The Media Market
While going through periods of colonization, dictatorship, followed by People Power Movements and democratization, (read more in History) one characteristic of the media landscape has remained the same: the “cozy relationship” between media owners and their executives on the one hand and political power elites on the other. Since the turn of the 20th century, media were owned and controlled directly by the oligarchy, or by its allies. Marcos displaced the traditional owners with his own “cronies”, who functioned as an even more concentrated oligarchy. After Martial Law, partly familiar faces and partly new players (re)entered the media market which allows them promoting their vast affiliated business interests.
As it seems of today, there is still no political will to limit the market power of big players in the media market, even if the existing duopolies soak up the advertising funding and economic fuel of the media market (TV sector) and cause the above-average expensive and slow internet.
Economic tyranny lead to sensationalism and infotainment
The restoration of press freedom and the flourishing of new media outlets after the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship did not automatically result in the professionalism of journalism. In fact, the political censorship of Marcos dictatorship was quickly replaced by economic constraints. Media companies and outlets are vying hard to catch the attention and orders of advertisers. Advertising companies decide on the basis of audience rates, circulation and clicks about how to allocate resources. Thereby they influence the style of journalism: they expect and reinforce journalists to sensationalize and provoke, as in their eyes, this would meet the market demand. According to Nielsen data for 2016, TV got 77%, radio 20% and print media only 2% of advertising income. The largest share – or rather almost everything - goes to the big networks such as ABS-CBN (453.89 million $ year-on-year 2016) and GMA7 (264.61 million $ year-on-year 2016).
Elections 2016 – a cash injection in ad spending
In 2016, airtime for political advertising should remain restricted as it has been in the 2010 and 2013 elections – with many broadcast outfits revolting and even filing suits against the limitation. The Supreme Court argued in their favor, thereby considering freedom of political speech and dissemination of political information as protected by the Fundamental Law. It is questionable, however, if that argument has also been the ultimate or at least only rational of the broadcast outfits that went in front of court. From their perspective, political advertising is in the first place profitable: according to Nielsen, the growth in ad spending due to TV and radio election spending, comparing second quarter of 2016 with the previous year, showed a plus of 25 percent. This means that - most likely political or politically affiliated - actors increased their ad spending which bestowed additional 28 772 mio. PhP (595mio.$) on the industry.
While in total more additional money was spent for TV ads, the true driver of volume of the ad placement count, however, was radio with 13% more ads. The ad count for TV (-1%) and print (-5%) even decreased compared to 2015. Nielsen’s comparison shows twofold: firstly, politicians apparently intensified radio campaigning during elections. Secondly, TV ads are relatively costly compared to the other channels: a TV ad costs on average around 42.238 PhP (874 USD), compared to a radio spot that amounts to approx. 10.829 PhP (224 USD).
Democracy and the Philippine Media, 1983-1993 (2000), Desmond Smith
GROWTH OF AD SPEND IN Q2 (2016), The Nielsen Company (Philippines) Inc.
Media Ownership Monitor Legal Assessment (2016), Romel R. Bagares
GMA Network, Incorporated. SEC Document 17-Q (2016), Security and Exchange Commission
ABS-CBN Corporation SEC Document 17-Q (2016), Security and Exchange Commission