Accepted Practice?

One feature of the campaign period during elections in Cebu is the use by candidates of radio block timers and other media people in advancing their political goals. They are hired either to praise these bets, attack their rivals or mislead voters with half-truths, even lies.

While radio station managements order the airing of disclaimers before and after block time programs, there is no denying that they are encouraging the practice or at the very ;east looking the other way. This is also true for the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, which has been silent on this setup.

Those who don’t handle commentary programs or write columns, on the other hand, come out with reports heavily tilted in favor of the candidates who hire them. Editors, news directors and those out in the field can identify these hired media guns but that is as far as they can go.

This is the reason why candidates and political groups no longer bother to spend much on political advertisements on the radio and television and newspapers. A big chunk of the budget for media is spent on paying off these corrupt media practitioners.

I experienced this when I was news director of radio station DYLA in the early ’90s. A veteran media practitioner gave me a few thousands of pesos for favorable coverage in the station of then presidential candidate Ramon Mitra. After that, we were flooded with press releases churned out by Mitra’s local media bureau.

Of course, I did not change our election coverage, neither did we lose our objectivity. But it gave me a better perspective on why corruption in the media just couldn’t be totally eradicated. Until media practitioners get better pay, resisting temptations is hard.

Another obstacle in the cleansing process as far as the media is concerned is the unwritten rule on non-interference. The outlet or publication where erring media practitioners is given the sole task of cleansing its ranks. The rest of us keeps silent because we understand the situation or are worried that we will be accused of professional jealousy.

What makes the situation worrisome is that there are media outlets owned by politicians that are being outrightly (in short, garapalan) used for the campaign. In the elections in Cebu province, for example, two warring camps have radio stations propping up their candidacies. Because of that, not one of them is filing a complaint with the Commission on Elections.

I can say, however, that only a few media practitioners in Cebu are corrupt. The rest are professional in their craft, a point recognized by news sources, even from from Manila.

Candido O. Wenceslao, May 11, 2007 


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