Isn’t it so ironic now how roles have been reversed. The once mightily self-righteous Philippine Media now stands before the “representatives” of the people, head bowed and lined up as one of the three chumps (the police and Malacanang being the other two) responsible for the monumental shame that all Filipinos now suffer in the aftermath of the violent deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists who were simply out for a day of sight seeing on Manila’s streets.
The Senate committee on public information and mass media grilled news executives of the three major TV networks for three hours, warning it would pass a law if the industry could not draw up uniform guidelines in reporting on life-threatening incidents.
“Don’t tempt us to use our powers here, to now issue a general broadcast policy-that will be a law,” Arroyo warned the executives led by Maria Ressa of ABS-CBN, Jessica Soho of GMA-7, and Luchi Cruz-Valdes of TV5.
Highlighting the new-found boldness with which politicians now face the Media is the context that top griller Senator Joker Arroyo (ironically, himself, a champion of press freedom) cited that backdrops any move to impose sanctions and legal limits on the Media:
Addressing [head of ABS-CBN news and current affairs Maria] Ressa, he said: “The problem, Maria, is this: Everybody is scared of the media. Let’s face it… You publish something unfavorable, then we’re finished.”
“The point is, we hesitate because you are media. If you weren’t media, we would craft the law immediately,” he said.
Media once fancied itself the pit bull of those self-described victims-of-eveything — Filipinos. The trouble with pit bulls is that they can harbour a nasty pre-disposition to turn against their own masters. And now Filipinos have become victims of their own “guardians of freedom” as well.
The Mendoza hostage drama was but a mere catalyst in this spectacular phase transition. Indeed, the downward trajectory that Philippine Media had set for itself goes back a lot further than August 23.
I recall the following simple principles mentioned in last night’s Sentro ng Katotohanan broadcast that resonate loudly today…
News Media should not make the news.
Filipino news reporting as a profession lost the plot decades ago when it became all about money. All in the name of that nefarious business concept shareholder value, pathetically corporatised broadcast news in the Philippines has all but muddled the distinction between news reporting and production of entertainment content. The brain-dead average consumer of Big Philippine Media products should ask himself the obvious question: What is the difference between the two? Or, in other words:
Which came first, the drama or the event?
Take stock of the landscape of content coming out of the GMA and ABS-CBN Networks and you will surely be left scratching your heads. We no longer know for certain whether an event is significant in and of itself or whether it is but another sexed up regurgitation produced by our so-called and self-described “heroes” of freedom of speech. In contrast to the sober and understated news programs of other countries, for example, Philippine news programs such as Bandila are colourful and noisy assaults on human decency in the same way the jeepney is a roaring insult to the profession of automotive engineering.
Let’s engage in a bit of thinking here, folks. What is it exactly that we had sold our humanity out to in the last 25 years since we “won” our “freedom”? The only people laughing all the way to the bank are Big Media shareholders. All the rest are either hunched in a moronic stupor in front of their television sets or lying horizontally in a morgue, being lapped up by reporters and their cameramen for re-distribution to their gore enthusiast clientele.
News Media should not be the news.
The romanticism of “reporters” being key protagonists in over-reused drama plots involving evil tyrants out to silence every man, woman and his/her cameraman is so last-century. The old moronic battlecry “Media Kami!” (“We are the Media!”) now rings defeaningly hollow having been bellowed once too many. And hopefully the days when spectacles fed into our living rooms in living colour of whistleblowing idiots giving out press statements while surrounded by nuns are behind us. Like the mullet and the oversized shirts of the 1980’s, the epoch that was purported to be the “golden age” of Philippine Media will be looked upon by historians as a quaint reminder of how an otherwise noble concept that was subject to Pinoy-style thinking snowballed into a perverse excess of hype and spin — another testimony to Filipinos’ renowned talent for perverting otherwise noble concepts.
Perhaps the next time we see some bozo sporting one of those multi-pocketed vests with a tacky three-by-five-inch “Media Pass” hanging from his or her breast pocket (or from under the rear view mirror of his or her car), it will no longer be the image of a white knight galloping in from the horizon that is conjured in our minds. Instead, here’s hoping that, in the near future, the Filipino “reporter” evokes more the idea of an empathic observer and thoughtful chronicler of events; one who is happy to fade into the background and let his/her story tell itself.