A vast wasteland – BusinessWorld Online
In 2018, Duterte’s regime canceled the registration of the online news site Rappler because it was believed to be owned by foreigners.
Some regime lackeys in the House of Representatives attempted the same ploy in 2020 to justify shutting down the free TV and radio services of the ABS-CBN network and denying its franchise renewal request. But the same clique has also intermittently proposed lifting the constitutional provision limiting media ownership to Filipinos only.
In favoring the repeal of this provision, they assume that in the Internet age, video, audio and film programs transmitted by satellite and cable television, borders and national laws continue to hamper the ability of international media companies to reach and influence mass audiences around the world.
Supporters hardly said that foreign media companies would be encouraged to invest in the Philippines and provide more media jobs not only for journalists but also for other media workers.
Absent in this assertion is the neoliberal thesis that it would provide media audiences with a wider range of choices of sources of information and entertainment in the âfree market of ideasâ. The belief that the market must decide what is best is precisely what drives many free speech and press freedom groups to support foreign media ownership in the Philippines and elsewhere.
While not articulated, the demand for “liberalization” of media ownership assumes that, 1.) Among the products of mostly Western media organizations that some believe would be profitable to operate in the Philippines are programs for informative, accurate, relevant and excellent information and entertainment. , and that, 2.) these media conglomerates differ from each other in their interests, perspectives and policies enough to provide media audiences with a wide variety of information and entertainment options.
Whether this first assumption is correct is problematic to say the least, especially with regard to television.
United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Newton Minow described American television as “a vast wasteland” in 1961, 60 years ago, shortly after his appointment as head. of the FCC. But his observations on the state of this widely available medium are as valid today as they were in the 1960s.
Speaking then to the National Association of Broadcasters of the United States, Minow said that while television can be “good” and even better than newspapers and magazines, when it is bad, “nothing is worse” . He invited his audience of broadcasters to watch television for a day without a book, newspaper or magazine, and “without a profit and loss sheet or notebook to distract (them).”
What they will see, he said, “is a parade of game shows, comedy formulas about totally incredible families, blood and thunder, chaos, violence, sadism, murder, bad westerners, good western men, private investigators, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons, and endless commercials – lots of yelling, cuddling and insult.
Minow admitted that there were exceptions to this annoying tariff, but they were “very, very few”. He insisted that as powerful as it is, television has a responsibility to educate and enlighten its audience on issues relevant to the citizens of a democracy.
Despite the six decades that have passed since then, Minow’s characterization of television’s “vast wasteland” is as valid today as it was when it was created. Forced to stay home and watch more TV than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of stranded Filipinos have fallen victim to the boredom Minow mentioned.
Boredom is driven by the perpetual fare of the same idiot. It consists mostly of insane comedies, violent crime and crime dramas, absurd âsuperheroâ movies and fantasy films, stories of sex-obsessed teenagers, tasteless cooking shows, â action âand dismal spy films, and forgettable pseudo-dramas. Like in Minow’s day, there’s also the endless stream of buy-to-buy ads that are so mind-numbing and boring that viewers have developed a habit of “zapping” – jumping from channel to channel during breaks. advertising.
This is true of both supposedly âlocally producedâ news and entertainment products which in many cases are either franchised, copied, âlocalizedâ or modified versions of their Western counterparts, and foreign-source programs which constitute a large part of the price of entertainment. on Filipino cable television.
If the first assumption of excellence in information and entertainment of foreign origin is wrong, so is the second.
Media critics and concerned practitioners have long disputed the assumption that there is a multiplicity of views and perspectives in the products of the huge media conglomerates that bombard the planet with billions and billions of bytes of information daily. and entertainment.
The largest of these giants are no more than seven, according to Ben Bagdikian, former University of California dean at the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, in his book The media monopoly. Some even have nested directions. The result is consistency in their views on such pressing issues as war and peace, global warming, economic development, human rights and world hunger.
This consistency is reflected not only in the information they choose to broadcast or print and how, but also in their entertainment programs which primarily provide distraction and deception rather than enlightenment. These programs offer a plethora of performances celebrating the ideology of violence, petty pursuits, recklessness and indifference, competition rather than cooperation, etc., etc., which the dominant countries advocate to promote their interests and their political and economic ambitions.
Beyond the unspoken assumption that foreign owned and controlled media offer a wide variety of views and that their products are so superior that they enhance the media audience’s ability to understand their social and natural environment , there is the conviction that it is necessary to lift the ban on foreign ownership of the media to open up the airwaves to them and even the publication of newspapers and magazines.
Anyone who has watched enough television in this country should now realize that this is not the case. In the era of media globalization and new media and communication technologies, the “vast wastelands” created by, among others, media companies, foreign television oligopolies do not need to lift the mark. ban on non-Filipino media.
Ban or no ban, they’re big enough and powerful enough to sway the minds of the public. They have a monopoly on information and, more tellingly, entertainment. They already have a prominent place in Philippine television, which has no choice but to broadcast their programs.
This dominance is validated, among other studies, by the fact that when asked in a media studies course at the University of the Philippines (UP) to name the TV show or movie they enjoy the most because of its impact on concerns, personal or otherwise. , it matters to them, every communication student without exception has named one from a foreign source. When asked in another study who their heroes were, high school kids didn’t mention Rizal or Bonifacio, but Batman and Superman.
The insane programs fabricated by Western media factories can annoy the most critical and demanding. But there are others, glued daily to their televisions, who implicitly believe that the global media are the revealers of the truth that the times need. Their views on many issues are thus shaped, often unwittingly, by the media giants who control much of the news and entertainment that reaches billions of people around the world on a daily basis. This helps explain why in the information age so many people remain uninformed.