Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Limits of Press Freedom In Broadcast Journalism

Broadcast Journalism is a highly regulated industry in the Philippines, starkly distinct from print journalism. Radio, TV and Wireless are also Big Business. You must have a Congressional franchise to operate a radio, television or telecommunications network granting you the legal and commercial privilege of beaming money-making electromagnetic signals into potentially every nook and cranny of the Archipelago. Even straight into implanted nano radios or cellphones of the future! (Strangely enough, you don't need a franchise, if your Mass Medium happens to be mass-murdered trees with toxic ink stains that become half the solid municipal waste stream!)

A typical TV/Radio Broadcast Franchise like the one below for "Interactive Broadcast Media" is pertinent to the current brouhaha over "Press Freedom" triggered by ABSCBN's decision to allow Maria Ressa and Ces Drilon to seek Amparo protection from the Supreme Court. I think this was a big mistake from a legal and public relations standpoint because the limits of Press Freedom for broadcast journalists are explicitly found in their Congressional Franchise.
August 05, 1996


SECTION 1. Nature and Scope of Franchise.
SEC. 2. Manner of Operation of Stations or Facilities.
SEC. 3. Prior Approval of the National Telecommunications Commission.

SEC. 4. Responsibility to the Public.—The grantee shall provide adequate public service time to enable the government, through the said broadcasting stations or facilities, to reach the population on important public issues; provide at all times sound and balanced programming; assist in the functions of public information and education; conform to the ethics of honest enterprise; and not use its stations or facilities for the broadcasting of obscene and indecent language, speech, act or scene, or for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation, to the detriment of the public interest; or to incite, encourage or assist in subversive or treasonable acts.

SEC. 5. Right of Government. - A special right is hereby reserved to the President of the Philippines, in times of war, rebellion, public peril, calamity, emergency, disaster or disturbance of peace and order, to temporarily take over and operate the stations or facilities of the grantee, to temporarily suspend the operation of any station or facility in the interest of public safety, security and public welfare, or to authorize the temporary use and operation thereof by any agency of the government, upon due compensation to the grantee, for the use of said stations or facilities during the period when they shall be so operated. The radio spectrum is a finite resource that is a part of the national patrimony and the use thereof is a privilege conferred upon the grantee by the State and may be withdrawn anytime, after due process.
SEC. 6. Term of Franchise.
SEC. 7. Acceptance and Compliance.
SEC. 8. Bond.
SEC. 9. Tax Provisions.

SEC. 10. Self-regulation by and Undertaking of Grantee.—The grantee shall not require any previous censorship of any speech, play, act or scene, or other matter to be broadcast from its stations: Provided, That, the grantee, during any broadcast shall cut off from the air the speech, play, act or scene, or other matter being broadcast if the tendency thereof is to propose and/or incite treason, rebellion or sedition; or the language used therein or the theme thereof is indecent or immoral; and willful failure to do so shall constitute a valid cause for the cancellation of this franchise.

SEC. 11. Warranty in Favor of National and Local Governments.
SEC. 12. Sale, Lease, Transfer, Usufruct, etc.
SEC. 13. Dispersal of Ownership.
SEC. 14. General Broadcast Policy Law.— The grantee shall comply with and be subject to the provisions of a general broadcast policy law which Congress may hereafter enact.
SEC. 15. Separability Clause.
SEC. 16. Repeatability and Nonexclusivity Clause.
SEC. 17. Reportorial Requirement.
SEC. 18. Effectivity Clause.

The People and the Supreme Court itself might see this as a cynical use of the Writ of Amparo, making ABSCBN look like a millionaire checking into the Charity Ward at the public hospital and demanding the promptitude of super-service.

Luckily the Laws of Nature are not as "fascistic" as the Laws of Men...

THE FUTURE NANORADIO BROADCASTING CORPORATION? Lawrence Berkeley Lab Research News reports the successful fabrication of the world's smallest radio receiver consisting of single carbon nanotube MOLECULE:
“A single carbon nanotube molecule serves simultaneously as all essential components of a radio — antenna, tunable band-pass filter, amplifier, and demodulator,” said physicist Alex Zettl, who led the invention of the nanotube radio. “Using carrier waves in the commercially relevant 40-400 MHz range and both frequency and amplitude modulation (FM and AM), we were able to demonstrate successful music and voice reception.”
The website carries a really cool video of the teeny-tiney carbon nanotube (less than a billionth of a meter in diameter, and one millionth of a meter long) viewed through an Electron Microscope, first stationary, then wiggling to and receiving the Star Wars Theme Song.


Jego said...

The radio spectrum is a finite resource that is a part of the national patrimony and the use thereof is a privilege conferred upon the grantee by the State and may be withdrawn anytime, after due process.

I dont know much about the physics involved, DJB, but are cable news networks covered by this? They dont use the radio spectrum. They use copper wire to transmit signals. That's why we pay for cable, unlike radio transmitted signals which we get for free. The government exercises patrimony over the radio spectrum, but copper wires are private property.

DJB Rizalist said...

Yeah, but where do the copper wires get their "content" from?

Satellites and microwave antennae. Still via the electromagnetic or "radio" spectrum.

All that copper and other infrastructure are what the franchise allows 'em to build so they can use the aether.

However, I think cable is regulated a lil differently...

Jego said...

Im trying to think like an ANC lawyer here, DJB. Cable gets its content from the aether, but broadcasts it through copper. The franchise covers the broadcasting part, not the acquisition part. If the government wants to regulate signal acquisition, then we the citizens need a permit from the government, too, if we want to watch TV like they do in the UK.

(I recognize of course that all this may be moot since the Skycable franchise might indeed have similar provisions as the Interactive Broadcast Media franchise.)

balimbing said...

There is this foreign correspondent, Dana Batnag, who dares to speak against your kind of PNP. Hey you have to stand up and put this Batnag in her right place.

DJB Rizalist said...

It's the principle of the thing, I think. Broadcasting is a privilege, not a right. The "power" of TV comes from being granted this privilege. If you abuse it, the State can remove that privilege without violating your basic freedom of speech. You just can't make money on it hand over fist anymore! hehe. it was a big mistake going for this amparo. being turned down by the court will be a set back worse than if they hadn't.

DJB Rizalist said...

if dana batnag needs a lawyer, I am sure her employers have plenty of 'em. the media of course would like nothing better than to be "victimized" so they can cry "police brutality!" and act aggrieved. it's dana batnag's moment to be as famous, for 15 minutes, as Ces Orena Drilon and Ellen Tordesillas. I am sure she will make the most of it.

balimbing said...


It would be nice if you could write a short play about what's going on in our beloved Pinas. Even if you are prejudice about the media, even if you are on the side of napoleonita or wanna be anyway.

Apply you scientific analytical skills. Maybe delve into glorias' DNA, why such a horrid imp. That guy, gonzales of the DOJ. How a retard can be unretarded by decree.

It should make for a blockbuster hit!