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.
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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