By CAMILLE ANNE DE ASIS and CIELO EUNICE FLORES
Media watchdog the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said, over-all, the media did a better job in covering the 2010 elections than in previous elections. However, there were still some lapses and mistakes.
There may have been inconsistencies in the election coverage, but the press also showed improvements in terms of organizing forums, debates and public affairs programs to provide a venue where the different candidates could present their platform to the general public. The media was also able to provide better coverage because it prepared well months before the elections. News anchors were better prepared and senior reporters were assigned to different locations to be more effective in their news reporting.
New media such as social networking sites specifically Facebook and Twitter helped in the quick delivery of information to the public. Aside from this, citizen journalism also flourished in this year’s election coverage. ABS-CBN’s Boto Mo, Ipatrol mo, GMA’s You Scoop and TV 5’s JournalisMo are just examples of the media’s campaign to involve the public in the drive for a clean elections. According to Teodoro, citizen journalism boosts the credibility of media and gives the public the image of being politically aware.
“Our elections are decided by money politics or how much a candidate can spend for advertising” said Teodoro. Only those who had the money to advertise emerged as winners because the media was not covering the other candidates who are also qualified but do not have enough resources to pay for ads.
The CMFR also observed that the media focused its coverage more on the presidentiables to the detriment of the candidates for vice-president, senators and party list groups.
“There is very little coverage on the senatorial campaign and elections,” Teodoro said.
Aside from the senatorial bets, party list groups appeared to be the least priority of media networks in their election coverage. “Party list elections were not covered. There is not enough explanation as to what party list elections are all about. Instead, the media focused on the statement of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman Jose Melo explaining the requirements for nominees of party list groups, especially after party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy announced that its first nominee would be Mikey Arroyo, the son of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Thus, party-list groups of traditional politicians and moneyed clans had the advantage of having a lot of funds and resources for campaigning. This defeats the purpose of party-list elections, which is to provide representation to marginalized sectors and groups.
The pre-mature release of so-called “reports”, which turned out to be merely part of the usual mudslinging and black propaganda being thrown by candidates against each other, is also one of the glaring mistakes in media coverage of the election campaign and elections. Examples of these are the supposed psychiatric evaluation report on Sen. Noynoy Aquino and the alleged photos of the mansions of Sen. Manny Villar.
When asked about the propriety of media agencies having a clear bias for certain candidates, Teodoro said, “There may be individual biases, but there should be no institutional bias. The Philippine Daily Inquirer was clearly rooting for Aquino. Two of its columnists admitted that they were participating in Aquino’s campaign. It is a violation of media ethics if a columnist uses his or her column to campaign, but if he or she is merely expressing an opinion in the column, then it is legitimate.”
Moreover, the CMFR observed that media networks owned and controlled by the government were clearly focused on the campaign of Lakas Kampi-CMD presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro, and other candidates in its ticket.
The CMFR has a number of recommendations to improve election coverage in succeeding elections.
First, the party list election should be given bigger media attention so that the public would know its purpose and platform.
Second, Teodoro said, “Media should report not only about those who are heavy advertisers. It should give equal opportunities to all the candidates who are running for government positions.”
The incoming Aquino administration should also review the campaign guidelines and its implementation. It should review the provisions of the Fair Elections Act based on what happened during the May 10 elections. It should assess whether the 120-minute allotment for the campaign advertisements of each candidate is being effectively enforced.
“The government should also impose a ceiling on the amount to be spent for political advertisements. During this year’s elections, politicians spent billions of pesos for campaign ads”, Teodoro concluded. (Bulatlat.com)