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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Will you buy the agenda I'm advertising? (Part Three)

Advertising’s main goal is to “focus consumers’ attention on what values, products, brands, or attributes to think about rather than try to persuade consumers what to think of these.”


- Ghorpade, Shailendra (1986). Agenda setting: A test of advertising's neglected function. Journal of Advertising Research, Aug/Sept, 23-27.


TACTIC 3:

If you still don't believe me, then I'll just make you remember my product through songs, dances, and gestures that don't really have anything to do with the product. (Though you have to admit, this tactic is very effective.)





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If you don't get it, I'll even teach you how -- just so I can get my product into your head!

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In conclusion, even advertisements create, isolate and manipulate different agendas in order to sell their products. The question now is, which of these agendas worked for the audience?


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Will you buy the agenda I'm advertising? (Part Two)

Advertising’s main goal is to “focus consumers’ attention on what values, products, brands, or attributes to think about rather than try to persuade consumers what to think of these.”

- Ghorpade, Shailendra (1986). Agenda setting: A test of advertising's neglected function. Journal of Advertising Research, Aug/Sept, 23-27.

TACTIC 2:

If you don't believe me, then I'll confuse you a little and challenge the logical power of your mind.




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Even though you have a jar full of Paracetamol which is more than enough for you and your twin, you should still fight over one Advil.







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Men, wear Bench - it will awaken even your grandmother's most dormant desires.


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Biolink will make you so white you'll seem adopted.


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Idolize your father who has had children with many different women. After all, as he drinks Emperador, tagumpay raw niya ang mga anak niya.


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Give your whole Fita biscuit, not only half - otherwise your reward won't be "whole."



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Jollibee will end your argument with another argument.





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KFC is so delicious you won't mind if you don't even know who's sharing your meal.



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Men: use Master Facial wash if you don't want oily cheeks. Women: don't wash your face or wipe the oil away to prove the point.


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Use Master Papaya only if the other techniques didn't work.



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Idolize Manny Pacquiao, our Pambansang Kamao, who eats at McDonald's, an American fastfood chain.

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Pop Cola is so good you'd even forget about your father who welcomed you with open arms.

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Remember: life is a soap opera. Rich women will always be bitches. Girls from the province will always be meek and mild and therefore abused. So use Rejoice to get even.

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Guys, use Rexona so you can now be a cheerleader.

Will you buy the agenda I'm advertising? (Part One)

Advertising’s main goal is to “focus consumers’ attention on what values, products, brands, or attributes to think about rather than try to persuade consumers what to think of these.”


- Ghorpade, Shailendra (1986). Agenda setting: A test of advertising's neglected function. Journal of Advertising Research, Aug/Sept, 23-27.


TACTIC 1:
I'll reinforce your positive values and make it seem that my product is the reason for your beliefs.


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Masarap mabuhay dahil masarap ang Ajinomoto.







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Let Jesus live in your heart by going to La Salle.







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Because you get treated to McDo and your brother doesn't, both of you are equally loved.







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You will become a strong athlete if you drink Milo.





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Like your family, Rebisco stood the test of time.




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Safeguard will safeguard you from all kinds of germs.





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You will touch more lives if you gas up at Shell.





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SMART is the way to connect with your loved ones abroad.




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You'll like the Philippines because you'll like its singers.



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You'll still like the Philippines even if Boracay is the only good place to go to and the only good schools here are UP, Ateneo, and the Asian Institute of the Philippines.

Even Celebrities Get Boxed by the Media

In a recent interview with David Letterman, actress/entrepreneur/singer/nude star Paris Hilton was cornered into talking about her prison experience. As this video will attest she obviously was uncomfortable with talking about it.


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Remember the power relations between the media and outside sources? This is a perfect and direct example of a low-power source (at the moment) against a high-power media. David Letterman clearly knew what he wanted to talk about with regards to Paris Hilton and he pressed the issue to the point that the young actress couldn't take it anymore and asked that the subject be switched. Of course at that moment, Letterman could have chosen to continue on (the audience was clearly receptive to his comments and didn't seem unwilling to see Paris Hilton breakdown or whatnot) however he didn't.

In tackling this issue, the key concept of framing comes up. Earlier framing was defined as selective control over media content and information. This episode of the Tonight Show provides us a unique insight into how media can directly affect the issues to be discussed and how the audience should take it in. In this case, the audience was primed to respond jovially to Letterman's comments on Paris and surprisingly they still took the situation lightly despite the actress' discomfort. Despite this however, Letterman knew that even the audience has a limit with regards to manipulation which is probably one of the reasons he stopped before the situation could backfire on him.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tabloid Journalism - An Alternate Agenda

Are tabloid newspapers a refreshing development or an abominable evil?

It wouldn't surprise me if most people would argue for the latter. Tabloid journalism had always been condemned for abandoning its social responsibility to society. It's even generally considered to be synonymous with bad journalism. However, this kind of harsh judgement doesn't seem to be fair or productive - at least from a social scientific form of view. In many cases, tabloid journalism - the aspect of journalism defined as “bad” - served the public good as well as the journalism considered to be more respectable. Tabloid journalism was able to achieve this by positioning itself, in different ways, as an alternative to the issues, forms and audiences of the journalistic mainstream – as an alternative public sphere.

Tabloid journalism’s function of storytelling unites journalism with popular culture. And storytelling both develops and restricts the possible range of a story’s meaning. The audience may either absorb the story and formulate their opinions about it – which occasionally may be the opposite of what the writer intended – or take the story at face value and support what seems to be public opinion.

Tabloid journalism is most famous today because of how it relates to the common man and how it speaks in his tongue. It interprets the world for its readers. It combines entertainment with informational articles that allow the reader to have fun and still be informed. And it often follows an angle divergent from the stories in the mainstream press, offering another perspective on the information presented.

The more sophisticated reader may greet this “press of the masses” with contempt because he knows its content is likely to be elemental and emotional. Yet perhaps tabloids don’t always deserve such scorn. Just as a child starts reading fairy tales before moving on to more serious reading materials, so is the public first reached by what the critics call “sensationalism.” The most important political problem facing us may well be that the marginalized groups in society feel that their issues and concerns are not addressed by political institutions or media outlets. As tabloids provide this alternative public sphere, it would then seem foolish to condemn tabloid journalism.

Yet there are divided views about tabloid journalism. There was one interesting article I found on the internet regarding this issue. It was highly debated at a Leader’s Angle presentation at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), an international business school in Africa.

Francois Groepe, chairperson of the USB Alumni Club and Media24’s General Manager for Finance, said that tabloid newspapers play various roles in society. Tabloids sensitize people politically while broadsheet newspapers merely try to be politically correct.

On the other hand, Professor Lizette Rabe, Chairperson of USB’s Department of Journalism, pointed out that tabloids capitalize on sexism, racism and human rights, and they also often objectify or commodify women.

“Traditional journalism is all about who, what, where, when, why and how. I guess for sensationalist journalism it’s all about sex, scandal, skinner [gossip], skin, sensation and sport,” said Rabe. “If journalism is about the maximum truth and the minimum harm, how is this applied in tabloid newspapers? If sleaze becomes the standard, how will it not erode the status of the media and undermine the credibility of the media?”

However, as she switched her focus on the good side of tabloid journalism, Rabe also said that it is an exciting new development. Tabloids add value to shareholders, create new jobs and add an element of fun.

“Certainly, it is the ‘voice of the voiceless, the paper of the people, the media of the masses.’ It has potential. We will have to see how it will use its powerful position,” she said. “If done well, developmental journalism must be the most important aspect of tabloids because it can lay the foundation for a new middle class to develop from a raw working class.”

Reverend Johan Symington, Communications Director of the Dutch Reformed Church, disagreed on this point. He said that sensational journalism with visual images devoid of any true context does not rightfully serve the public. The methods and languages used by some tabloids do not serve the interests of the public as they reduce these people to mere consumers.

“The consequence of subjective press coverage is the victim syndrome,” he said. “Readers are at the mercy of powers which they cannot themselves resist.”

However, Rhoda Kadalie, human rights activist and columnists, said that the public could not care less about all the uproar. She said she likes the witty headlines of tabloids and finds them cathartic, because these expose society for what it is. For her, tabloids play an important watchdog role and that these newspapers are pioneers in the media industry.

“People don’t want newspapers to leave out the juicy bits. They are all for free speech and fun. Besides, all of us like a bit of smart [grief] every now and then,” she said. “Tabloids promote reading and sensitize people politically. Other newspapers want to even out everything and be non-political. People don’t trust conventional newspapers any more because their content is biased towards the elite and their journalism is far removed from the people. Tabloids are reacting against the politically correct newspapers.” And with this she presented a challenge: “Do we give people what they want, or do the papers decide what should be published?”

And a relevant question that should follow that is: are the audience mere spectators who simply take whatever is churned out or are they clever enough to judge for themselves the content they receive? Tabloid readers – and newspaper readers in general, for that matter – have significant powers of good judgment. They do not need to follow a paper’s running order and can instead go straight to the entertainment pages while merely glancing at the other pages. Readers may even know what to expect – what types of characters and what kind of narrative twists there will be in newspaper stories. They may not agree with everything they read and may even consider a story worthless or out of touch with their own construction of reality, whether or not it is from a broadsheet or a tabloid.

The credibility of tabloids will always remain an issue even though they serve the function to entertain, inform and educate. However, it cannot be said for certain that tabloids compromise public interest because the public has a choice. The audience of today is a thinking lot and they know what they get when they pick up a tabloid. They read a tabloid because they want lighter stories that inform and entertain. What can be said for certain, however, is that the biggest achievement of tabloid journalism is their penetration into a market that was previously not well-informed in terms of news and was not adequately represented in the mainstream media. What these tabloids gave these people more than anything is a sense of ownership over the paper. And that is something even broadsheets aren’t able to give their readers.

Source: http://www.mba.co.za/article.aspx?rootid=6&subdirectoryid=790

Agenda Setting: How To Package It Right (Part Two)

PART TWO: Keeping The Audience

There's no doubt about it: media has incredible power and control over its audience. To what extent it is able to exercise its power is debatable, however. Time and again, the audience are able to prove that they are not easily duped and manipulated by the media - that they are capable of producing agendas which may not have been the media's primary intent. And this is why media makers have to make sure they utilize to its fullest extent media's ultimate power - the power of agenda setting.

I've discussed in my previous post one of media's power in agenda setting: determining when and how this agenda would be set. This ensures that media has an audience in which to set an agenda upon. However, even when media is able to capture an audience, it still has to make sure that it is able to keep this audience interested long enough for them to receive the agenda it would like to set. And this is where the idea of "packaging" comes in, where media makers have to be crafty and cunning in the way they will package a medium of media to make sure it captures the audience's interest.

As David Altheide says in Media Power:

“The idea I am stressing is not merely that people are involved with various forms of mass communication, or that some attitudes, opinions, and even behaviors are directly or indirectly influenced by mass media content. I am claiming that the explicit content of media is relevant, but is not the most important feature of media imagery, effect, and consequence. What strikes me as even more important is what may be termed the implicit content, the grammar, rhythm, pacing, style, and presentational mode. In this sense, it is the way things appear, look, shape up, and are configured if they are to be “right.” For example, TV news information has a certain look and rhythm to it. As long as this is associated with news and the contexts of these special effects are not explicated, then it looks fine, complete, good enough, even true. The problem, then, is to raise to consciousness how this TV form in a particular context has helped to generate this kind of format that is now widely shared throughout the world, can be regarded as a feature of rational ideology in its own right, and, therefore, is far more pervasive and consequential than run-of-the-mill political preferences. Thus, my interest is less guided by the query, “what is presented,” but more focused on “how is something presented?(Emphasis mine.)

- Altheide, David L. Media Power. London: Sage Publications, 1985.

Just as I have done in my previous post, I would again use the news programs of ABS-CBN and GMA 7 as examples. First up is "TV Patrol World," ABS-CBN's primetime news program. Here is a clip of how the program starts each night:


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After it makes its audience watch Kris Aquino sashay in her evening gowns, and after it makes them scream "Deal!" or "No deal!" at their poor, innocent television sets, ABS-CBN keeps its audience's eyes glued to the TV screen by presenting them with this catchy opening of "TV Patrol World." Now, if you're a regular news viewer like me, a scene like this is probably common to you. So much to the point that you just watch it passively and simply wait for the news reports to begin - after all, there's nothing new with a scene like this, right? But that's exactly the point. We've been conditioned to watch news programs this way that we already find this acceptable; that we already find this real. But have you ever wondered just exactly why the opening scene is crafted this way? Aside from capturing the audience's attention, does airing a flashy opening scene like this serve another, covert purpose, especially for the media makers, the agenda setters?

Let's break the scene into parts and reflect on them:

I. Several clips of the news anchors in different situations flash briefly on the screen, followed by a quick flash of the globe's image.
II. Ted Failon, one of the program's three main news anchors, seemingly interviewing someone presumably at the ABS-CBN studio.
III. Karen Davila, the program's only female news anchor, sitting in front of a sari-sari store, talking with children in what seems to be a street in a poor area.
IV. Julius Babao, another of the program's news anchors, arriving at presumably the rooftop of the ABS-CBN studio in a helicopter bearing the network's name.
V. A quick flash of an image of the three news anchors together.
VI. A booming announcer's voice saying, "Live! Mula sa ABS-CBN News Center, Manila, ito ang TV Patrol World!" The screen flashes the title of news program as the announcer places special emphasis on the word "world."
VII. Julius Babao says, "Magandang gabi, Pilipinas!" followed by Karen Davila who says, "Kami ang nagpapatrol ng Pilipino!" and by Ted Failon who says, "Nagbabalita at naglilingkod sa inyo saan man sa mundo!"

What seems to be wrong with these scenes? Perhaps it's the fact that people start to perceive how real these scenes are even though these rarely happen in reality.

How many times do you see someone as well-known as Karen Davila out on the streets talking to ordinary people, much less children? How many times do you see someone actually go to work by riding a helicopter, like the way Julius Babao did? Why do the news anchors make it seem as if they are the ones really "patrolling" the Philippines when they don't do anything else other than stand in the center of the studio in front of the cameras and look pretty? And perhaps what I find both ironic and amusing is that, why do they claim that they broadcast news from anywhere in the world when in fact they're just broadcasting from the ABS-CBN studio in Manila, and that the international news they air on the show actually didn't come directly from them?

Before we try to make sense of these questions, let us see what GMA 7 has to offer its audience as well. Here is a clip of how "24 Oras" opens the program each night.:



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As with TV Patrol, let us break the opening scene of "24 Oras" into parts and see what we can deduce from them:

I. The words "Dahil hindi natutulog ang balita" flash on screen with an image of a wall clock which hands are moving fast.
II. Fast forwarded clip of a traffic scene, followed by an image of a sunrise over an urban city and the words "24 Oras."
III. Mel Tiangco, the main female news anchor of the program, staring at the heavens along with several people and then interacting with them afterwards. The words "Maaasahan" appear in this scene.
IV. Mike Enriquez, the main male news anchor, talking on the phone while walking amidst ruins of a burned house. The words "Lumalaban" appear in this scene.
V. Images of urban roads flash on screen.
VI. Mel Tiangco, Mike Enriquez and Pia Guanio, the news anchor for the Showbiz section of the program, talking inside an office and going over some papers. The words "Pinagkakatiwalaan" and "Laging Patas" appear in this scene.
VII. The words "24 Oras" appear again, this time followed by an image of the moon rising over an urban city, and then followed by the three news anchors together.
VIII. A booming announcer's voice says, "Mula sa GMA Network Center, narito ang walang kinikilingan, walang pinoprotektahan... Mel Tiangco! Mike Enriquez!"
IX. Mel Tianco says, "Magandang gabi po, ito ang 24 Oras!" and Mike Enriquez says, "Dahil hindi natutulog ang balita!"

Now what's wrong with this scene? The same critique as with "TV Patrol World." And the fact that the words being flashed along with the news anchors seem slightly dubious.

Paano mo masasabing maaasahan si Mel Tiangco samantalang ang pinakita sa eksena'y nakikipag-usap lang naman siya? Paano mo masasabing lumalaban si Mike Enriquez samantalang pinakita pa ngang naglalakad siya palayo sa mga natatarantang tao sa likuran niya? At higit sa lahat, paano mo mapatutunayang pinagkatitiwalaan (mali pa nga yata ang gramatikang ginamit ng programa), laging patas, walang kinikilingan at walang pinoprotektahan ang "24 Oras"? Kagaya ng mga natalakay na ng iba kong mga kasamahan, paano kung may anomalyang naganap sa loob mismo ng o kasapi ang GMA 7? Ang GMA 7 na siyang nageere ng "24 Oras"? Kaya pa rin bang panindigan ng "24 Oras" ang sinasabi nitong wala siyang pinoprotektahan?

(Pardon my sudden shift to Filipino. I needed to use the words "24 Oras" flashed in their opening scene, and it just didn't seem right to use both English and Tagalog in a sentence.)

My point in making this blog entry is not so much as finding the answers to the questions above as finding out why opening scenes of news programs are supposed to be this way despite the questions about them. It seems as if news programs are supposed to be "packaged" this way because this is only when the audience will accept them, much in the same way that regardless of its content, a child will more easily accept and be pleased with a beautifully packaged gift than with a plain-looking one. In the case of media, an agenda would be set more successfully upon the audience if the audience deems the giver of this agenda as worthy and acceptable.

Despite the fact that they rarely go out and actually mingle with ordinary people, both Karen Davila and Mel Tiangco have to keep an image of being caring and "motherly" in order to present an image of news anchors - and of all the other people involved in broadcasting news - as people who are approachable and who look after the welfare of the "little people." It appeals to the masses because these news anchors make them feel special, that they are not as left out in society as they believe they are.

Despite the fact that their coverage is just not that wide and encompassing, "TV Patrol World" has to continously assure its audience that their coverage reaches into even the farthest corners of the world. It has to assure the audience that they aren't being kept ignorant or in the dark about what is happening in the world, that the media is not (yet) powerless against these life-changing events, and that the media is (still) in control in each situation.

Despite the fact that socialites, politicians and big businessmen - who each has his own "businesses" to protect - run and are behind GMA 7, "24 Oras" has to constantly prove to its audience that it is fair and just. That even amidst this era wherein no one can be sure of who to trust anymore, amidst this sea of suspicion and doubt, news programs like "24 Oras" will still be there to serve as a life vest to keep people from sinking into society's whirlpool of veiled chaos.

Despite the fact that they're telling little white lies, news programs have to be this way for them to be able to deliver the truth.

And this is the media's second power in being an agenda setter: not only does it decide what the agenda for the society should be, but it also gives its audience reason to believe that the source of this agenda - even before they receive the agenda itself - is right.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Flip Side.

Because what you read isn’t real.

More than five million Filipinos leaf through various newspapers everyday, hoping to be informed of the goings-on in the country and around the world. Amidst pictures of scantily dressed starlets and gory mutilated bodies, the average Pinoy reads through every article, confident that the newspaper lives up to its battlecry, be it ”The truth shall prevail,” or “balanced News, Fearless Views.” In a world where perception becomes reality, it is crucial for newspapers to mirror exactly what is happening in society. Unfortunately, what we read is not really what is.

Money Matters.

In the beginning of the 20th century, our American colonizers introduced the concept of a profit-oriented press. With a fast growing readership and advertising market, newspaper publishing suddenly became a lucrative business. Noted American historian Lewis Gleeck even claimed that the most important innovation in Philippine journalism was “the conversion of Filipino journalist of opinion run by politicians into newspapers run as business enterprises.”

In 1938, J. Amado Araneta bought the Philippine Herald from the Elizalde clan and used it to lobby his sugar enterprise for a larger U.S market. Nine years later, another sugar mogul, Eugenio Lopez, Sr., bought the Manila Chronicle to augment efforts in pursuing a congressional act benefiting his sugar planters. Meanwhile, the 1980s witnessed the ascendance of Chinese- Filipino capitalists in the newspaper industry, where their publications became symbols of legitimacy and political authority. This sudden control mirrored their rising influence upon the important sectors in the country.

Hence, the domination of the newspaper industry by business conglomerates has offered such vulnerability to newspapers as their publishers use journalism to promote and protect their economic interests.

Chink in the Armor.

In February 1999, the Manila Times headlined a story on a Machiavellian power supply contract arranged by former President Joseph Estrada. In the same month, the Manila Times ran an expose asserting that a mysterious BMW used by the same president belonged to Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez. Shortly after the reports were put into print, the publishers, Robina Gokongwei- Pe and Enrique Razon, Jr. respectively, found themselves apologizing for the offending stories.

The almost instantaneous apology was only expected of the two publishers. For one, Razon was wary of disappointing the previous administration since he had government contracts (to service government ports) on the line. Gokongwei- Pe, on the other hand, is part of a diversified business empire that covers banking, shipping, agribusiness, and real estate. With so many transnational corporations, she had every reason to fear that state regulators and tax auditors may come barging in any given day. Due to the pressure, Gokongwei- Pe had to release a front- page apology to the President. The editorial board eventually resigned in protest.

The Prieto –owned Philippine Daily Inquirer also had a similar experience when presidential allies pulled out their business advertisements after it reported on the involvement of a presidential kin in a textbook fund scandal. Fearing that a tax audit may be underway, the Prieto family had no recourse but to force its editors to tone down its stand on the issue.

These incidences proved that the Philippine press is indeed susceptible to pressure from its proprietors. Thus, newspaper magnates interfere with the editing and publication of stories to avoid political ire. Given that most of these business conglomerates have interlocking contracts subject to government regulation, it is only natural that the Achilles heel of each newspaper is the business interests of its owners.

My paper, my weapon.

However, newspapers are not only limited to protecting their publishers from government pressure. They were, in fact, primarily acquired to back up business enterprises. Putting up a newspaper requires substantial capital investment and machinery, which only big businesses can provide. In a country where competition is intense among rival tycoons, businessmen will exhort all measures to get the best opportunities, journalism being one of the most favorable options. Having a newspaper enables a businessman to have influence over the general public, the government, and even the business sector.

This privilege is well manifested in the contents of national dailies. Take the case of Emilio Yap, publisher of the Manila Bulletin. He used his newspaper to condemn the awarding of the sale of the Manila Hotel to a Malaysian company. The headlines screamed injustice as several editorials were consistently adamant in claiming that the historic hotel was a national legacy and should therefore be awarded to a Filipino bidder. It did not take long for the Supreme Court to become frazzled of the media ruckus. Months later, it decided to award the bid to Emilio Yap.

Such power was also used in August and September of 1996, when the Manila Standard derided the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority for awarding a port service contract to Hong Kong’s Hutchinson Ports Company because its owners, the Razon family, lost the bid. Soon, other newspapers picked up on the controversy. To avoid further conflict, former President Fidel V. Ramos ordered the bid repealed.

From being pressured by the government, the power now shifts to the publishers, since newspapers are wider in reach and coverage, richer in connections, and more effective gaining public sympathy. This need to attach itself to the public roots from the desire to maximize profits. Majority of a newspaper’s profits is gained through advertising revenues. Newspapers have to attract audience that advertisers consider as “target markets.” Should the paper run stories unappealing to their target market, advertisers will certainly back-out. This is crucial to a newspaper’s survival.

As said earlier, newspapers need big businesses to mobilize them. When a newspaper is put up, it needs all the financial resources it can get. Members of the business sector will not miss an opportunity to “contribute” and “donate”. After all, the rewards far outweigh the amount they pitched in. A popular donor is Lucio Tan. He supposedly helped the late Betty Go- Belmonte put up the Philippine Star. In the heat of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) fiasco involving the Taipan, the newspaper was noticeably circumspect in its reportage. In addition, a column written by U.P. Economics Professor Solita Monsod about the PAL pilots’ unrest was prohibited from seeing print. When she complained, board member Teodoro Benigno could only reply, ”Why don’t you leave Tan off? There are some sacred cows! ”

What now?

Press freedom is not just limited to media practitioners functioning with relative freedom and minimal pressure. It also includes the perpetuation of the people’s right to know. When the press exercises its freedom, it is required that they make this information available to all sectors of society.

The majority believes that the newspaper is the closest that they can get to the truth. In the passing of time, television and radio stations have harbored public mistrust because of their nearly blatant subservience to the demands of sponsors. Newspapers, on the other hand, have become relatively stable sources of information. They have provided an assemblage of articles on the latest news in sports, entertainment, business and society in the convenience of a compact bunch of papers. Highly accessible and affordable, a newspaper is an average Filipino's melting pot for all the facts that he must know.

However, the problem with its ownership structure is that it poses a permanent threat to objectivity. Newspaper magnates can, and will interfere with the publication of stories in order to endorse their business interests. At the end of the day, these broadsheets are businesses. They need to earn---and we pay the price, at the expense of truth.