A few days ago, I saw an advisory from Sofitel about an online campaign against them by a religious group called the Members of the Church of God International. The boycott campaign rooted from the removal of their local tv network, UNTV, from the channel roster of the hotel. The group decried the supposed media discrimination against what they claimed to be the "only public service network" in the country.
Sofitel's message states:
In line with the ongoing campaign to boycott Sofitel Manila, we would like to share with you all the official statement of the management:
“We do not discriminate against any local or international broadcasting television channel. While we supply several television channels for our guests, the channels we air in the hotel are system-limited, and regularly changed based on several factors, including guest feedback and demand.
We are happy to hear the public’s concerns, and will consider to re-instate the UNTV Channel if this is a request from our hotel guests”.
The hotel's message seemed reasonable enough. Curious, I checked the growing number of comments on this thread and expressed my opinion on the matter. I said:
(Twitter) No offense to the network but the first time I heard about them is bec of their trending campaign against Sofitel and I don’t think people would decide NOT to stay in any hotel just bec of a missing channel.
(Facebook) I am sure of one thing. Nobody I know watches that channel. And I don't think that my decision to stay in a hotel is/will be tied to what channels they carry.
My comment started a barrage of replies that disagreed with what I said. Some of them hateful, others were ramblings of religious fanatics and people that could not comprehend that others have a right to oppose the cause that they were rallying. It was mostly harmless though and nothing that the block button could not handle once they got a little too persistent.
As for the validity of their claim, I am sure that someone with more knowledge of the inner-workings of the hotel and entertainment business would be more qualified to judge if they were indeed discriminated against. What I can speak of is my own personal experience with those that chose to interact with me because of what I wrote.
At one point, in the middle of the storm and the blackout in Manila, I called one user that was trolling my account a RABID RELIGIOUS FANATIC as she kept on provoking me. And that was really the impression that majority of this network's followers gave out. A little digging of the network's history showed that even their leaders resorted to name-calling so I guess that I shouldn't have expected more from their followers.
Online, I found a wikipedia entry supported by news clippings and blog posts that talked about the suspension of the network's main program - Ang Dating Daan for slander and use of offensive and obscene language by one of their leaders, Eliseo Soriano.
According to this entry, the "Supreme Court denied Soriano's motion (against the MTRB suspension) and affirmed the decision with finality in 2010 by an 11-4 vote, noting that it is a sanction that the MTRCB may validly impose under its charter without running afoul of the free speech clause. The high court reminded Soriano that his program, being aired on television, is accessible to children of all ages and therefore not appropriate for a program with a “G” or for general audience rating due to his use of vulgar language and invectives."
The cause of this 2004 legal bind is a complaint filed by members of another religious group, the Iglesia ni Cristo, for statements made by Soriano against one of their Ministers, Michael Sandoval.
"As a result, Ang Dating Daan was asked by the Supreme Court of the Philippines to pay nearly P125 million compensation to the Iglesia Ni Cristo for libel, harassment and persecution of its members:
Lehitimong anak ng demonyo! Sinungaling! [Legitimate son of demon! Liar!]
Gago ka talaga, Michael! Masahol ka pa sa putang babae, o di ba? Yung putang babae, ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba. Dito kay Michael, ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba? O, masahol pa sa putang babae ‘yan. Sobra ang kasinungalingan ng mga demonyong ito.
[You’re really stupid, Michael! O, worse than a whore, oh right? On that whore, what only works is under her (body). In Michael('s case), it's the top (part) that works, oh right? That's worse than a whore. These demons' lies are too much (to bear).]"
Now, reading more about UNTV and Ang Dating Daan gives me a clear picture as to why a business would think twice about airing them. My own personal experience only affirms the logic in the Sofitel decision. As it stands, I still would not make a decision NOT to stay in a hotel simply because it opted not to air one channel but after this experience, I WOULD PREFER to stay at SOFITEL simply because they removed this channel.