Irresponsible media heighten national security risks
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-07-31
A respectable writer recently said on Facebook that she doesn’t feel safe in our country. Did a declining crime index or the TV primetime newscast create her fears?

There have been debates stemming from the opinion of others that Philippine media should adopt the operating guidelines of Singapore media. The argument put forward by its advocates was that the negativism and sensationalism in Philippine media hamper our national growth, and what’s needed is balance that’ll give the news consumers here and abroad the true picture of what’s happening in our country. 

It’s good that my STAR colleague Dik Pascual mentioned in his column last Sunday that overseas consumers of the TFC (ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel) have expressed “alarm” over what seems to be happening here. That’s hardly surprising when they’re dished the same TV Patrol we see that’s addicted to crime and scandal stories, not to mention its predilection for the negative slant of a story.

Defensive journalists would then argue that Singapore media are straight jacketed while here we follow the tenets of freedom of the press. That’s pure bovine ordure. It’s typical of the narrow-minded members of Philippine media to pluck motherhood statements in order to justify their errors and mistakes.

A quick glance at the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index showed that Singapore is ranked 135th in press freedom while we’re only ranked 140th. The many murders of journalists here may have contributed a lot to placing us in the 140th rank but it’s not true that Singapore media are controlled or muzzled. The truth is Singapore media follow very closely the tenets of the journalist’s code of conduct.

A Filipina who heads the corporate communications department for Southeast Asia of a giant European multinational firm — therefore well grounded on media realities of the assigned territory — summed up the difference between Singapore and Philippine media practices. Based in Singapore for over 8 years now, she said: “There is no media restraint in Singapore. Anything and everything is reported, like corruption in government and church scams. Recently the papers were full of stories on the high profile investigation of senior government officials who accepted sexual favors in return for favorable government contracts. Another was the report about a church minister (from a Christian church, not Catholic) misappropriating funds to finance the career of his wife, a famous pop singer in Singapore.

What is not allowed is speculative/irresponsible reporting. The media have to be armed with facts, and the news must be objectively written.

Remember the private video of two school authorities that circulated among students in my daughter’s school? It was reported in media, but media withheld the name of the school and the name of the couple. Compare that to the Philippine media, which are shallow and undisciplined.”

If you visit Singapore and talk to the natives there, you’ll notice how much better updated they are to important events and information vital to their lives. It’s not because Singapore is a much smaller place compared to the Philippines. If they dished garbage, like what our primetime TV newscasts like to serve us, then it will also reflect garbage output. Notice too how easy it is for multinational firms to prefer to put their regional headquarters in Singapore. The positive image that Singapore media have successfully communicated must be credited for a good part of that.
The irony of the Philippine media situation is that much of the muck emanates from radio and television — media that operate out of franchises that are granted by Congress. That being the case, our broadcast media should be more responsible because if the government implements here what the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) follows in the US, they could be held in violation of their franchise conditions that are generally in the realm of providing vital news and information.

Many radio and TV networks here have gotten away with bloody murder, in a manner of speaking, because corrupt public officials are intimidated to enforce the franchise terms and conditions for fear of media reprisal and being accused of curtailment of freedom of the press. Alas, not all public officials here are as clean and bold as President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy). P-Noy will call media to task if he feels that media are part of the problem and in many instances, many of them are.

There’s a whale of a difference between the curtailment of press freedom and the strict enforcement of what broadcast networks should follow, as per the terms and conditions of their franchises. Neither the FCC nor our NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) should tell broadcast media what and how to think. However, if the franchise holder doesn’t comply with his commitment to provide public service and had clearly erred for having opted to serve their consumers inferior and problem-causing materials — then the state has every right to sanction them and to compel them to perform the terms and conditions of their franchises.

It’s time we junked all these counterproductive bad habits that stunts our growth. Why don’t we shift our media policies to those of Singapore? Maybe, that’s what will really make it more fun in the Philippines.

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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