New Media, Propaganda Make Review Board Irrelevant

While the new media necessitates the rethinking of the current practice of review and classification in television and film, what proves to be more important at this point is to expose how the current administration resorts to de facto censorship of contrary views through agencies like the MTRCB.

By DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
Bulatlat.com

Review and classification have become somewhat irrelevant in the age of new media and this puts into question the continued existence of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). To make things worse, the MTRCB is now being used as an instrument to deter counter-propaganda even as its mandate prevents it from reviewing government-produced materials for public exhibition.

As a result of the “X” rating on the documentary “Ang Mabuhay para sa Masa” (To Live for the Masses) on the life of former President Joseph Estrada, the latter’s supporters decided to just make it available on the Internet. There are also reports that pirated copies of the documentary are now being sold.

At present, the MTRCB has no control over audio and video files that can be retrieved from the Internet. This, however, is no reason to take comfort as other government agencies like the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) could use the controversy surrounding the Estrada documentary as an excuse to facilitate the blocking of certain websites which is being done in other countries like China.

In any case, observers are right to note that all the MTRCB did was to increase public curiosity on the documentary and that it even unwittingly helped in the documentary’s promotion even to those who are not supporters of the ousted President.

The MTRCB’s August 28 memorandum stated that based on the second and final review of the Estrada documentary, the latter tended to “threaten the political stability of the state; undermine the faith and confidence of the people in the government; [be] libelous or defamatory; [pertained] to matters that are sub judice in nature.” It upheld the decision of the first review committee which gave an X rating to the documentary on August 23.

One can argue that the documentary is just part of the Estrada supporters’ propaganda campaign against the government, and that proof of this is their decision to forego earnings from public exhibition by making the documentary freely available, at least for those who have Internet access.

Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration is also involved in its own propaganda campaign to gain the people’s confidence. In fact, Malacañang produced not just one but two documentaries in justifying the imposition of the state of national emergency (Paglaban sa Kataksilan: 1017 in March) and the conspiracy to bring down the current administration (Sabwatan sa Kataksilan in April).

Unlike the Estrada documentary, the MTRCB did not subject these two documentaries to review and classification. After all, Section 9 of the MTRCB’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) states: “No films, television program, or publicity/promotional material for such films and TV programs, unless they are imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and agencies, shall be granted exemption from review and classification for audience suitability.” (italics mine) It may be recalled that no less than the administration called on television stations to air these documentaries. The second, Sabwatan sa Kataksilan, was even previewed in Malacañang.

In 2004, the MTRCB approved the public exhibition of the documentary titled Imelda on the life and times of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos. Unlike the Estrada documentary, this did not question the legitimacy of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and even ended up putting the Marcoses in a bad light.

The MTRCB’s provision exempting government-produced materials from review and classification apparently operates on the assumption that government officials exercise better judgment over the private sector, especially the opposition, when it comes to suitability for audience viewing.

More importantly, this also exposes the one-sided nature of review and classification at the MTRCB. Then again, the situation comes as no surprise as the MTRCB is under the Office of the President.

There is indeed a trend right now for the MTRCB to be used in preventing the spread of what the powers-that-be deem as counter-propaganda. In fact, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) even issued an alert on August 23 that the MTRCB demanded from the producers of a new public affairs show of ABC 5 the deletion of some portions of its first episode featuring the New People’s Army (NPA).

While the new media necessitates the rethinking of the current practice of review and classification in television and film, what proves to be more important at this point is to expose how the current administration resorts to de facto censorship of contrary views through agencies like the MTRCB. (Bulatlat.com)

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