I can still remember a time when The Media used to be squarely on the side of those who’ve made it their mission to instigate meaningful change in our society. In the periods between 1983 (when Benigno Aquino was assassinated) and 1986 (when Cory Aquino took Malacanang), I can honestly say that The Media played a critical role in the success of that “revolution”.
Between 1983 and 1986, The Media had secured its place as modern-day “king-makers” in Philippine society. It is a role they hold to this day. The only difference between now and then is that there no longer is a laban (fight) in the same sense of how the concept found its context back in the 1980′s. Whereas in the 1980′s those media outfits that were to become today’s ABS-CBN’s and Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s were the outsiders, today they are the insiders. They stand tall as part of the Establishment and the realities of being for profit enterprises (with shareholders and diverse Boards) have come to bear. As such it makes the criteria used in the allocation of airtime and inches to issues, topics, and personalities quite suspect.
Suffice to say, the Media is no longer that gung-ho champion of “freedom” that it made itself out to be in the 1980′s. Today it comes across as just another pillar of influence and a political force in its own right standing side-by-side with its peers in the Political Establishment, much the same way as that other power broker, the Philippine Catholic Church, is but an elaborately ornamented shadow of what Jesus Christ originally stood for as a Jewish radical of his time.
[...] mass media is still king maker in our country, more specifically ABS-CBN and GMA7. Since GMA7 seems less keen on taking sides, it seems more like ABS-CBN only.
Any ideas on taking control of them? Is there anyone here rich enough to buy them or compete with them.
I believe that the more realistic approach in taking on the big networks like ABS-CBN is not too different to the way we as voters and constituents regard our politicians (the key message of my blog post Electing someone to public office is like hiring a plumber):
Do we sit idly and accept the horsemanure they feed us? Or are we up to the task of stepping up and truly exercising our power as voters and constituents by taking control of the political “debate”?
It is a challenge that is applicable to us as consumers of what The Media dish out. Instead of sitting idly and just accepting what they dish out to us, we should regard their output with a critical mind and be more demanding as customers.
I, for example, am very critical of ABS-CBN on the basis of what I see on their Bandila news program which is aired on a free-to-view channel in Australia, specifically in the way they routinely:
- give disproportionate airtime to hearsay (sabi-ni-ganyan and sabi-ni-ganito) “reporting” and other instances of sloppy journalism that insult their otherwise noble profession;
- give disproportionate airtime to politically-charged stories when there are disasters and other events affecting hundreds or thousands of ordinary Filipinos that are more newsworthy and deserving of broadcast minutes; and,
- broadcast images of uncovered dead bodies demonstrating a lack of respect for privacy and regard for common decency.
On one episode (I think this was in the aftermath of flash flooding in the Bicol region), they even had their field reporters and camera crews shoving their way into a busy emergency room to interview medical personnel.
One also could wonder why Bandila gave so much coverage to the hoo-ha around President Arroyo’s $20,000 dinner in New York City with her cronies and is largely silent about the millions of pesos other politicians spend on buying advertising minutes for their “public service” messages — until one realises that these “public services” messages constitute a major revenue stream for ABS-CBN.
There is also something to be said about the gaudy and noisy (lots of sound effects and electric guitars on the background) format of the Bandila news program, which starkly contrasts with the sober and dignified format of the other news programs from other countries that are also aired on the same channel. Bandila is to the broadcast news industry what the jeepney is to the automotive industry. But that is really just engaging in petty nitpicking, isn’t it? After all, ganun talaga ang Pinoy (that’s the Filipino for you).
Even the well-regarded Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) isn’t above being partial to politically-motivated topics. At the height of a horrific mudslide in 2006 that killed 1,300 Filipinos in Leyte, the PCIJ blog remained awash in politics-related stories leading me to make a sarcastic comment after some token stories were ran on the disaster:
Not bad. That makes TWO mudslide-related articles out of 15-odd politically-motivated articles in the last several weeks since the disaster you reported here that killed 1,300 FILIPINO SOULS.
Keep up the good work!
Suffice to say, Alecks Pabico wasn’t very amused.
My ultimate point here (and I realise now that this thing with Big Media is no different to our thing with Big Politics) is that there are ways and means of making our freedom truly work for us. The results are not instantaneous and therefore we need to be prepared to overcome our addiction to the kind of instant gratification we have become comfy with in the past age of “revolution”. We need to make the system work for us by working with it properly. But to do so requires that we all, as a people, step up and apply a critical mind to our politics and the information we get from the Media.