It was not surprising that House Bill 4218 or the OPM (original Pilipino music) Development Act of 2014 got itself back in the news—with a little more than a year left in this Presidency, the bill’s supporters can only hustle to get this passed into law.
The rationale is to “strike while the iron is hot” as Jim Paredes says, to get it passed “while we are still under a friendly administration. Pag pumasok na ang bagong administration at hindi nito priority ang culture and the arts, we’re going to have to wait, what, another six or 12 years again” (Interaksyon.com, 2 March).
Yet anyone who reads HB4218 would find that if this five-page bill is any indication of Presidential support, then there’s really not much love for arts and culture here.
The context of the foreign
This bill that is purportedly about developing original Pilipino music has one premise: that foreign artists and their music is killing the local music industry. Says HB4218’s Explanatory Note:
“Now more than ever, where foreign artists dominate the local concert scene, where there is no month in a year where a foreign artist would be holding a performance in the Philippines, where foreign artists compete with each other completely obliterating any competition from local artists, should the Philippines take measures to support and promote its local artists and prevent the imminent death of OPM.” (congress.gov.ph)
Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) president Ogie Alcasid says: “There is preferential treatment for foreign music. You can only just turn on the radio to recognize that.” (GMANews, 2 March). The two other organizations that are pushing for the bill are the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Inc. (FILSCAP) headed by Noel Cabangon and the Asosasyon ng Musikong Pilipino (AMP) headed by Jong Cuenco.
This premise of the foreign killing original Pinoy music is an easy assertion to make, and it might be true to some extent, but it is not a complete picture of what ails local music culture. It is especially unacceptable as premise for a bill that speaks of “developing” and “supporting” local musicians.
Because to develop original Pinoy music and support our local musikeros is not simply about how much Katy Perry pays to perform in Manila. Neither is it simply about how many foreign songs are played by the hour on every radio station. What of LS 97.1 and MOR 101.9, owned by GMA and ABS-CBN respectively, mostly playing local songs every hour—but playing GMA Records and Star Records songs?
HB4218 asserts that there is already Executive Order 255 that decrees that radio stations must play at least four local songs every hour.
Instead of OPM, AMP and FILSCAP working on making sure this is implemented, they are pushing for HB4218 which will reward—reward!—radio stations that follow the law.
That’s not supporting local music. That’s giving businesses money for doing so.
Equity for whom?
HB4218 also seeks to collect money from foreign acts coming to Manila, and funnel this equity as funds for members of OPM, Filscap and AMP.
Yes, these three organizations are not named in the bill. Instead, the bill gives the National Committee on Music (NCM) the power to “accredit only one guild per category or class of performer or artist,” where the process of accreditation means an “in-depth assessment of an artist-performer guild or artist-composer guild with particular focus on whether it is able to look after and promote the welfare of its members.”
It is of course expected that it would be these three organizations supporting the bill that would be first in line for accreditation. It is expected that this will pit one organization against another.
Which makes the questions of accountability and transparency about these organizations valid and important. Because while we hear about how OPM has helped its members, it is unclear how often this organization has helped out, where its money goes, and how much money were talking about exactly. The same is true for FILSCAP, about which I’ve heard of musicians first receiving decent and believable amounts in royalties, which for unexplained reasons suddenly dwindles as they stay on as members, no matter hit songs.
And then there are the repercussions of collecting equity on foreign acts, given our OFW musikeros, as well as artists like Gloc-9 and Parokya Ni Edgar who travel the world to perform for Pinoy communities. How much more difficult will it become for them? How much more will producers need to pay to get our Pinoy musikeros to perform elsewhere in the world?
That jobs will be lost goes without saying.
The question of representation
HB4218 is being pushed by three music organizations that cannot claim or boast of active membership. In pushing for this bill they are asserting that they represent at least a majority of our musicians, composers and music creatives.
Which they don’t, if we are listening to the bill’s critics—a more diverse set of musicians and music creatives who speak of the bigger landscape of local music. That HB4218 was drafted without the participation of these critics—independent musicians, sessionistas, composers, OFW musikeros—is already its undoing.
To even imagine that these critics can still change this bill if they attend hearings in Congress is delusional. Skarlet Brown’s Facebook update (March 3) proves this: in a two-hour hearing, the opposition was given two minutes to speak.
We also know it to be true in this country: too many laws are built around empowering a few and marginalizing a majority. HB4218 is no exception. If Alcasid, Cabangon and their ilk truly wanted to help out Pinoy music, they would start from scratch and be more inclusive.
Scrap HB4218. Start working with the bigger landscape of musikeros that this nation cradles. On matuwid na daan, it’s the only way.