Elusive Access to Information
Most foreign correspondents would say how easy it
is to cover the Philippines source-wise: The majority of Filipinos
can speak and understand English and are very open in expressing
their views on just about anything, including politics. Yet, the
irony is that access to information remains elusive, especially
for the rural population of this country of 75 million people.
newspapers are down to eight from a high of 22 in 1986, when a popular
uprising toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and unshackled a
suppressed media. There are 408 community newspapers spread over
the countrys 7,100 islands-most of them English weeklies and
monthlies in tabloid format. Both national and local newspapers
are limited in circulation. National dailies only average from 10,000
to 400,000 copies; provincial papers from 500 to 45,000.
theories abound as to why print media growth has remained stagnant:
the prohibitive cost of newspapers (from 5 pesos, or 10 U.S. cents,
to 15 pesos, or 31 cents) in a predominantly poor populace, the
lack of a reading culture, and the lack of start-up capital for
publishers, especially in communities.
remains the most popular medium, especially in far-flung barrios.
There are 539 stations in the country, 273 of them on the AM band.
Television also outpaces the print media in terms of popularity,
especially in the urban areas. There are 63 television stations,
50 relay, and 24 UHF channels nationwide.
media today have been touted as the freest, most rambunctious in
Southeast Asia. Yet, according to Sheila Coronel, executive director
of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, they remain
vulnerable to pressures on their proprietors and protective
of the interests of their
the case of community papers, the picture is made more complex
by the preponderance of feuding political clans and families, the
persistence of patronage politics, and the resistance of antiquated
political structures to change, says Chay Florentino-Hofileña,
writing about The Travails of the Community Press in
the book Investigating Local Governments, published by the
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and edited by Cecile
Philippines inherited American-style journalism and with it the
structure of media as business enterprise at the turn of the 20th
century when it was a U.S. colony. Ownership of the media, according
to Coronel, still follows the changing face of Philippine
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