Mass media – broadcast media to be exact – is a weapon for good or evil. It can protect and defend society and its people or it can be used to destroy, maim and kill leaders, countries and their citizens.
In the post-colonial period, ABS-CBN has continuously been weaponized by the Lopez clan to control and exploit the Philippines as per instruction of its U.S. patron. For the Lopezes, ABS-CBN has been primarily an instrument to impose stupendously profitable deals from the governments they corrupt and sustain the residual colonial mentality of Filipinos.
Of course, ABS-CBN is not the only instrument used by the Western interlopers and the local plutocracy in support of their mutual interest. This is clearly evident in the exposé of the hidden dollars – through the mechanism of the PDR (Philippine Depositary Receipts) in the hands of foreign “investors”– that are also in control of Rappler, Philippine Star, Inquirer, et.al.
Today, mass media has one special role – as Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMD). As explained in Noam Chomsky’s 1988 bestselling book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media”, distraction by mass media entertainment is the primary means of diverting a population from the real issues of the economy, exploitation and abuse of the ruling powers.
What is the proper role of mass media in the people’s lives? This can only be discerned when we attempt to address the existential question of the purpose of human life. Throughout history, civilizations have prospered only when life has been dedicated to truth, scientific and philosophical development alongside the material development of a people.
Today, however, WMD mass media aims to divert and distract from the primordial purposes of life through distractive programming as exemplified by such ABS-CBNs programs as “Its Showtime” with transvestite Vice Ganda and the super-hero drama “Ang Probinsyano” that highlights a hero figure while inserting subliminal partisan political messages favorable to ABS-CBN and U.S. presidential choices.
Dumbing Down the nation.
In a 2019 report released by the U.S.-based World Population Review (WPR), Philippine residents ranked the lowest in Intelligence Quotient among the Southeast Asian nations. Singaporeans were the highest, followed by the Vietnamese; even Myanmar ranked higher to the tail-ender Philippines.
Newspaper reports of the WPR study cited poverty and lack of access to education as the main factors for the low IQ of Filipinos. However, the Philippines is ranked by the UN as the most literate ASEAN country at 97.95%. What accounts for the discrepancy?
It can’t be poverty. After all, Myanmar and Laos certainly have worse poverty still than the Philippines. Poor quality education may be one factor: DepEd recently reported that 70,000 Bicol School children can’t read. However, the factor not considered in the report is mass media and its entertainment power to dumb down the nation. After all, a dumbed down people won’t even know they need to resist.
U.S. backing its surrogate mass media.
Backing the mass media weapons of the Western Powers and domestic oligarchs are the wide range of Filipino NGOs funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), including Omidyar and many others. For example, Omidyar provides Pesos 75-million for distribution among Rappler directors, while Vera Files gets up to Pesos 10-million and CMFR up to P 18-million a year.
In addition, these Filipino media NGOs are also beneficiaries of largesse from Western media NGOs, including scholarships, cash awards, and jobs in the U.S. academe, such as Sheila Coronel who is now dean of the Columbia Journalism School.
And then there is the Pulitzer and similar awards that the famous Amboy Carlos Romulo won in 1942. In 2018, it was copying machine Manny Mogatos’ turn at the Pulitzer with his EJK, anti-Duterte, and anti-China reports. Mogato also shared the $15,000.00 cash prize with two Americans “for relentless reporting that exposed the brutal killing campaign behind Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs”, which continues to be the U.S. line on Duterte.
U.S. control, oligarchs feed.
While the Philippines supposedly gained independence in 1945, the truth is that the U.S. maintains control of the country through the local oligarchy who have been “franchised” to feed on the nation’s economy. is The American “Filipinization of Meralco to the Lopezes who then raised power rates posthaste to pay the Americans is in today’s headlines. To this day, the Americans have retained shares in Meralco through the Salim group.
Because of Meralco revenues, the Lopezes became one of the most powerful oligarchs in the country, enabling them to expand into mass media, including the acquisition of ABS-CBN. It should be noted that the Americans used this media network to help depose Marcos, promote thirty years of the Yellows, depose Estrada, and destabilize first Arroyo and now Duterte.
ABS-CBN enabled Fernando Lopez to become the Vice President, as well as the self-confessed mental mediocrity named Noli de Castro. The Lopezes demanded sovereign guarantees from Estrada, and then helped depose Estrada and make Arroyo president. It then supported Arroyo to pass the EPIRA law in order to raise power rates and privatize power generation, an ADB conditionality imposed on Gloria Arroyo after EDSA Dos.
Public vs. Private media.
Whoever holds mass media wields holds a weapon for the furtherance of its interests. Thus, all privately-owned mass media ultimately serves private interests. However, this is contrary to the innate nature of mass media who is meant to serve, primarily, the people’s welfare. For this reason, state-owned and -run media must be considered as a serious alternative if the intent is to serve the common welfare of the people that can easily be waylaid by political controllers.
China is an example of successful State media that can go toe-to-toe with Western privately-controlled media. China’s model is successful because the State is successful even as independent social media exists to ensure that citizen and consumer welfare is protected.
But public media can be communitarian too.
Public media can be sustained directly by the people through taxes mandated, but not controlled, by the laws of the State. An example is the British Broadcasting System that is funded by a license fee paid by U.K. households but not controlled by the government. Another is a cooperative mechanism, such as, the Pres Trust of India that is owned cooperatively by all Indian newspapers.
A communitarian media institution.
Both the British and Indian examples provide valuable guidance in setting up a “communitarian” ABS-CBN (under a new name) that will be taken over and run by a media cooperative created by law and financed through government grants and augmented by subscription fees and sales. The media cooperative shall be managed by journalism school representatives and governed by a board composed of recognized media organizations, such as, the National Press Club and Kapisanan ng mga Brodcasters.
The media cooperative, which could be called the “Philippine Commission on Cooperative Independent Media” or some other appropriate name, shall be operated and maintained similar to other public commissions, such as, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the National Historical Commission, and others. These entities receive mandated annual grants but without the accompanying government interference. The media cooperative would also be separate from the State media, such as PTV4 and RPN.
Such a media institution would certainly be free of private profit interest and partisan political bias. Thus, it can focus its programming and print content towards wholistic information, balanced values-formation and education-based entertainment programming that is devoid of commercialism and the poison of the profit motive.
From barrel of a gun to plowshares.
With support from the late Congressman Tony Roman of Bataan, I had proposed a similar concept in 1998 that was heard by the House Committee on Public Information then composed of the Spice Boys and Bright Boys, including Mike Defensor, Chiz Escudero, TG Guingona etc., who were unanimous in fearing the media oligarchs and told me so.
Philippine mass media, including the popular press, must make the leap to convert the barrel of the information gun into plowshares that will cultivate popular and mass enlightenment, a vision of collective welfare and development, an independent and cooperative international outlook, and an appreciation of creative arts and culture.
It’s time to make the leap.
May this proposal reach the eyes and ears of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his advisers. It is time to end the plutocrats’ information dictatorship that only debase the nation and erode national sovereignty and independence. Give the media instrument to the people and dedicated information and news advocates in the field of journalism and mass communication so that our national information system will truly serve the common welfare.