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Does Self-Regulation have a Future in the Philippines? | CMFR

Does Self-Regulation have a Future in the Philippines?

by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Published in the May-June 2011 issue of PJR Reports

(This CMFR analysis is a part of a joint undertaking of CMFR and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism/PCIJ for the full report, visit www.eyeonethics.org and www.pcij.org)

THE MEDIA are not only failing to regulate themselves; more importantly, some media organizations are actually depending on the government to intervene, in effect eroding the very principle of self-regulation itself.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines, KBP) Standards Authority released recently a decision on the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage-taking incident, which included the imposition of fines on member-networks for violating the KBP Broadcast Code. Before it issued the decision, the KBP also revised Article 6 (Crime and Crisis Situations) of its Broadcast Code to help media organizations avoid making the same mistakes they made during the Aug. 23 hostage taking incident should something similar happen in the future. (See sidebar “Approved Amendments to Article 6, Crime and Crisis Situations, KBP Broadcast Code”.)

On that date, Rolando Mendoza, a former police officer, took hostage 25 tourists from Hong Kong and some Filipino staff who were in a tourist bus about to leave Manila’s Fort Santiago the Luneta Park. The incident ended with nine individuals, including Mendoza, dead.

The press, particularly the broadcast media, has been at least partly blamed for the bloody outcome of the hostage taking. Their ethical and professional lapses during the 11-hour coverage made the situation worse (“Covering the Aug. 23 hostage taking: Media lapses invite state intervention”, PJR Reports, September-October 2010). The government, recognizing the existence of the self-regulatory mechanisms of the press, asked the KBP to investigate the media violations and to impose appropriate sanctions.

The result

The KBP Standards Authority December 2010 decision declared that:

“The Authority finds cause to hold the following respondents liable for first offenses (against) certain provisions of the Broadcast Code, as follows:

“On respondents Radio Mindanao Network (Radyo Mo Nationwide, RMN), Michael Rogas, and Erwin Tulfo, for having violated Sec. 1, Art. 6, Part I of the Broadcast Code (Coverage of crimes in progress), the following penalties are hereby imposed: The sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) and censure on respondent Radio Mindanao Network; the sum of Fifteen Thousand Pesos (P15,000.00) and reprimand on respondent Michael Rogas; and the sum of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) and reprimand on respondent Erwin Tulfo, all in accordance with the offense classification and range of penalties provided in Art. 4.1, Part III of the Broadcast Code.

“We, however, find no cause to hold Jesus J. Maderazo of RMN liable under the Broadcast Code.

“On respondent ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, for having violated Sec. 4, Art. 6, Part I of the Broadcast Code (Schedule of penalties for grave offenses) , the following penalties are hereby imposed The sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) and censure, in accordance with the offense classification and range of penalties provided in Art. 4.2, Part III of the Broadcast Code.

“On respondent Associated Broadcasting Company (TV5), for having violated Sec. 4, Art. 6, Part I of the Broadcast Code, the following penalties are hereby imposed: The sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) and censure, in accordance with the offense classification and range of penalties provided in Art. 4.2, Part III of the Broadcast Code.”

The penalties do not seem to be commensurate to the wrongdoing.  Among its options, the KBP chose not to suspend Rogas and Tulfo for the major ethical offense of interviewing Mendoza during the most crucial stages of the crisis.

In the first place, however, the KBP decision, comparable to a mountain’s laboring to produce a mouse, had been almost a year in the making. In all that time, its Standards Authority simply decided not to include GMA Network Inc. (GMA-7) in its investigation because the network is not a KBP member.

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