The adage ‘television kills’ has now taken a literal, tragic meaning.
As of this writing, more than 70 people have been confirmed dead and more than 300 are injured in a stampede occuring at the gates of Philsports Arena (formerly Ultra) where noontime show “Wowowee” was to be held. TV (including ABS-CBN) reports say the incident happened after 6 in the morning, when stadium guards opened the gates where a crowd of around 30,000 held vigil. The crowd rushed to the gates, crushing hundreds in front of the gates, mostly elderly women and children.
Government officials led by President Arroyo and Vice Pres. Noli de Castro, as well as ABS-CBN’s gamut of executives and talents have made the rounds of the hospitals where the victims where rushed. A weeping Willie Revillame appeared in front of the Wowowee crowd — those already in the arena even before the stampede — saying sorry for what happened and that all he wanted was to bring happiness and hope to the people. The ABS-CBN management has likewise made the statement to the effect that they never intended for this tragedy to happen and that they did all they can to ensure safety.
True, no one in his or her right mind would even wish for this tragedy. But those familiar with the television show know that ABS-CBN and Willie Revillame should have seen this coming. Anyone familiar with Wowowee know how money pours in — or, at least how they make it appear to pour in — for the lucky few contestants. Easy money for those few who travelled far and long to come to the gates of the TV station for a chance of making a few bucks.
Faced with the intense competition between TV networks and an especially stiff competiton in the noontime slot , Wowowee producers devised an ingenuous plan to pander to the economic desperation of millions of Filipinos. The plan: show people the money and they will watch. I watched a few episodes of Wowowee and particularly saw how Revillame brandished sums of money to the audience not unlike a how a human whets a dog’s apetite by flashing a piece of meat. Its television at its most exploitative and cruel.
I remember a friend relating to me an incident in Wowowee. Someone from the audience got called to the stage by Revillame for one of the show’s contests. Onstage, the contestant began weeping. He said its enought that that he qualified for a contest. He was not interested in joining the competition because he said he was uneducated and would probably not be able to answer the questions in the contest. The guy asked Revillame to bive him the consolation prize so that he could go back home to Central Luzon. Apparently, he left the province on a one-way fare. He did not have enough to go home and was pinning his hopes on winning a consolation prize in one of the contests. He was lucky.
But not the 70 or so got crushed to their deaths this morning.