We need media reform if we’re to uplift the living conditions of our people and overhaul our counterproductive systems and mindsets. Our people suffer from an Information Gap partly because of substandard media reporting. You hardly get from other media, especially broadcast media, the BIG PICTURE that’s reported on PCIJ, Rappler and Newsbreak.
The root causes of media problems can be traced to lack of proper editorial policies, too much commercialism, sensationalism and sloppy journalism. Ever since the primetime television newscasts were treated as revenue-generating programs that must improve network ratings and ad revenues, TV news content went down to the level of tabloid journalism. The emphasis shifted from providing information that people need — to providing information that people want. Instead of upgrading our people’s information level, the TV newscasts pandered to the desires for scandal stories, gossip, conflict and entertainment.
On the primetime TV newscasts, the most important developments aren’t aired or given top priority in order to accommodate the sensational but senseless news. The trained eye will spot the lopsided allocation for scandal stories, crime, conflict, and showbiz stories — eclipsing more important stories like the developing conflict in the South China Sea where we could be in the very frontline of a US-China War.
Take the case of the public perception of an “unaddressed big crime wave” that crime stats clearly debunk. How could people perceive “a big crime wave” when, in fact, crime incidents have dramatically decreased between 2009 and 2011?
During the Philippine National Police Academy graduation rites last March, President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) reiterated the cold facts of crime incidents — from a high of more than 500,000 crime incidents in 2009, we registered a significant decrease to about 247,000 cases by 2011. That’s a 50 percent decrease but it doesn’t look that way when you watch the TV newscasts. “The 2,200 cases of car thefts in 2010 went down to just 966, or decreased by more than half in 2011,” President Aquino added.
If the reports that we’re being given by TV newscasts do not reflect the cold facts of crime incidents in our country, that can only be the result of substandard reporting and a disproportionate airing of crime stories that tend to create the public perception of a big crime wave. We can agree to the newsworthiness of heinous crimes but in the top TV newscasts even the simplest crime incidents manage to get airtime while national security, economics, job opportunities here and abroad and coping with high prices are hardly discussed.
Your Chair Wrecker was elated to discover that two other writers have expressed their desire for improvements on Philippine media. One of them even denounced corruption. Indeed, there should be more voices crying reform in the wilderness of Philippine media.
In his April 20, 2012 Chubibo (means merry-go-round) column, Dennis Garcia (also of Hotdog fame), called to task the primetime TV newscasts for the means they’ll employ just to up their ratings and of course — their revenues. He wrote: “Night after night, the growing trend during the 6:30-8:00 p.m. slot is to dish out TV shows masquerading as news programs which are predictably awash with gory details of child rapes or molestations.”
Dennis added: “So you are fed information about two underage boys who rape and kill a 6-year old girl.” He continued: “Or, a teleserye-inspired narrative about a woman’s lover who molests her two very young daughters whenever she steps out of the house.”
Dennis calls it “Tasteless sensationalism that gets bolder and cruder… just to haul in viewers and ratings. Which, in turn, keep advertisers from entertaining thoughts of taking their business over to the crass, fast-declining game show on another channel.”
My late Tita Soila’s favorite nephew, Andy del Rosario, deplored in his April 21 Manila Standard Today column the sad state of Philippine media. Andy cited the candidacy of a notorious radio commentator for president of the National Press Club (NPC), which he considers indicative of the deterioration of our media standards. That the radio commentator, whom Andy described as “a loose cannon, a foul-mouthed broadcaster” is even running, reflects the rot in Philippine media. Candidacy suggests a support base.
Andy wrote that the radio commentator “has 16 counts of libel filed against him, including from Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz who has also been maligned by the jerk posturing as a journalist. He does not know the meaning of ethics and his running loose in our midst must be one of life’s most cruel jokes.” Andy went on to expose the radio commentator as a PR operator with the bad habit of revealing those journalists whom he had paid and how much they made from the operation.
“My poor friends in media who go to his Thursday Club don’t know what he’s saying behind their backs. Babblemouth even tells other people how much he bribes them monthly whenever he’s drunk. Indeed he is given to boasting as to how powerful he is,” Andy added.
We must eliminate those media factors that pollute instead of enlighten Filipino minds. Media should upgrade to professional standards and lead the narrowing of the Information Gap that opens many Filipinos to exploitation and manipulation.
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
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