IT has gotten such a negative reaction, the statement of incoming Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, that the Rodrigo Duterte government will print its own tabloid, build a website, and do a weekly presidential TV and radio talk show.
The naysayers in our midst with no sense of hope nor creativity, rebel rousers interested only in the cause of discrediting everything this new government plans to do, have laughed at the idea, not to mention raised fears by referencing Marcosian times—the better to sow distrust in our hearts. It would do us all well not to believe them.
Daang Matuwid sets the stage
To be fair with the PNoy government, it has set the stage for the Duterte government to actually do a real People’s Television at this time.
In 2013, it announced that it would allocate P5 billion to upgrade PTV-4 from 2014 to 2016 (Inquirer.net, 20 Mar 2013). In July 2013, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Republic Act No. 10390 or the Act Revitalizing The People’s Television Network, Inc. was approved by current PCOO Secretary Sonny Coloma (PTV.ph). In 2015, the new organizational structure for PTV-4 was approved (President.gov.ph, 9 Jul 2015).
Contrary to the distrust in the idea of State media or State TV given memories of Martial Rule, it can be done—and has been done—better than those years. And regardless, Andanar and the Duterte government can be the first ones to follow the laws that govern the creation and revitalization of a People’s Television Network, which will “give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development,” and “serve as a vital link for participative democracy and effective government information dissemination … free from any political or partisan influence and held accountable directly to the people.”
With Duterte, this seems all the more possible. With a new President who is open to having discussions about difficult issues, who gives honest answers about problems that are insurmountable (his word), and who admits that he is still studying certain issues, the dream of a real People’s Television is within reach. Because we can all study these same issues, we can all form our own opinions, and we can all learn as a public, too—something we have been unable to do with mainstream media for so many years, and especially the past six.
The perfect time for People’s Television
Angela Stuart-Santiago ended her last book EDSA Uno: A Narrative and Analysis with Notes on Dos and Tres (2013) hopeful for an intellectual level-up for nation, one premised on the creation of a People’s Television (not necessarily PTV-4) that would engage in a “national IQ-raising campaign targeting young and old, rich and poor alike.” This would be supported by the rich as a way of paying back the nation, and paying-it-forward to the people.
Excerpts from Stuart-Santiago, which now sounds like a plan waiting for a President Duterte (and a Secretary Andanar) to happen for nation:
“There is room for a People’s Television in the public life. There is room for information and critical thinking, discussion and debate, alongside mainstream and showbiz news. There is room for language programs and science lessons, history and heritage, culture and art studies, alongside entertainment and escapist fare.
… “How else to get answers than through a people’s TV station … an alternative to the mainstream channels’ mindless entertainment and insipid news reporting—for thinking Filipinos across classes. Geared towards public service and nation-building, with countrywide grassroots reach, it would be programmed to inform and educate, in both English and Tagalog (KSS: and Bisaya). There would be time not only to report news in more detail but to place current events in the context of government policies and in the light of historical patterns, the clearer for us to see what we need to break out of and where new trails need to be blazed.
“There would be space for real debates on festering issues. … We would pick the minds of our best thinkers from left, right, and center—economists and agriculturists, bankers and traders, political and social scientists, doctors and lawyers, OFWs and laborers, writers and teachers—and challenge them to hammer out a sustainable development strategy acceptable to all shades of the political spectrum, which would entail rising above elite interests and reconciling differences for the benefit of the most number. All of it on-air, so we can listen in and learn, even ask questions and take part in discussions and decisions via phone, text, and social media.
“Only creatives—producers, writers, directors, researchers, video and graphic artists—with a high bias for the Filipino people, and a sense of the economic, environmental, educational, health, and language problems that hound us, need apply. Programs would be designed to harness and maximize the awesome consciousness-raising powers of television, reaching out to the masses with a message of shared identities and shared fates, inviting every family and community, far and wide, to participate in local and national deliberations, the better to arrive at a consensus on the issues that divide us.” (353-355)
Who’s afraid of People’s Television?
This is not too good to be true, it is possible, and it can be done.
Our problem really might be mainstream media and its practitioners who, for whatever reason, are already painting this to be nothing but an excuse for government propaganda, when it can be so much more than that.
In 2013 it was also reported that GMA 7’s Felipe Gozon was thinking of filing a case against RA 10390, because the TV network business was already “crowded” and he didn’t think it was fair for taxpayers’ money to be funding a People’s Television that would compete with mainstream networks. (Philstar.com, 25 Mar 2013)
But see, how would a real People’s Television, as enshrined in the law and as envisioned above, be competition for the other networks? None of them have the shows that we need, none of them put the people we need to hear on air, and none of them discuss issues in-depth, no holds barred, beyond elite interests and big business. This People’s Television will not be in competition with any of the networks, because it will do what mainstream networks refuse to do.
If it does it well, then yes, it might get its own share of viewers and sponsors here and there—but that should only push the mainstream networks to start thinking of their programming, and maybe level-up and take its cues from People’s Television.
Either way, it’s a win-win situation for a public that we always say is misinformed and uneducated. Here’s our chance to push for something that will change that.