Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Global Companies Versus Oligarchic Elites In Mass Media

The Constitutional ban on foreign ownership of mass media has worked. Too well it seems, for the objective fact is, ownership of the mass media is now in the hands of what Ferdinand Marcos famously identified as the Oligarchy. His supervening autarky under martial law, however, only monopolized the mass media by putting it all in his hands. Now the ancien regime has been more or less restored. For look, the powerful Lopez Clan has more than regained its old Empire, including the crown jewel in the ABSCBN network. All the major broadsheets of print media are famously associated with their respective owners: PDI with the Prietos; Star with the Romualdezes; Bulletin with ... etc. Likewise the Philippine govt is an owner of significant media assets, having retained sequestered companies as a kind of Izvestia/Pravda for whoever sits in Malacanang Palace. Oh, there is also a Long Tail of independents, a small, insignificant rabble that often produces the gems snapped up by the Oligarchs. . .

The proposal to lift this ban on foreign ownership scares the living daylights out of the domestic elites that run desultory, anemic and frankly moribund mass media outlets which are really niches of inexplicable popular attraction, fascination, or absorption with sex, violence, gossip, trivia, and crass commercialism. All the elements that make up global media too, but strictly limited to the lowest possible Filipino common denominator. I suppose the logical assertion being made here is that the global lowest common denominator is HIGHER and more USEFUL still than the present quality level and available choice in the content supplied by the Oligarchy.

Heck, even the Philippine Daily Inquirer seems to get it now:
PDI Editorial (Media Ownership) The opening up of the mass media to foreign investors could also further heat up the competition among newspapers and broadcast stations, and result in the improvement of the quality of their services. There’s nothing like strong competition to motivate the striving of any service enterprise for excellence... More modern mass media companies would make Filipino citizens better informed. Better informed citizens would be able to make better decision on matters that affect their lives. Ultimately, we believe that the entry of foreign investors in the mass media would work to the best interest of the nation and it citizens.
I don't even mind that in the same editorial, the country's leading newspaper wants to put a cap of 60% on foreign ownership shares (up from 0%). Anyway, last I checked, most corporate boards still work on Majority Rule, so this can be taken as support for the proposal to amend the Constitution and allow foreign ownership of mass media in the Philippines. Baby steps...

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