Before I post Part Three of “The Real Enemies and Traitors of the Fourth Estate”, I believe I have to explain where I am coming from and why I am writing these series of exposes.
When I was still an active journalist and working in the newsroom of RPN9 a lifetime ago, I took part in exposing and putting a stop to what is called envelopmental journalism. It was a short lived victory because the people we exposed and caused to be taken out of the news room were later appointed by powerful politicians as top bosses at RPN9. They wasted no time in firing all those who took part in ousting them from the newsroom, including and most especially me.
Now as a Public Relations practitioner of sorts, I help companies and people to counter attacks on their reputation by so called “envelopmental journalists.”
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The supporters of President Duterte are only partly right about media being “biased” against him. The reporters, columnists, and radio/TV commentators who demonized Duterte during the campaign are only the minions of the corrupt politicians funded by drug money, illegal mining, illegal gambling, foreign organizations which seek to subvert our government to promote their own interests, and such.
As a matter of strategic thinking when it comes to communications, hitting individual reporters and opinion makers is a poor tactic that will not win a war.
Perhaps the first step to developing a real strategy to combat the corruption of reporters, columnists, and radio/TV commentators is to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. Most of what I am about to say comes from my experience with journalists and other media workers who have, at one point or another, witnessed corruption in their ranks.
The first thing we have to consider is that we have an irrationally large number of students taking up and graduating mass communication. Add the fact that there is an extremely low barrier to entry for becoming a reporter or opinion maker and we have a situation where owners of media organizations have a virtually unlimited supply of people that can be “developed” into their minions.
Media organization owners (especially small ones and those that operate outside of Metro Manila) keep their pay at atrociously low levels (some below minimum wage). This tends to make those who become their reporters vulnerable to bribery or compelled to hawk their bylines.
Most columnists don’t get paid a lot or at all for what they write. Some can afford to be full time columnists because they’re financially independent and some do it as an extension of their main preoccupation. Some columnists are “sponsored” by political and business interests. While, there are some that are the sort of people who’ll spill venom on their own mothers if they could get enough money for it.
Radio and TV commentators on the other hand are either under contract with a network or are there as block timers. Those under contract with a broadcast network as a “talent” get paid fees as well as other incentives, if they’re big enough personalities. Some block timers earn advertising revenue and some are funded by the producers of the show or “sponsors”.
I wouldn’t say that commentators under contract are less susceptible to being bribed with money, but the enticements could be different in depending on who is asking them to say certain things and what they are being asked to say. With some block time commentators on the other hand, specially in the provinces, the matter of getting them to broadcast certain opinions and news items is a more direct transaction. This is perhaps how the term “jukebox journalism” came about because all you have to do to get them to broadcast or print anything is just to pay them.
I wouldn’t say that those under contract are less susceptible to accepting pay to dish out bile or slant a story than block timers. However, I have seldom come across a block time radio program or TV show that is personally funded by the commentator or producers.
While bribing journalists is one way to get them to publish or broadcast whatever you want them to, the more serious threat to true press freedom happens when a news paper or broadcast station is owned by a corrupt politician or businessman.
This is a situation where the corrupt politician and businessman use their newspaper or broadcast station to put out negative as well as false news and unfair opinions aimed at destroying the reputation of their opponents.
In the case of corrupt businessmen who own a newspaper or broadcast station, they often wield and level their media organization against government officials whom they want to pressure into awarding them lucrative government contracts or to dissuade law enforcers from cracking down on their illegal business activities such as smuggling.
Part three of my series on “The Real Enemies and Traitors of the Fourth Estate”, I will explain in more detail how President Duterte’s war on corruption is pushing a corrupt businessman to the brink of bankruptcy which in turn has caused his newspaper to fail and how this has pressured minions in his newspaper to prostitute their columns in order to generate money for the failing newspaper.