How to stop Philippine Media’s systematic dumbing down of an entire nation

It is pretty much a no-brainer. The idea that the Philippines’ entertainment industry is a massive contributor to accelerating erosion of the collective intellect of Filipinos has long been a widely-accepted fact in Philippine society. As far back as 2006, Isagani Cruz wrote about this in an Inquirer article. I cited the key excerpt in Cruz’s article in my book

Benjamin Franklin said that if the people misuse their suffrages, the remedy is not to withdraw the precious privilege from them but to teach them in its proper use. The entertainment industry, which has the most available access to the [Filipino] people through the movies, television, radio and the tabloids, is instead purposely miseducating them.

The Philippine entertainment industry is not only a vast wasteland, as television has been described in America, but a vicious instrument for the abatement of the nation’s intelligence. The shows it offers for the supposed recreation of the people are generally vulgar and smutty, usually with some little moral lesson inserted to make them look respectable, but offensive nonetheless. On the whole, they are obnoxious and unwholesome and deserve to be trashed.

The indiscriminate audience eagerly laps them up because it has not been taught to be selective and more demanding of better quality shows for their pastime. In fact, the easily satisfied fans have been taught the exact opposite reaction — to accept whatever garbage the industry offers them and, to add insult to their injury, to pay for it too. The leaders of the entertainment industry are supposed to be responsible people but they have evaded their duty to elevate the taste of their mostly unthinking supporters. They have instead cheapened them into a mass of automated individuals whose ultimate joy is to roll up in the aisles at the lewd jokes of potential senators.

Politics and showbiz jointly conspire to dumb down entire generations of Filipinos.
Politics and showbiz jointly conspire to dumb down entire generations of Filipinos.
In principle, however, the trashy content being pumped by Philippine media into Filipinos’ homes, computers, and mobile devices merely reflects the society’s overall character and tastes — because the entertainment industry is a free competitive market and we are a society that upholds freedom of expression as one of our foremost ideological pillars. As such, it can be argued that, well, in their showbiz industry, Filipinos are merely exercising their freedom to be stupid.

End of conversation?

Sure, why not? If Filipinos are willing to pay good money for crap, that’s just the free market in all its wondrous wisdom at work. ABS-CBN get their million-peso blockbuster hit and Filipinos get their Pinoy Big Brother fix. Everybody’s happy.

Seeing that we’ve bet the intellectual development of generations of Filipinos on the free market, it would seem that the Philippines is pretty much imprisoned in a vicious cycle that will see the entire society ultimately spiralling into moronic oblivion. Filipinos will keep forking out hard-earned cash to see increasingly mediocre products which big media conglomerates will happily churn out in mind-numbingly vast quantities at enormous profit. Bad content, sustaining bad taste which, in turn fuels more demand for bad content. It’s a doomed society.

Compare this to the original public service charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC was created by Royal Charter as the state broadcasting monopoly in 1927 under the direction of the 12 members of the BBC Trust. These members are each appointed by the British monarch and while they enjoy complete independence in the running of the BBC, its primary purpose, summarised by John Reith, its first Managing Director, is to “educate, inform, entertain”, a key part of its mission statement to this day.

The BBC remained a television broadcasting monopoly in the United Kingdom from 1927 to 1954 and its monopoly on radio was broken up only as recently as 1972. But even after broadcasting in the UK was opened to competition, the BBC remains the dominant media organisation there and its values have remained largely consistent to its original charter. Public service remains its primary function and today is governed along the lines of the following set of principles :

– Sustaining citizenship and civil society;
– Promoting education and learning;
– Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
– Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities; and,
– Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK.

Furthermore, its current version of the charter demands that the BBC “must display at least one of the following characteristics in all content: high quality, originality, innovation, to be challenging and to be engaging” and that it must “demonstrate that it provides public value in all of its major activities.”

In considering the BBC experience, perhaps there is value in reconsidering the approach to mass communication in the Philippines given the clearly evident immaturity of its society and the formidable challenges the country faces in uplifiting the intellectual faculties of its people.

While there is clear merit in media freedom, this freedom does not seem to have been applied wisely in the Philippines as Cruz observed in his 2006 Inquirer essay. While that freedom in principle will have ideally encouraged diversity in culture, thinking, and production, media production in the Philippines has, instead, gravitated into today’s dominant monoculture of shallow cinema, trashy television, unoriginal music, and offensive Web content. Suffice to say, unleashing “media freedom” in the Philippines was the equivalent of granting a seven-year-old child unlimited access to the Internet.

Indeed, common parental sense dictates that children’s access to media be closely supervised. Only when a person is mature enough and equipped with the right breeding and conceptual tools to set limits to herself when consuming media does she earn the right to determine how much or how little television she can watch every night.

From that perspective, it is clear that Filipinos have not earned the right to exercise full freedom in both the production and consumption of media. The results of the foolish thinking that Filipinos are entitled to that right are evident today — in the utter intellectual bankruptcy, scarcity of originality, and dearth of imagination that characterises the Philippines’ cultural landscape.

Perhaps it is not too late to at least consider doing things differently.

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50 Comments on “How to stop Philippine Media’s systematic dumbing down of an entire nation”

  1. There is nothing left of philippine cinema most of the local movies today lacks quality and made nothing more for cash grabbing. And are dumbed down to cater to the lowest common denominator aka.. dumb teenagers/women who likes watching stupid romance teenage movies.

  2. The bottom line is media outlets in the Philippines lack professionalism. in many instances the following exists:

    1. Coverage for political circuses and expediency. Nuisance candidates get elected because money talks.

    2. Trial by publicity, black propaganda character assassination and even manipulated surveys. Lack of ethics is apparent.

    3. Paid hacks in media for hire presstitutes.

    4. Nonsense entertainment without values, scruples, morals or truth.

    5. Paid propaganda of the present dictatorship allowed in even demolition jobs, character assassination and vilification.

    6. Lack of truth in even advertising.

    7. Use of lies, falsehoods and deception in matters of altered history by making opportunists look like heroes.

    Name your own.

  3. Too bad your precious BBC has been hijacked by “multiculturalists”, “feminists”, and “leftists” crying wolf while Islamic fundamentalists take over…

    1. I didn’t notice this comment whic hwas posted 3 years ago, I just posted one today, and its worse. They let islamic enter their country but pro-conservatism Lauren southern was blocked there.

  4. Since you mentioned the BBC, may I make an observation about their programming. One of my favorite shows is produced by BBC. It is actually a car show, Top Gear. Since it is a car show, its supposed to be just about cars right? No. They manage to make it entertaining–full of your usual English tongue in cheekness, satire and national stereotyping. More than once, that show got a lot of flak for mentioning a national characteristic that isn’t flattering: They were stoned in USA by hicks for painting “NASCAR Sucks” on one of their cars. Lol.; and they are hated in Mexico for saying, “Cars reflect national characteristics … a Mexican car’s just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.”

    In spite of this they often feature car related challenges in exotic locales, they make car-related inventions which are deliberately cr@p but nonetheless somewhat meritorious in their design. Through this, the show is actually quite educational.

    Their lead presenter, Jeremy Clarkson is quite outspoken in his car criticism as well as political commentary. The presenters are also not ashamed of their “Britishness” and always go on with their “British Pride” or whatever every chance they get.

    Best of all, because of the unique way the BBC is funded, they don’t advertise.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. All I really wanted to say is that BBC’s mass market oriented shows still reflect the “Promoting education and learning; Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence” criteria that you mention. Furthermore, BBC is also a good way of instilling “British Pride” (if there is ever such a thing), which is like “Pinoy Pride” with substance. Filipino TV should be like this, sadly, it isn’t.

  5. I read recently that the dearth of quality in Hollywood movies is largely thanks to international markets lapping up brainless CGI robot flicks and superheroes over anything more substantial that might be lost in translation.

    The massive audience of China is the biggest single offender, thanks to its size, but 100 million Filipinos are doing their part too. You only have to look at Pinoy box office takings to see that it’s mainly kids’ films being watched by all ages.

    Americans have woken up to this, with a major decline in box office takings this year as more people migrate to the TV drama where the quality writing lies. But Hollywood isn’t going to stop pandering to the big overseas bucks as long as those audiences remain undemanding.

  6. “Suffice to say, unleashing “media freedom” in the Philippines was the equivalent of granting a seven-year-old child unlimited access to the Internet.”

    They probably won’t know what to do with that. Actually for me it’s more like the entertainment industry is making the choices for them by giving kids unlimited access to things that they themselves are likely to want, like candies and/or matches no matter how harmful these things can be to their long-term health and safety, and these kids gleefully gobble up these things with gusto.

    I also observed that commercials in Pinoy channels take up a huge amount of airtime, and that commercials aired mostly consists of shampoos, laundry detergents, dishwashing liquids, and processed foods, which gives me a rough idea of the sort of market composition they are catering to and their market’s likely preferences.

    I also noticed that soap operas from Korea, China, Taiwan and occasionally Japan and Latin American countries are often aired here, and that Korean shows are frequently remade into local versions with local actors and localized scripts. This shows how deeply bankrupt in creativity and originality the local entertainment industry really is.

    1. Yeah, bankrupt in creativity and, as such, where ideally in for-profit media operations there’d be a balance between commercial obligations and quality of content, in the Philippines, the scales would be heavily tipped to the earlier.

      The playing field in the Philippines needs to be engineered a bit to give quality content a chance to take root and only the state can do that.

      1. @ Benigno, The only hope the country has is if the World becomes governed by one entity.It is a decade or two away yet it could happen sooner.
        The use of a World currency or at least a move out of the current USDollar payment system would improve the countries possibilities IMMEDIATELY BUT the Filipino mind set to move away from that payment system has been eradicated by the media in such away as to create the ‘boogey-man syndrome’. That is to say that the very system of economics that could create prosperity in the country are the very economic systems that are demonized in the media inside the country.
        It is very obvious to people looking into the country and its attending problems and yet it seems that the very people that would and could quite easily benefit from such moves are completely blind to it.
        A look at Thom Jefferson and John Saints comments in recent articles posted in this website quite literally spell out the complete lack of knowledge of the possibilities that are available to the country and yet these remedies are completely vilified in spite of the obvious benefits that could be reaped by virtually every citizen inside the countries borders.

        Such moronic thinking towards an obvious alternative.AND YET it has never been thought about? Incredibly moronic.

      2. True, and it’s also important to note that broadcast companies have to have greater diversity in sources of funding not limited to commercial sources. Seeing how Philippine broadcast companies’ business models are organized, they derive funding from commercial sources and are mainly for-profit, and hence are not essentially chartered to educate and inform the citizenry, are beholden to commercial interests. Moreover, educational programs do not actually earn them ratings.

        The BBC works mainly because they are founded by Royal charter and so are not solely for-profit, but have real social responsibility as indicated, as well as having diverse sources of funding not limited to commercial sources. Similarly, PBS in the United States also have non-commercial sources of funding, and is considered a non-profit broadcaster.

    2. Jmac — you can that again. A one-hour prime time crappy show would be…5 mins of the show, 7 mins commercials, 2 mins trailers of telenovela coming up in the next hour and 1 minute station I.D. x 4 equals 1 hour.

  7. LONG POST:
    I think as a country’s economy develops, its cultural/creative industries come along with it. I remember South Korea’s TV had incredibly poor quality in the 70s and 80s, and as it entered the developed country club its media and creative industries developed. Quality dramas or films are still buried under a sea of crappy romantic comedies and, though some good productions have been recognized internationally (Oldboy, Reply 1997 are good examples). Mainstream news media has a lot of variety if you don’t want pro-Park Geun Hye garbage.

    Though I do think that media can play a role in cultural development (there are numerous media theories supporting and challenging this, like McLuhan’s; Google is your friend) as well. I like to think voter’s education can change the ways of the poor. The media of this hellhole country sadly dumbs down the masses into voting for officials who pay them a chuck-o’-change.

  8. People seem to like whatever they are fed. Many in the provinces can only get one channel. For them it is either ABS-CBN or nothing. With nothing of quality to compare the commercial laden crap that they are watching to; they are not going to know any better. The production values of Pinoy television and movies are incredibly poor. For me, the comedy/ gameshow genre is really abominable. Its constant idiotic laughtrack and cornball cartoon sound effects annoys the hell out of me. My housemates can’t get enough of it.

    1. “My housemates can’t get enough of it.”

      Time to find a different place before your brain turns to mush. I honestly feel sorry for you, that you have to share your quarters with a bunch of sub-humans.

  9. I’ll just say that 1) with all due respect to Mr. Cruz, pontificating about things he assumes he knows (about the supposed “duty” of the media to provide worthy cultural material to the masses, for one) can only end badly, and 2) I just wish a veteran media guy or film or art critic gets to this page and trashes it for its hoity-toity highhandedness.

    1. Whatever one’s name and/or standing, even if he is Noli De Castro or Boy Abunda, has little bearing on the main points made in this article. So what if he’s a veteran? If a veteran media guy happens upon this article and reads it and then expresses his disagreement, does that mean the points raised in the article are wrong? Of course not. I can say that when it rains it often floods here in the Philippines and that the government is responsible for ensuring that flood control measures are up to task, even if the President himself disagrees, does not detract from the point I raised.

      So why not address the points raised in this article? Sure you can exercise your freedom to speak out, in the same way you have the freedom to let out flatulence whenever, but unless you actually address the points raised in this article, your comment is worthless.

      1. The problem with saying that “the Pinoy media is A/B/C” is that those who say it often did not themselves go into the media professions, or went there for a really short time, and thus form a concept of how the thing works from the outside looking in — which might be incisive at points of common knowledge, but not as penetrating and certainly not as informative as looking from the inside.

        Of course one is permitted to voice his opinions as much as he is permitted to fart whenever, but I’d personally lean more towards the views of someone who eats and breathes media over any amateur, however well-informed (for lack of a better word — surely a scholar can cast his aspersions and play the critic?) — especially given our historic notions that the media have a duty to “uplift” or something of the sort, when it is at best unrenumerative and at worst coercive.

        That in extended form is what I meant by this article being highhanded — the conclusions it reaches it gets from assumptions about the nature and role of the media, especially in Philippine society.

        1. Is it coercive that some segments of the market demand higher-quality products? I don’t think anything suggested here is coercive. If that’s coercive for you, then you should call the MTRCB coercive, and they shouldn’t ban or prohibit explicitly violent or sexual broadcasts in primetime television. They are also being highhanded, according to you.

          So why should it necessarily be that a person has to be involved in such and such for an arbitrary length of time in order to qualify to comment on such things, if the comment itself and points raised therein are valid?

          Following your line of logic, we should only relegate our opinions to those matters we have invested a lengthy amount of time in.

          We shouldn’t talk about matters concerning law enforcement and we shouldn’t demand effectiveness and fairness from law enforcement, because we aren’t members of law enforcement (ie., we are not policemen, we are not NBI agents etc.)

          We shouldn’t talk about matters concerning about the food we eat and we shouldn’t demand higher quality and reasonably priced food from our vendors because we aren’t long-time farmers, we aren’t grocery store owners, we aren’t processed food manufacturers and so on.

          We shouldn’t talk about matters concerning politics and we shouldn’t demand good governance and greater transparency from our public officials, because we aren’t senators, we aren’t congressmen, we aren’t mayors, we aren’t presidents and so on who have been in politics for a long time.

          And so on and on…

  10. hey benign0. I’ve been reading (and watching) since your early days in youtube. I’d like to help make this website more readable and eye-friendlier. I have enough know-how, I’d do it for free (or for snacks, lol) and if you’re not satisfied with it I’d ask help so I wouldn’t waste your time. Its just that I believe in what youre doing here and I promised myself years ago that I would help. (you actually replied to me in youtube but I can’t sign in to that account anymore. anyway just tell me where I can send you my contact details.

  11. I thought TV5 of MVP would be different. But I was disappointed. It turned out to be a poor imitation of the two leading networks.

    1. Yeah! I thought they would not have “Kanto” Broadcasters,Tacky Comedians and the like. PERO SAYANG NA NAMAN TALAGA. I now watch Objective News Channels like Russia Today.

  12. Aquino has hired foreign consultants, to advise his Media Propaganda Machine. These foreign consultants are following the NAZI TACTIC of the late , Joseff Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister of NAZI Fuhrer Adolph Hitler of NAZI Germany.

    The first stage they use was the Media; then, the Cinema; then the Radio Broadcast…programs and stories.

    They have to make the German people DUMB; so that all the Truth accepted are from the NAZI Fuhrer…

    There were even: Hitler Youth; Hitler Brides; SS Army – Hitler’s Political Army. So, watch out those in the Armed Forces. If they are loyal to Aquino; or to the Republic of the Philippines…they must defend the Constitution and the People of the Philippines. Not the interest of Aquino and his YellowTards…Be vigilant…

    1. I’ll just point out that the efficacy of Goebbels’ propaganda machine in manufacturing opinion favorable to the Nazi Party in anything outside of Holocaust policy (something that all parties involved save of course the Jews agreed on with rage and haste and glee) is open to question — and leave it at that for the moment.

  13. Even the use of Tagalog for dubbing foreign movies and shows seems to serve a “dumbing down” purpose too. It makes sure local watchers are unable to understand properly the concepts on some shows that help people think. Imagine Filipinos understanding The Matrix and what it makes some people do: think. Tagalog translations tend to be diluted and inaccurate, and further keep the public at large from learning things that would other instill in them as sense of initiative and independence. No wonder the English language is still best for media today.

  14. Couldn’t agree more. I remember during the week when two MRT train derailed, ABS-CBN(I don’t watch GMA) treated it as if China is going to bomb the spratly islands…long, unnecessary,annoying coverage esp.if you’re from Mindanao and donot even commute on MRT and at the same time a foreign news agency broadcast that the Philippines is one of the number leading producer of child pornography..ABS-CBN never broadcast anything about it…i don’t know when…but it is a serious national problem and deserve to be in the news.

  15. if i were a damned media owner here, being a pinoy, id probably resort to that practice too. totally wrong of course, but i’ve observed that altruism is not exactly a virtue in these parts.

    this country is like one huge blackhole or a pit where everyone is desperately trying to claw themselves out of. and when they happen to get out of it (literally or figuratively), a helping hand—or even so much as a glimpse back to the others they left behind—would be nothing short of a miracle.

    this is a place where self above all things comes first. everything else is secondary. that is why the powers that be try so hard to keep the masses in check and devoid of critical thinking. the moment start having an intelligent population asking the right questions you can kiss your freeloading-on-taxpayers’ money-ass goodbye.

    PINOY PRIDE, totally.

  16. the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is modeled on the BBC and among its outstanding programs is Four Corners, an investigative doco that has won countless awards, and I remember it mainly being responsible for kickstarting a Royal Commission after a report by Chris Masters into the corruption in Queensland politics, which has become all but a police state and a front for prostitution and organized crime. Maybe some day a program of this sort will happen here, but it won’t be sponsored by the ‘free’ market, that’s for sure.

  17. anatomy of a teleserye:
    the bida is always good-hearted, good looking, god-fearing, NEVER INTELLIGENT
    through hard work (labor) and belief in god, the bida overcomes life trials (NO BRAIN POWER USED)
    the antagonist always tries to be smart but ends up foiled because of one loose end (THEREFORE DUMBER THAN THE AUDIENCE)

    so kids, better GOOD-HEARTED than SMART… because intelligence turns you into a diabolical madman/woman and god is there to see that you are brought to justice

  18. It is never too late,

    this country’s next leaders can come up with laws, protect public against media outfit and get ABS-CBN & GMA the most notirious of them all….penalty after penalty. Brilliant fresh young lawyers will have exciting careers just stay away from corruption be true to your sworn duty to bring justice and peace. People are all fed up with the current media and all its blind malpractice.

    Officials who are not authorized to brief journalists and Journalist who are not equally authorized, not ACCURATE, DEGRADING & NOT-FACTS on their reporting MUST BE equally PENALIZED & JAILED by irresponsible practice. We need to use our culture as the basis of reporting and on how it may impact our societyas a whole.

    How many bar passers in 2013-2014? get them ALL hired utilize our young lawyers and use our culture as reference point,,,,use them together with MTRCB & KBP. our laws have muscle.

    we need to have faith in God that justice prevails in our country present situation.

  19. FINALLY I HAVE FOUND A BLESSING FOR THE VICTORY OF THE PIRATES OVER THE LOCAL MOVIE INDUSTRY. I WAS A PART OF THE TRASH BEING SOLD TO THE GULLIBLE PUBLIC AND DESPITE THE MANY TIMES THAT MY CONSCIENCE COULD NOT SWALLOW WHAT I WAS DOING, MY FAMILIES HAVE TO FED WITH THE MONEY BEING PAID BY THE PROFIT-HUNGRY PRODUCERS. NOW, I AM OUT OF WORK AND DIRT-POOR, AT LEAST MY CONSCIENCE IS AT PEACE WITH MY SOUL.

  20. Hindi na bale yung entertainment industry natin. Ang kailangang pagtuunan ng pansin ang pag-promote ng print at broadcast media ng mga kulturang hindi naman atin tulad ng mga pamahiing Intsik (bilog na prutas daw na karamihan ay imported galing China) fung shei at marami pang iba. Yung mga Korean telenobela, KPOP; tumatanggap ng payola sa mga Koreano ang mga nagdedesisyon hinggil dito.

  21. Yes, yes, yes!! The funny thing though is even intellectual people I know consume trashy shows in our local media. It has become part of the norm to “support our own” which is of course a manipulative way on the part of the thought leaders in our society of striking guilt in people for having standards and demanding for such standards.

    1. I agree with you. Reason why I’m sharing this article. I am so bothered by fb friends who are looked up by young ones because they are teachers of some prestigious schools, or leaders of some cause-oriented organizations, and then, these very same influential people promote trashy tv programs. I think the author here is not an intellectual snub, he speaks with blunt truth, and only those inconvenienced by what is writtten here, will think otherwise.

      1. If anything remotely intellectual is put on TV at night or day it wont be watched by the millions of brain dead masa , Intellectualism is never encouraged as the masa have to be fed garbage every day and night to keep the intellectually lame and unthinking brain dead imbicles .

  22. Introduce and impose TV viewers annual fee. So viewers can demand and influence what tv programs have to be produced and shown. In Europe, tv owners are required by law to pay an annual fee.

  23. Filipino media excells in keeping he vast massa educated and uneducated dead stupid . The vast masa watching TV are brain dead non thinking garbage in garbage out brain dead imbicles kept dull witted and unthinking and ill informed . Thats wht Filipinos are fed because thats what they watch .

  24. – Sustaining citizenship and civil society;
    – Promoting education and learning;
    – Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
    – Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities; and,
    – Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK.
    this passage aged badly. Look at the state of most BBC-produced shows, they don’t represent the state of UK right now, full of degenerate shows that badly paints their own ethnicity. Brexiteers and remainers are 50/50. Did I mention you need to pay for TV licence in order to watch TV there?

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