Television is the most used and trusted media in the Philippines, according to the most recent publicly available data (see Philippine Statistics Authority, 2013). Around 81 percent of the population watch television, of which 71.6 percent at least once a week. In a Nielsen survey in 2016 (cited by MOM, 2017), television is the most trusted source of political information (58 percent of the sample). Cable/satellite technologies offer subscriptions to Filipinos based in other parts of the globe, although cable/satellite subscriptions are limited to only 12 percent of urban Philippines (MOM, 2017).
There are more than 400 television stations nationwide as of 2016, 23 of which are in Metro Manila. The television market is highly concentrated and is in essence a duopoly – the two biggest conglomerates, ABS CBN and GMA, have an audience share of about 81 percent (MOM, 2017). Constantly "engaged in a vicious ratings war", the biggest networks such as ABS CBN and GMA are among the most influential opinion shapers (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities Network, 2012, p 142). These conglomerates also operate regional stations or relay their programmes to independent regional stations.
These conglomerates, being almost unchallenged for the most part, reported massive net profits. For instance, in 2011, ABS CBN reported a net profit of US$56m while GMA reported US$40m (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities Network, 2012). However, in 2018, ABS CBN reported a 41 percent decrease in profits while GMA reported a 21 percent decrease, mostly attributed to a drop in advertising revenue (Camus, 2018).
The government-owned People’s Television Network, on the other hand, has a significantly lower audience share than that of its private competitors. All television franchises, however, must be approved by the government, particularly the House of Representatives (lawmakers), and then regulated by the National Telecommunications Commission (also a government agency). Some churches or religious organisations also purchased television stations or launched their own.
Regular programming on weekdays is largely the same across the stations. The day begins with early morning news programmes, followed by a variety of lifestyle or home-making shows or cartoons for a younger audience. The lunchtime entertainment shows command significant audience attention and are consistently at the top of survey ratings. Most of the late afternoon slots are given to soap operas, followed by the evening newscast. After the evening news programmes, the primetime is usually used for screening of soap operas or reality television shows.
The critique on mainstream television lies mainly on the tendencies stemming from its commercial nature, an example of which is the massive amount of air time allotted to advertising, or the news emphasis on what sells.