Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tame the Beast (the IIRC Report) with post scripts

The IIRC has completed its review and have come up with a list of those whom they deemed acted culpably and should be given penalties either by sanction, civil accountability or charged criminally. There are sectors in media who believe that they should be excluded from all these because they were just exercising a cherished freedom, press freedom. But, why only media? Were not the others also trying to do what they thought was proper to their perceived roles and to their appreciation of the situation? How could there be a criminal accountability when there was no premeditation and no ill intent. In the heat of the moment everyone acted irresponsibly like headless chickens propelled by reflex. At the worst it was an act of stupidity but there is no law against it. Even our senate and congress have enough sense not to enact a law against it, besides if there was one our penal institutions would be filled to the rafters (we’re almost there).

LOL, what does media expect, praises? Does media expect us all to turn a blind eye on their participation? The Filipino audience is not that optically and mentally challenged. The medium is the message.

Now they talk about this as having a chilling effect on media. Likewise, an irresponsible media has a chilling and even icier effect on the nation when they aggravate political situations, puts the national government in a bad light internationally, creates unfair negative images to personalities and institutions contrary to their interests and partisan leanings, engenders divisiveness among the citizenry, bullies opinion leaders, cows government authorities and so many other freedom curtailing pressures on parties outside their estate.

Are media practitioners naive enough not to recognize the power of their trade to intimidate?

No less than the senators, during the media hearings of the hostage incident, mention their hesitancy and pussyfooting when it comes to taking to steps to enact legislation concerning media.

Enrile said, addressing Ressa, “The problem, Maria, is this: Everybody is scared of the media. Let’s face it… You publish something unfavourable then we’re finished.”

“The point is, we hesitate because you are media. If you weren’t media, we would craft the law immediately,” he said.

The president, himself, mentioned that police negotiators had to wait in line to talk to the hostage taker just because some reporters were interviewing the hostage taker. Clearly our police always gave deference to media recognizing the power of media to get back at authorities for obstructing them from exercising their freedom to do their job.

Luchi Valdes of TV 5 said “You may fear us, as you profess you do, but we fear one thing-we fear the loss of credibility,” she said further, “If you ask us what sanctions are in place, it’s the vilification of the audience we serve. When we are vilified, which we currently are, this is a sanction for us.”

Now that’s a real fine sanction which seems to work and rely only upon the perception and in the conscience of the wrong doer.

Media mentioned that it does not bode well for the future of press freedom under the Aquino administration. Another spokesperson for media said that journalist will not hesitate to go to the streets “to express our sentiments.

I think the president should stick to his guns and do what has to be done notwithstanding overt and veiled threats coming from media sectors. I hope that the senate would enact laws to curb the overzealous practice of press freedom by our local practitioners. There is an opportunity to curb the excesses of a rowdy and rambunctious media which heretofore have gotten away sensationalist treatment of news, callousness to the need of uplifting audience taste sand moral values and the bamboozling and whipping of persons and institutions contrary to their self interests and political leanings. It does not bode well for the Aquino administration to be at odds with media but he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.

It’s about time we tame the beast, not to become like meek and bleating ovine but to become eagles with courage and vigilance in their roles as purveyors of truth flying well above the pettiness of men.

Jay Lazaro’s (my nephew) comment:

As consumers of media in its many forms I think one obvious way to act against the misplaced ardor of organized news media is to stop patronizing it. Unfortunately I think it has become a vice shared by many of us (myself included) to immediately tune in to the best and most up-to-date (and even most daring) coverage of any newsworthy event. We have effectively transformed a need for information into a macabre fascination bordering on voyeurism. It is reality TV pushed to its logical, fanatical extreme. People can debate about which end is wagging which i.e. whether the networks are just giving their viewers what it is they are asking for and vice versa but the fact still remains that something has got to give.

(Ironically, the net effect is that the kind of media we "want" is the kind of media we get.) Either extreme position will have its patrons among the libertarians on the one hand and the closet fascists on the other; as is often the case, we end up with endless debates and not enough action. Rather than worry about what the government or the networks ought to do/not to do, maybe it is best to start with ourselves and the viewing habits and choices we have developed over the years.

A Rejoinder:

Media consumption is addictive and as you said, unfortunately, it has become a vice, a fascination that mesmerizes all of us. Media men have become experts at their craft and would know every trick to entice the audience to get ratings even at the expense of propriety and good taste.

To stop patronizing media is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. The essentials of media such as an information source, as an entertainment for all (masses and elite), as a didactic help, as a vehicle for expressing opinions or as a tool to enjoin the audience towards a worthwhile cause are truly useful to society and at this time we cannot do without.

Giving in completely to what the audience wants is an abdication of their responsibility towards their audience. I shudder at the thought of media taking a cavalier attitude towards the consequences that inadvertent media exposures can inflict on their audiences. Are they being naive about the power that they have in their hands?

Isn’t it a sordid situation that we find ourselves in? The kind of audience we have evolved into, whether libertarians or closet fascists, have been moulded by the kind of media fare that assault us daily and that we willingly take in. Media, especially television, is such a potent influence on our culture, moral values, social conventions, work ethics, ideals, aspirations. It also contributes to whatever pride that make us confident and the guilt that gives rise to self deprecation...a feeling of less worth which so characterizes many of our countrymen.

Post Script:
The most recent news on the hostage crises is the action P'noy took on the IIRC recommendations. I think it was the right decision to sanctin those found culpable in the hostage fiasco. It would have been terribly unfair if P'noy heeded some of the recommendations to criminally prosecute some of the offenders as many were cheering and hoping for. The culpability of most had to do with inefficiency, grandstanding and stupidity but to categorize these as criminal offenses is going to the extreme. Even media who at first reaction was to cry curtailment of press freedom would get out of this with mere presidential scolding. Maria Ressa, who was very much in the fray and had panic reactions after recognizing the ill advised continuation of the coverage seem to have been much affected by the flak she received. I am not sure as to what prompted her to resign from ABS CBN. Was she chastised by her management after the shoddy handling of the coverage and the subsequent diatribes she hurled on the Aguinos (P'noy and Cory) as a kneejerk reaction to a the perception that media was very much at fault? There seems to be a lull. Media seemed to have gotten out of it easy at the same time they realize how vulnerable they are to strong criticisms all around and that the best stance to take is to keep a low profile and let this fiasco blow over. The beast is tamed...but for how long?

1 comment:

Gerry Rigonan said...

dear sir,
I am gerry rigonan and I used to work at AIM (1989-1991) as part of the computer group. I would like to ask if Jay Lazaro (your nephew) real name is Juan Jose Lazaro? and if he has work at AIM same period as I have, and whether he graduated from Marist Marikina (High School - Early to Middle 80s) Ateneo de Manila (College Middle to Late 80s) and Asian Institute of Management (Masteral - Early 90s)? if any answer to the above query is NO, sorry for the bother. thanks. On the otherhand, if the answer are all yes, then i think we might know each other, sent him my regards and my contact details: gerryrigonan@yahoo.com, CP 09208319197 - i would love to reconnect with him. btw, i am Kidapawan City north cotabato based - that is why i lost contact with a lot of my friends. tell him i am the heavy smoker with thick glasses. thanks.