Kapamilya, a slogan adopted by one of the major Philippine media networks, translates to “one at heart.” As Internet usage and media engagement grows, Filipinos gain greater access to media. Thanks to media, Filipinos can become “Kapamilya.”
Lively entertainment shows, films and comedies dominate Philippine media. On the other hand, for Filipinos who engage with media for their news updates, it has become increasingly more difficult to access information that is not at the behest of commercial and political interests.
Similar to U.S. President Trump, sitting president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte runs on an anti-media rhetoric. Duterte labels media outlets he dislikes as “fake news”—which has gained enough traction to revoke the operating license of news media company Rappler, known to be critical of Duterte’s administration.
Despite a clear indication that media coverage—or the lack thereof—is vulnerable to governmental censorship, a Global Attitudes Survey conducted by the Pew Research Center contradicts that: About 83 percent of surveyed Filipinos believe that news media cover government well.
The government is unhappy with media, but the public is not. Rappler has yet to be completely shut down. If and when that does happen, where exactly will that leave the Filipino media? Where does it stand now?
The Philippine media landscape is branded as a multimedia market that offers consumers print, online, radio and television media.
According to BBC News, the Philippines has more than 600 radio stations and 500 newspaper titles. However, a duopoly exists between two major cable networks—ABS-CBN Corporation and GMA Network Incorporated—and places television media on top. These networks reach anywhere from 81 to 98 percent of the Filipino public.
Although Internet use is continually on the rise, as the amount of Internet users has increased by 7 percent within the last year, the most popular medium will remain television in the upcoming years.
According to CNN Philippines, media intelligence firm Kantar Media reveals that 96.6 percent of Filipinos watch television daily.
Cable television is more accessible to those in rural areas and even some networks broadcast in local languages. With about 55.7 percent of the total Filipino population living in rural areas and 150 different dialects spoken, television has the most extensive influence out of all other media forms.
Duopoly in Control
Since television is the most accessible type of media in the Philippines, the two major network companies—ABS-CBN Corporation and GMA Network—subsequently own a vast majority of media holdings. Known as the Big Two, these networks are commercially driven and essentially run the media market.
According to the Media Ownership Monitor, the two media conglomerates have a combined market share of 79.44 percent. The Big Two also reach 80.72 of the Filipino audience through their individual TV channels and amass 47.2 percent of FM radio listenership.
Television is the most popular media and is controlled by one of the two networks, but there is more depth to this medium. According to the Philippine Trust Index, 89 percent of the Filipino public lists television as the most trusted source of political information. With that in mind, ABS-CBN Corporation and GMA Network greatly influence public opinion.
Increased Media Access
Television and radio are the most used media forms in the Philippines, but online usage and especially social media usage are also prominent in the country.
According to Hootsuite, a U.S.-based social media platform, the Philippines has an Internet penetration rate of 63 percent. Accordingly, the Philippines is the twelfth country with the highest number of internet users.
More Filipinos are going online, but more are also going mobile. About 58 percent of the population is a mobile phone user.
This goes on to add that about 42 percent of those with Internet access are also active on social media. This means that about 9 in 10 of those users access their chosen platforms via mobile devices.
This increased access means increased use of social media. The Philippines is the world’s top social media user, and their most used platform is Facebook. The average Filipino spends four hours and 17 minutes on social media per day.
Only 27 percent of Filipinos use social media for news, despite the platform’s popularity. More and more Filipinos seem to be using media as means to connect with their environment nationally and internationally.
Maria Ressa and Rappler…
News media are too using social media to stay connected to the public that they serve. Nevertheless, the government is politically driven to alter the state of media as Filipinos have come to know and appreciate it. Currently, at the center of attention in the realm of news media is the battle between Maria Ressa and President Duterte.
Maria Ressa is a Filipina journalist who co-founded the leading social news network site, Rappler in 2012. Ressa has 25 years of journalistic experience under her belt, and her most prominent role was CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta. Later as CNN’s lead investigative reporter, she focused her efforts on terrorism in Southeast Asia.
In addition to CNN, Ressa managed the News and Current Affairs team for ABS-CBN. However, Ressa wanted to redirect her journalistic efforts away from the television network, and thus led her to spearhead the efforts of founding Rappler—in which she now serves as its CEO and executive director.
The aim of Rappler for Ressa was to redefine journalism. What sets Rappler apart, for her, is that it is a digital-first platform that relies on independent reporting. Ressa pushed the team of mostly female journalists to use social media as a method for digital marketing and gaining web-traffic.
“I think we have the business model that this entire news industry is looking for,” Ressa told the Southeast Asia Globe. “For traditional media the growth curve is linear. Right now in the US, it’s declining. But if you combine traditional media with tech, the growth curve is phenomenal.”
The word Rappler comes from the root words “rap”, or to discuss, and “ripple”, or to make waves. Stated on their about page, the name is meant to inspire its journalists and the community to enter a “new world of limitless collaboration enabled by new technology and connected by social media.”
Veteran journalists, such as Ressa herself, are responsible for the range of broadcast, print and web coverage. Through a nationwide chat initiative, Rappler journalists are running workshops to actively interconnect with the public.
Rappler, like Ressa herself, is fixated on engaging the public through the power of social media and new technology to create social change.
…Take on Duterte
Rappler’s next goal for social change: change the fate that President Duterte handed the news platform.
Rappler is known for its critical coverage of Duterte’s drug war, and on Jan. 16, the news media company had its operating license revoked. The decision was based on the Philippines’ Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) citation that the news site violated the country’s constitution. The SEC questioned if Rappler has Filipino ownership, and Duterte further claims that the website is “fully owned by Americans.”
Although Ressa is petite, her goals—and words—pack a punch. Ressa believes that President Duterte has a political agenda against Rappler and is responsible for the investigation of their ownership. While other news organizations have kept quiet, Ressa publically denounces this “attack on press freedom to the world.”
In an effort to save Rappler and defend freedom of the press in the Philippines, Ressa is at the forefront of this battle against Duterte’s government. Ressa has called Duterte out for targeting journalists and plans to continue this fight in the Supreme Court.
For many campaigners, the fight for press freedom intertwines with the fight for democracy itself. If media are kapamilya, the outcome of this battle will send a message to Filipinos and the world where it stands on the issue of press freedom.