The 2014 SONA in HD

Posted at 08/08/2014 2:53 AM
President Benigno Aquino III delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address. Courtesy of Radio TV Malacanang


Only tech-versed viewers who habitually flip channels might have noticed. The fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Benigno Aquino III also goes down as the first to be shot in high definition (HD).

There’s little fanfare for the Presidential Broadcast Staff – Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM), which bags the credit for this long-overdue upgrade. They’ve always handled the SONA pool feed, being charged after all with documenting the chief executive’s speeches and activities.

At these events, the SOP for network live news crews is to hook up with RTVM’s feed since they have more camera angles, and more importantly, prime access to the president. However, the RTVM feed was at times of lower quality than that of the networks’ own cameras and fell prey to technical glitches that made it risky to air.

RTVM stayed in the technical cellar for years, as the privately-owned networks bulked up on the latest equipment. Moves to update their tech capabilities went gradually, going only as far as the government’s budget could allow.

Then in 2012, the Philippines was picked to host the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia.

Louie Eleazar, head of RTVM’s media production division, said the Forum fast-tracked their team’s modernization drive. Being the host broadcaster, they were required to cover the event in HD, yet they had no hardware to do it.

“We learned that we would host the WEF late in the ball game,” he said. “Our budget was already set for 2013. The capital outlay was supposed to be spread out to all our divisions. But since we had to service the WEF, we had it realigned.”

So for the 2013 national budget, RTVM was allocated P78.7 million just for capital outlay–a hike of almost P55 million from the previous year’s. That helped raise PBS-RTVM’s overall 2013 budget to P198 million, with capital spending taking nearly 40 percent, versus just 19 percent in the 2012 budget.

The funds went to acquiring new cameras, broadcast hardware, and a production van—all HD-ready.