Shekinah Jedidiah Alima

The National Schools Press Conference 2024 (NSPC), currently underway in Carcar City, Cebu, has encountered controversy surrounding the alleged on-the-spot changes in guidelines for TV Script Writing and Broadcasting, and Photojournalism contests. 

Photo Courtesy of X/DepEd.

Former ABS-CBN producer Mark Villaluna raised concerns about the fairness and transparency of this situation and highlighted the months of training participants invested to compete at the national level.

In his Facebook post on Sunday, he claimed that upon arrival at Carcar City College for the laptop checking and sealing procedure, the NSPC National Technical Working Group (NTWG) allowed the last three participating regions to proceed with their elements, but then reversed this decision after other contenders became aware. 

“’Yung last three teams allegedly na chineck ang laptop inallow na i-retain ‘yung broadcast design elements nila including bumpers, lower-thirds and transition effects. Tapos bilang hindi na raw ulit pwede nu’ng nalaman ng ibang teams. Binawi,” Villaluna stated.

He also questioned why the NSPC NTWG would provide “broadcast design elements uniform to all” if this procedure was not indicated in the TV Broadcasting guidelines or announced beforehand.

“Also, hindi pa rin daw allowed ‘yung virtual studio. May ipo-provide ba ang NSPC NTWG na uniform virtual studio sa lahat ng teams? At kung ganito ang gagawin, bakit hindi sinama ang procedure na ito as part of the official guidelines sa memo or announced officially man lang through the proper channels?” he added.

In an exclusive interview with Explained PH, a TV Broadcasting group from the Visayas region expressed disappointment at the sudden changes in the contest rules.

“Disappointing and waste of efforts. We’ve worked for months creating those graphics and it just took them like less than an hour to delete it,” their editor stated.

Another member stated that the changes are unrealistic and are not aligned with the criteria of the TV Broadcasting competition. 

“I think it's very unrealistic to expect for all of the graphics to be finished within 2 hours. Sabi nila na baka raw they’ll just give us a uniform graphics, para iisa na lang ‘yung mga studio, mga downstream namin tapos it doesn’t really make sense kasi one of the criteria is really the graphics, so dapat iba-iba,” she said. 

She also explained that their graphics are “personalized according to the style of news,” which disregarded their efforts. 

Based on the DepEd Memorandum, the broadcasting teams are allowed to retain their pre-recorded opening and closing billboards, as well as the offline editing software.

The broadcasters are only given four hours to complete their output, including the pre-production, actual live broadcast simulation and post-production process, the memo stated.

The confusion extended to the photojournalism contest, where the guidelines are said to cause confusion among participants.

In a separate Facebook post, photojournalist Jimmy Domingo called out the NSPC NTWG for the ‘vague’ Photojournalism guidelines regarding the camera specifications and the time limit of the contest proper.

According to the 2024 NSPC memorandum, contestants can use point-and-shoot, compact cameras, or DSLR cameras with a prime lens or zoom lens up to 105mm only. 

However, it failed to specify whether the 105-millimeter lens limit applies to full-frame or Advanced Photo System type-C (APS-C) sensors, which require a longer focal length to achieve the same field of view, considering the crop factor of the images.

The camera speculations provided this year require high-end gear, but the photojournalism guidelines last year only required the contestants to “use any digital camera” and prohibited the use of DSLR and other high-end cameras.

These changes disadvantage participants who followed the 2023 NSPC guidelines and those without access to high-quality equipment.

Explained PH tried to reach out to the Department of Education officials in charge, but there is no response yet as of this writing.

The NSPC 2024 is hosted by Region VII and the Division of Carcar City, Cebu, from July 8 to 12.