Philippine Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III of Tito Vic and Sotto comedy fame in the yesteryears of Philippine cinema is apparently unhappy with with what he perceives to be a negative return on investment on the Philippine government’s ad placements in international news organisation Cable News Network (CNN). Sotto is reportedly convinced that CNN has an “agenda” to somehow link the astounding poverty in the Philippines to the case for the implementation of a long-overdue and over-debated Reproductive Health bill in the Philippines (which he opposes). Sotto is calling for a stop to any further pouring in of Philippine government “resources” into CNN after what he describe as a “stab in the back” the network inflicted on the Philippines.
The object of contention is a series of news videos aired by CNN featuring the Filipino native dish pagpag which counts as its main ingredients food scraps obtained from garbage cans.
Sotto said it cannot be helped but to feel that the country has been “stabbed in the back,” considering that the government poured in its resources on the cable news channel to uplift its image, only to be slapped in return by damaging stories on poverty in the country.
“We had to place ads in CNN and then that negative feature comes out? Why didnt CNN feature the fishermen who use their catch to feed their families? Why use the leftover food that is being highlighted? There was a bad intention. The ads should be pulled out of CNN.”
It seems Sotto fails to distinguish the nature of content in ads that are paid for by clients of media businesses like CNN from the news reports these businesses publish or air. An ad is intended to persuade viewers to subscribe to a point of view that the party who paid for said ad intend to propagate. A news reports, on the other hand, is in principle intended to inform its consumers on the basis of its author’s direct observations or facts taken from reliable resources.
Apparently Sotto believes that parties who pay money to place ads in CNN’s various media outlets are given license to influence the content of its news reports.
Sotto’s confusion over what is news and what are ads possibly reflect the way media organisations in the Philippines do business and the way many Filipino politicians have grown accustomed to such. Philippine mainstream media has long been criticised for its less-than-objective and sometimes unethical “news” reporting practices. Many Filipinos attribute the perceived bias in Philippine media to the political and family affiliations of some of the owners and major shareholders of some of the biggest media businesses in the country. Indeed, many of the Philippines most prominent opinion shapers are “journalists” who have earned renown for spreading some of the most appalling ideas in modern Philippine history.
Underpinning the susceptibility of Philippine media organisations to politically-motivated influence peddling is the depth of gratitude (utang na loob) these owe to certain politicians. Media behemoths ABS-CBN and the Inquirer.net, for example, both benefited enormously from the rise to power of Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s mother, former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino. Shortly after the ascent to power of the late former President Corazon Aquino, ABS-CBN ownership reverted back to the Lopezes. ABS-CBN is also widely credited for creating the “People Power” and “Edsa Revolution” concepts, encapsulating the entire drama that saw the fall of former dictator Ferdinand Marocs and the “return” of “democracy” to the Philippines under those two catch phrases, and engineering the ingraining of these notions deep into the Filipino collective psyche through its omnipresent media channels. And in the lead up to the 1986 “people power” “revolution”, the then fledgling Philippine Daily Inquirer was lucky enough to have bet on the right horse. It was a big bet made while supposedly espousing reporting objectivity as evident in its chosen slogan “Balanced News, Fearless Views”.
Perhaps then Senator Tito Sotto could be forgiven for thinking that CNN could also be bulldozed into airing news favourable to the Philippine Government. Already, another international news organisation Businessweek had already started fielding what seem to be hastily-researched “news reports” highlighting a positive outlook for the Philippine economy while implying that these are direct outcomes of the governance prowess of current Philippine President Noynoy Aquino — which is why Sotto is hopping mad. For the amount of money possibly being spent on ad placements with CNN, it is perhaps fair for a Philippine Senator to expect results.