ethnicity or color. When there are live shows or game shows, you should not embarrass a participant or a contestant."

The MTRCB works under PD1986, which mentions age appropriateness, Filipino values and the revised penal code as factors to consider when evaluating television material.

Also, discriminatory and derogatory portrayal of women, children and persons with disabilities on TV and film will not be tolerated and may be cause for the suspension of a network's license or imprisonment.

Villareal clarified that MTRCB's jurisdiction is limited to "movies, television, trailers, plugs of these, promotional materials like posters, other theater venues" but performances off-camera are also under laws that protect human dignity. - Rappler.com