It is high time we all take a second look at the whole idea that an “opposition media” is God’s greatest gift to society. This has long been a key feature of the rhetoric of the Old Guard of the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan which ruled the Philippines’ political narrative for almost four decades. It is interesting to note that back in the 1980s, at the dawn of Yellowtardism, the Philippine Daily Inquirer figured strongly as a media outlet for dissent styling itself as a sort of David going up against the Goliaths at the time, Bulletin Today and the Daily Express. This, it seems, is where the fetish around heroic “journalism” was born — because of the perceived pivotal role that rags like the Inquirer played in the so-called “revolution”.
Fast forward to today. The Inquirer Group is now one of the biggest corporate media enterprises in the land. It therefore sounds a bit rich to see it being a mouthpiece for the victim narrative of people who claim to be “dissenting voices” in an environment where those who “dissent” are, we are told, “under threat”. Certainly a media behemoth such as the Inquirer Group has, at its disposal, far more resources than the average “victim” archetype many “thought leaders” try to cast them as.
The truth is, today presents a vastly more challenging business environment for these lumbering traditional media enterprises. The “plight” of the Inquirer mirrors that of the other big media conglomerates, ABS-CBN and the GMA Network which, since the 1980s, lost the confidence and trust of the Filipino public after enjoying three decades of cozy relationship with the powers-that-be. Unfortunately for these traditional media organisations, the Internet democratised publishing content to a big audience and broke the mass communications monopoly they once enjoyed.
Today’s media jungle demands a new level of competition amongst players. Finding themselves in an almost equal footing with independent communicators in this jungle, Big Corporate Media chose to use their rapidly diminishing clout to raise a noisy stink. In the Philippines, in particular, they continue to use the old “journalist”-as-“hero” narrative to prop up their crumbling relevance. Rather than step up to a call to compete, Big Corporate Media have, instead, chosen to throw a monumental industrial tantrum.
The core of their dysfunction lies in the obsolete branding they continue to live by and raises an important question: What does being an “opposition media” even mean? News media organisations are supposed to be Nothing Media. They are supposed to be associated (whether or not by their own self-branding) with neither incumbent nor opposition parties. It is therefore quite disturbing that self-appointed Chief Yellowtard Economist, JC Punongbayan would assert that “governments tend to grow more powerful absent sufficient opposition media”.
This serious misleading of an entire people by revered “thought leaders” is what is actually contributing to the continued slide to irrelevance of media and their “journalists” from the lofty place they once held in Philippine society. The broader Opposition learned a hard lesson this year — that failing to ditch the Yellowtards would cost them dearly, an entire nation no less. Big Corporate Media should take heed. To be fair to them, they’ve done a lot of work cleaning up their acts. But as long as they remain in bed with the Yellowtards, they will continue to lose their audience and, more importantly, the trust of a people who once looked up to them.
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