social media as mosquito press
biyaheng EDSA: saan ba papunta? — this was the question posed by ateneo’s politicial science organization’s politalk last january 31 that katrina and i attended. my answer (via a powerpoint presentation by ina) was to point out that in both EDSA and edsa dos when we ousted marcos and erap, what empowered the people was the access to information.
pre-EDSA the mosquito press dared defy censorship and tell the nation about the hidden wealth, the fake medals, the human rights violations atbp. pre-edsados, the live tv broadcasts, with replays, of erap’s impeachment trial in the senate informed the nation about jueteng connections, secret bank accounts, stock market scams atbp.
a next EDSA, one that would aspire for deepseated change, would call for no less than a politicized media and an adequately informed and politicized citizenry uniting behind common goals.
in 1986 with the liberation of media, television was awash with public affairs talk shows. the people were hungry for information after 14 years of censorship. 25 years later, there is not a single public affairs talk show on free tv. where did they all go? why does free tv offer nothing but inane entertainment, mostly soap operas and showbiz gossip? it’s called the dumbing down of the filipino, and we have television to thank for it. people are so inadequately informed about national affairs, it’s impossible to come to a consensus on anything, or even intelligently participate in discourse.
read william esposo‘s When the media become the bad news and a national problem:
Philippine media, especially television, will have to account for the big Information Gap in our country. Media are the principal means for acquiring information and a look at those top rating television shows will show that more emphasis is placed on what the Filipinos want rather than on what they need to know.
…Notice the programming profile of the top three TV networks, ABS-CBN, GMA Network and ABC, and how entertainment shows dominate the daily program schedules. In a country like ours with a serious Information Gap, that could be considered irrelevant programming. Marketing considerations were allowed to overrule the dictates of public service – unacceptable when you consider that these TV networks were awarded their respective franchises by the government to operate on the condition that they will provide public service.
… In a country like ours where a lot of things are not done right, media cannot pretend that everything is hunky-dory and just praise the government. We once had a media situation where fantasia and fiction became the main staple. This was during the period of martial law from September 22, 1972 to February 24, 1986 when the government television station was liberated. We should not allow that to happen again.
… A gnawing issue that also hounds Philippine media is the ownership structures of most media companies here – specifically those media companies that are linked to political interests. Television and radio should have been isolated from such compromised situations. However, instead of protecting public interest, the system of broadcast franchising also became a tool for political patronage. Try applying for a broadcast franchise if you’re not well connected.
… Media should be protecting the public from the long arm of the oligarchy that dominates political and economic power here. However, that will not happen when a media company is also owned by oligarchs or businessmen who are aligned with them. Under such a situation public service will certainly give way to self service.
clearly what we need are conscienticized oligarchs and businessmen who truly want to make things right, pay back, pay forward, whatever, by sponsoring public affairs tv programs that would create a demand for politicized conscienticized media practitioners who will go beyond echoing press releases re “growth” and “good economic fundamentals” and who will know that it’s not good news when there are lots of buyers of philippine retail treasury bonds (worth P100 B issued last february) because all it means is that the aquino government is going the way of presidents past and getting us deeper and deeper into debt. among other things.
i have a dream that one day, the big businessmen who invest multimillions in mindless entertainment day in day out would take their corporate social responsibility to heart, truly put their money where their mouth is, by investing too, or investing instead, in public discourse and nation-building.
until then, don’t knock social media — blogs, facebook, twitter — because these are today’s mosquito press.