Media Ownership and Control in the Philippines Takes a New Form

Each year in the Philippines, where the digital divide is still an unresolved issue, it is more likely that citizens who turn to any medium will receive information, ideas, or entertainment controlled by the same handful of corporations.

 As Sheila Coronel, of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism noted in her article on media ownership and control in the country, "The new freedoms unleashed by the 1986 uprising gave journalists wide latitude to report on events and issues. The Philippine media are not only free, they are also extremely powerful.Media exposés can abort political careers or catalyze policy reforms, and journalistic inquiry often makes politicians quake."

" Unfortunately, the media have also used their freedoms to outdo rivals in the race to peddle newspapers and television programs. Competition in the Philippine media isinternecine and intense. And far more than the interests of proprietors, it has shaped the practice of journalism, the content of newspapers, and the programming of radio and television."

The ownership of the media by a handful of corporate entities means that more and more it is they who control what the average Filipino citizen reads, sees, and hears. And yet ..there is a close to total silence in the mainstream news on the social consequences of this concentration [of media control]. Our access to information is being controlled by persons whom we do not know, persons who are pulling the strings of the corporate puppet. When the central interests of the controlling corporations are at stake, mainstream news becomes heavily weighted by whatever serves the economic and political interests of the corporations that own the media.  The situation has reversed. While there is no State repression of the media as in the era of the Marcos regime, there is instead a free-for-all unregulated competition and little government control.

One of the dangers in all this is that this corporate ethic is so single-minded about extreme fast profits and expanded control over the media business that it is willing to convert the news into a service for the affluent customers wanted by the media’s advertisers instead of a source of information significant for the whole of society. The rewards of money profit through market control by themselves and their advertisers have blinded media owners to the damage they are doing to an institution central to democracy everywhere.