Statement to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas – Blocktimers During the Campaign Period and Elections

Written on February 23, 2010 – 8:15 am | by mediaandelections |

The statement below was drafted after print, broadcast, and electronic journalists attending a roundtable on the media coverage of elections organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) last Jan. 16 expressed concern over the impact of political blocktimers on the coming elections and on the integrity of journalism practice. CMFR drafted the letter, which was supported by 17 journalists who work in various parts of the Philippines. The letter was sent to Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP/Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines) and posted online last Jan. 19. A PDF copy of the statement is available here.

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Jan. 19, 2010

REYNALDO HULOG
Executive Director
Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas

Dear Mr. Hulog:

The Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR) organized a roundtable discussion with media and civil society organizations (CSOs) engaged in electoral activities. During the discussion, participants from the

broadcast, print, and electronic media from around the country expressed their concern about the impact of blocktimers who host political talk shows sponsored by political candidates, some of which are reportedly funded by local government units. These programs are obviously part of the campaigns of candidates. Unfortunately, these are not identified as political advertising, and can be misconstrued as independent commentary over radio.

As a self-regulatory body for broadcast media, the Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP, Alliance of Broadcasters of the Philippines) upholds ethical practice among their members and requires them to make sure that their programs observe professional values. One of the tenets of news and public affairs programs is to make the distinction clear between news and information and advertising material such as commercials. Political space and airtime paid for by political candidates should be identified as such. If it is paid for by a local government office, then the people should know that it is tax payers’ money that is being spent, in clear violation of the electoral law.

The KBP should discern which blocktimers are paid by political campaign groups. It is within the KBP’s powers to police the ranks of broadcast practitioners all over the country. In a landmark election such as the 2010 ballot, the media should let voters know when talk shows are part of someone’s political campaign.

Furthermore, the KBP Broadcast Code requires all personnel who go on air, including blocktimers, to pass the KBP’s accreditation exam to ensure that minimum standards of broadcast professionalism are met. This institutional policy should also be strictly enforced.

We are not calling for the banning of blocktimers or their sponsorship by political candidates. We are simply obliging them to make full disclosure of the nature of their programs. We are calling for the observance of ethical norms for the broadcast news media. This call does not violate anyone’s freedom of expression. On the contrary, we want the KBP to follow the fundamental prescriptions of free press practice. If the press is to retain public trust, then press programs—and these include any program that carries political information—should be autonomous and independent of political pressure and influence. The public should know if talk show programs have been bought to serve the purpose of advertising for candidates.

The persistence of politically-sponsored block-time news and public affairs programs masquerading as independent news and commentary reflects a highly dysfunctional press system. The commercial nature of most media enterprises in the Philippines makes elections a high-revenue season. But it is incumbent on the owners of such businesses to observe their responsibilities to the public and to disclose fully the source of sponsorship for the programs they air. Otherwise, the public may be misled and influenced by those they may perceive to be independent commentators but are after all only paid hacks.

The undersigned hope that the KBP will prove true to its mandate of self-regulation and require of its members the simple process of identifying political programs that are paid for by candidates or government agencies.

Signed:

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

Joey Aguilar
Punto Central Luzon

Melita Aguilar
DYGB

Alwyn Alburo
GMA-7

Dino Balabo
Mabuhay
The Philippine Star

Walter Balane
MindaNews

Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star

Cong Corrales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Gulf News

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado
Blogwatch.ph
Philippine Online Chronicles

Melvin Gascon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
FCT Publications

Jon Joaquin
Mindanao Daily Mirror

Germelina Lacorte
Davao Today

Cherry Ann Lim
Sun.Star Cebu

Jeffrey Ocampo
Pinoy Weekly

Soliman Santos
Pinoy Weekly

Bobby Timonera
MindaNews

Jaemark Tordecilla
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Ivy Vibar
Philippine Online Chronicles

CMFR Monitor of the News Media Coverage of 2013 Elections

Given the special nature of the 2013 campaign and elections, the media’s role as credible and critical sources of information and analysis during the election season bears watching. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is monitoring the news media coverage of the 2013 campaign and elections in the context of both the special circumstances in which they were taking place, and the opportunity for improved and meaningful reporting and analysis the exercise offered to the Philippine media. 

CMFR has been monitoring media coverage of Philippine elections since 1992, and in every instance has made recommendations towards the improvement of media coverage. These efforts have not been unrewarded. Changes in media coverage incorporating some of the recommendations of the CMFR monitor in 2004 were evident, for example, in the media coverage of the 2007 elections.


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