EDITORIAL: Media Under Siege



The points involved in connection with the application for renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN being pregnant with legal niceties and taxation blues, render ordinary citizens adamant to join the exchange of ideas. They are better left to those equipped with expertise to deal with the situation.

Rather, public focus should be about the impact on freedom of the press as well as freedom of expression, as pitted against the state’s inherent police power or the power to regulate. Conceptually, it is a tug of war between authoritarianism and libertarianism. Both could hide their true motives behind the mask of patriotism or nationalism.

Legal precepts shift from time to time depending on the mood of those in power and the social temperature influenced by the people’s cause orientation or plain docility.

Viewed from a wider perspective, the situation also brings into light the very significant distinction between the mainstream broadcast and print media as compared to the fast becoming popular social media.

Most of the mainstream media practitioners, probably tempered by both positive and negative lessons, developed in the process the professional psyche that they belong to the Fourth Estate, the term which in 1787 Edmund Burke used to “accentuate” freedom of the press, which should not be confused with the term “fourth branch,” which proposes that media practitioners are not really that free from government. In plain media establishments are in constant siege.

In the case of ABS –CBN, has it really embraced the crucial role to make sure that its personnel participating in the political processes do not exploit the democratic system?

When it comes to consensus building, the media giant cannot be considered a role model. In many instances, its news, information and opinion purveyors have not played the responsibility of being professionals. They have, in some instances, even been licentious, if not overbearing.

Fraternally, some have developed the attitude of being bullies, to the point of overwhelming small, still struggling networks.

When it comes to the corporate world, the media mogul has become very influential, what with the sprouting of a string of subsidiaries directly or indirectly linked to it. It is not therefore surprising that certain quarters are questioning its extent of ownership—particularly in reference to the limits allowed to foreigners.

As to taxes due, every prospective revenue target understandably devises ways and means within the legal parameters to avoid or lessen taxability. But appropriate procedures should be observed by those clothed with power to seasonably enforce compliance, and not in a manner indicative of high handedness.

ABS-CBN has continuously contributed to the propagation and development of arts and culture, environmental protection, technological and educational advancement. It has always been at the forefront in launching relief operations in times of calamities.

If President Duterte in his personal capacity has a score to settle with the network, there are appropriate venues and remedies. But as to the franchise, the fundamental law of the land is very clear on the matter.

Besides, between the government and the media entity are real people utilizing or enjoying and even benefitting from the services it provides.