THE shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp. left a big “information gap” in the midst of natural calamities such as Typhoon Rolly because of the broadcast giant’s wide reach and significant role in covering far-flung areas, a journalism professor said on Monday.

“What cannot be denied is the wide reach of the ABS-CBN network, not to mention the fact that it has a regional network group, which can mobilize community journalists and at the same time use the latest technology to get information from the ground,” Danilo A. Arao, an associate professor at UP Diliman’s Department of Journalism, told BusinessWorld.

His comments come after Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, on Sunday appealed to the media to help in disseminating advisories on the strength and risks of Typhoon Rolly, saying some remote areas are reached only by radio.

Disaster spokesperson Mark Cashean E. Timbal on Monday said communication with disaster managers in Catanduanes, where Rolly made its first landfall Sunday morning, was limited to satellite calls or radio communication.

According to Mr. Arao, ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Bicol was able to get the necessary information from Catanduanes even when communication lines were down in the province during the onslaught of typhoons.

“Right now, we cannot do that, we can only rely on certain anecdotal evidence given by some residents,” he said.

The House of Representatives in July denied the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, forcing the country’s largest network, in terms of reach, to shut down some of its operations, including its regional television programs and radio format program Teleradyo, which can only be accessed now online and on digital TV.

ABS-CBN’s regional network has been producing local TV Patrol programs on the network’s 21 regional stations for over three decades, serving viewers in the countryside with news presented in their own dialects. 

Reporters who speak in the language that viewers truly understand bring a sense of comfort and relatability, Mr. Arao said, adding that ABS-CBN had the “best and the brightest” community journalists for its regional news and public affairs programs.

“In communication, we need a certain degree of cultural proximity to our audience,” he said.

Mr. Arao said other networks also have regional outfits to varying degrees, but their level of organization “still has much to be desired” compared with that of ABS-CBN.

“If you combine community journalism with the technologies that ABS-CBN can provide, this will be an effective way to provide the necessary information,” he said.

With the absence of a top broadcast station, the country is partly missing regional perspectives that could have been essential in development planning, public health expert Anthony C. Leachon said over the weekend.

“We have a dearth of information coming from main media stations with the absence of a top broadcast station. We are missing the regional situationers of the development of the typhoon, hotlines for donations, and experts’ opinions. Overcommunication saves lives,” said Mr. Leachon, a physician and a former adviser of the government’s taskforce against coronavirus.

Mr. Arao said ABS-CBN is missed “because we would have wanted more and more coverage, instead of less coverage.” He said there is “no such thing as too much information or too much coverage” during natural calamities. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza