Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is MOM?

The “Media Ownership Monitor” (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets (press, radio, television sectors and online media).

MOM aims to shed light on the risks to media pluralism caused by media ownership concentration (for more information: Methodology. In order to grasp the national characteristics and detect risk-enhancing or risk-reducing factors for media concentration, MOM also qualitatively assesses the market conditions and legal environment.

2. Who is behind MOM?

MOM has been proposed and launched by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), that aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.

In each country, RSF cooperates with a local partner organization. In the Philippines, RSF worked with VERA Files.The project is funded by the Federal German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).

3. Why is transparency of media ownership important?

Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power. Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration, when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration). The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don´t know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they don´t know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don´t know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?

MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?” in order to raise public awareness, to create a fact base for advocacy to hold political and economic players accountable for the existing conditions.

As we consider ownership transparency as a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism, we document the openness of media companies/outlets to provide information on their ownership structure. Considering their answers, we distinguish different levels of transparency – which is indicated for each media outlet and media company on their profile. 

Media owner’s motivation to remain hidden or even actively disguise their investments can vary from legitimate to illegal and be rooted in personal, legal or business-related reasons – or a mix thereof, in extreme cases even including criminal offenses like tax evasion or breaches of anti-trust laws. Some of those reasons include the following:

• In several countries, media ownership is restricted by law in order to avoid concentration. So if one individual wants to extend his or her media empire beyond these limits, proxy owners and/or shell companies registered abroad, even off-shore, are frequently being used.

• Sometimes, media owners receive personal threats or face other dangers either originating from governments or competing businesses and therefore decide to remain unknown to protect themselves.

• In many cases, media ownership is intertwined with undue political or economic interests, even more so if individuals are involved that hold a public office and who don’t want to disclose such a conflict of interests.

•In rare cases, the disguise of media ownership happens unintentionally because over time and through mergers and acquisitions, corporate structures became so complex that the original beneficial owner is difficult to identify.

• Last not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax evasion.

4. What kind of concentration regulation does MOM suggest?

MOM doesn’t make normative statements – it doesn’t suggest how to control media ownership. Which form of media concentration control can work depends on the country context, the existing legal and market conditions, the ownership landscape.

MOM provides a transparency tool to enforce a democratic discussion on that issue as well as good governance: decisions are likely to be of higher quality and to better reflect the needs and wishes of the people if they have access to adequate information and broad consultations, with views and opinions freely shared.

5. How is data collected and validated?

Preferably, official data sources, and/or sources with a high level of reliability and trust are used. Whenever not publicly available, information was directly requested of media companies, political representatives and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived (link to Library). Further information is available on request at VERA Files.

For Print, TV, and Radio data, MOM cooperated with Nielsen Philippines (Audience Data Print/Radio/TV, January-August 2016)

Nielsen globally used a standardized and independent methodology for media consumption data, which they sell to companies. MOM purchased data for a reduced NGO price.

- Effective Measure (Audience Data Online, July 2016)

- National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) 

In order to guarantee and verify the objective evaluation, MOM worked with an advisory group that commented and consulted throughout the research process. It was composed of national specialists with a substantial knowledge and experience in the media and communications fields. Amongst others, the following experts were accompanying the research process:

- Rachel Khan, University of the Philippines

- Jeremaiah Opiniano, University of Santo Tomas

- Romel Bagares

- Luz Rimban, VERA Files

- Yvonne Chua, VERA Files

6. How is "most relevant media" defined?

The main question is: which media outlets influence the opinion-forming process? In order to scan all relevant media, we included all traditional media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online).

The media were selected according to the following criteria:

  • MOM focused mostly on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. Basis for selection was audience research data for the most recent period available provided by Nielsen (Print, Radio, TV; January - August 2016) and Effective Measure (Online, July 2016). 
  • The news worthiness and opinion content. The study focuses on general information with a national focus. As such, media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
  • The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of around 10 media outlets per media type (TV, radio, print, Online). Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets were and will be added – if they proof to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are the media outlets selected?”).

7. How are the media outlets selected?

TV stations were selected according to their audience reach nationwide, based on Nielsen’s TV Audience Measurement (January-August 2016). Nielsen’s uses a seven-step approach, that includes amongst others surveys and electronic tracking of TV consumption in selected households.

Radio stations were selected according to Nielsen’s Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) – a study that asked respondents to record in a radio diary (booklet) their radio listening in 15-minute blocks, every day for seven days. RAM tracks Mega Manila on a monthly basis, while it only tracks other key cities every half year.  As this Radio data is measured separately by area, MOM chose to use data and select radio mostly for Mega Manila, due to that fragmentation and difference. The selection focused mainly on AM (medium wave) radio stations, since

- they command larger audiences - even in the urban areas where a choice of FM alternatives is also available.

- they are particularly listened to for news and talk radio programs, while FM broadcasts mainly music. Source: info as aid (2012): The Philippines. Media and telecoms landscape guide.

As an exception, the FM Radyo5 was included since it also broadcasts news.

Print media outlets were selected according to:

their penetration according to Nielsen’s “Consumer and Media View” (January-August 2016), a comprehensive study on media habits, product usage and lifestyle of consumers in Metro Manila and other key cities in balance urban Philippines. Since 1993, 2500 people of all socio-economic background are interviewed by using a structured questionnaire every three months.

their frequency of publication. The media outlets selected must be updated at least once a week with current content.

- their relevance for decision-makers: The print market can be divided in tabloids and broadsheets. Tabloids, which focus on sensationalism and entertainment, have the largest overall sale: their penetration is high as well as their assumed influence on public opinion. Those were selected with priority. On the other hand, broadsheets are read by law-, policy-, and decision-makers. For this reason – and also because broadsheet articles are more often picked up by social media and circulate virtually – MOM also analyzes three broadsheets: BusinessMirror, BusinessWorld, SunStar.

For the online market, primarily news websites were looked at as they build up public opinion. Social networks, online stores and advertisement websites were excluded, as they are not relevant when it comes to the editorial content and ownership.

In 2011, the big players in the Philippine online media publishing industry signed an agreement to use a common standard for measuring online audience measurement. Executives from ABS-CBN Interactive, GMA New Media, Inquirer Interactive, BusinessWorld, Philippine Star, and Summit Media/Philippine Entertainment Portal signed a Memorandum of Understanding selecting Effective Measure as their common provider of audience measurement analytics. However, as of 2016, some of the most important players (GMA New Media, Inquirer Interactive, Philippine Star) had opted out to be listed – supposedly because they were not listed as N°1 and were afraid of an image loss.

To be able to still include all big players in the online market, we compared the Effective Measure top websites (July 2016, based on Unique Visitors) with news websites ranked high on Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/PH ). Alexa is an international outfit that shows the relevance of gmanetwork.com [alexa rank=6], inquirer.net [10], rappler.com [7], philstar.net [25], which we included.

8. Why the Philippines?

The Philippines ranked 138 out in 180 countries in the 2016’s World Press Freedom Index published by Reporter without Borders, which ranks nations on indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law, transparency, and abuses. This result points at the problems that the Philippines are facing related to press freedom, which includes a problematic relation to media pluralism, media independence and transparency. It highlights the Philippines as a country being worth looking in depth into the risk of media ownership concentration.

Moreover, unlike in other countries in the region, civil society organizations such as the local partner VERA Files can operate relatively freely, which allowed the implementation. 

9. Does the MOM only exist for the Philippines?

MOM was developed as a generic methodology that can be universally applied – and potentially will be. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable worldwide; implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. MOM has been implemented in around 20 countries over the course of three years. All country projects can be found on the global website.

10. What are the limitations of the study?

  • No economic data: Market concentration based on market share could not be calculated since complete and credible numbers were not available publicly. Some print outlets shared them on request, which is indicated in their Media outlet profile.
  • The news worthiness and opinion content. The study focuses on general information with a national focus. As such, media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
  • The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of around 10 media outlets per media type (TV, radio, print, Online). Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets were and will be added – if they proof to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are media outlets selected?”).

11. Who do we target?

The data base 

  • allows each citizen to get informed on the media system in general;

    creates a fact base for civil society’s advocacy efforts to further promote public consciousness on media ownership and concentration; 

  • is a point of reference for consulting competition authorities or governmental bodies when establishing suitable regulatory measures to safeguard media pluralism.

12. What happens next?

The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly by VERA Files.

13. Are there similar projects?

The Media Ownership Monitor is mainly inspired by two similar projects. Especially the indicators for a later ranking rely heavily on the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). Moreover, Media Pedia, an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor. An overview over other similar projects can be found in the table below.

ORGANIZATION

DESCRIPTION

Acess Info 

A Spanish NGO that works in the field of media ownership transparency in several European countries.

 

Article 19

An NGO which works in the field of press freedom. It implements media concentration projects.

 

Deutsche Welle

The Media Freedom Navigator of Deutsche Welle provides an overview of different media freedom indices.

 

European Audiovisual Observatory

A database of television and audiovisual services in Europe.

 

European Journalism Center

The Website provides a summary and analysis of the state of the media in Europe and neighbouring countries.

 

European University Institute in Florence

The Media Pluralism Monitor assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.

 

IFEX

The network provides information of the state of the media in many countries.

IREX

The Media Sustainability Index (MSI) provides analyses of the conditions for independent media in 80 countries.

 

Media Pedia

A project that is monitoring the media ownership in Macedonia.

 

mediaUk

The Website provides information about media ownership in Great Britain.

 

Pew Research Center

The organisation publishes an interactive database about media in the United States.

 

SEENPM

Monitors media ownership and the impact on media pluralism in southeastern Europe and EU member states.

 

The Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at Columbia Business School

A research that works with authors from 30 countries in the world about media concentration using a common methodology.

 

The Institute for Media and Communication Policy

A database of international corporations of the world´s biggest media.

 

UNESCO

Media Development Indicators - A framework for assessing media development.

  • Project by
    VERA Files
  •  
    Reporters without borders
  • Funded by
    BMZ