Open Discussion #3: Philippine News Agency

Last week, the Executive Branch opened its online news portal, The Philippine News Agency.

I found this interesting because a couple of years ago, I recommended that the Aquino government open a news outlet to provide information that could counter the misleading sensationalist information stream so often found in popular media.

Now the Duterte Administration is doing that. But because the Administration has not earned my trust, I am wary of the idea. But I’m willing to give the outlet a chance to prove that the news site offers some kind of added value over popular media. To do that, it must be information based, objective (that is, apolitical), and helpful to readers.

As I look at the Philippine News Agency’s current product (April 26), I don’t really see objectivity and rich information. I see the showering of glory on the President, no discussion of hotly contested issues like the De Lima jailing or ICC case, and a vacuuming up of news from popular media and government agencies. Stories are short briefs, not detailed analytical pieces. I found nothing there that was of any particular help to me either as a blogger or private citizen of the world. My own news scans (Google and Twitter, where I follow major global news sources like Reuters, CNN, World Economic Forum, and South China Morning Post) provide much richer information.

But that’s just my take.

How do you, as active readers, see the potential value of a State news agency? How do you judge the current format and content of the Philippine News Agency, and what other ideas can you offer about how we get our information on current events?

* * * * * * *

During open discussion, any subject may be raised. There is no such thing as ‘off topic”. However, respectful discussion is always in order. Rude language or crude photos are not appropriate, as this is a public space. Teaching and learning from original commentary, with relevant reference to outside resources . . . that’s what we aspire toward . . .

Comments
55 Responses to “Open Discussion #3: Philippine News Agency”
  1. timowp17 says:

    It reminded me of North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). I think it’s just the same common objective: to be subjective on whoever’s in Malacanang.

    Speaking of that agency, they will discuss later this afternoon #RealNumbersPH on PTV and RP1 at 2 p.m. together with DSWD, PNP, PDEA and PIA.

  2. arlene says:

    Maybe it is another propaganda for the president, to make his name sweet to the masses. We know better though. Just my thoughts Joe, good morning!

    • Good morning, arlene. Always good to get your friendly greeting. I’m thinking that, if it is propaganda, it won’t have much effect until mainstream news outlets are shut down.

      • arlene says:

        people in the government may not that to protect their dwindling popularity. There will come a time when even those who still believe him at the moment would lose interest in what he says but does differently. Sa ngayon mabango pa sa kanila ang pangalan niya.

        • I hope so. When the State’s highest official defends dungeons, then that has to put off a lot of decent people. And when the Solicitor General puts “yellows” in a bucket as destabilizing with every criticism, then the totalitarian bent becomes pretty clear.

        • josephivo says:

          What happens now I would call a slight decrease in his huge popularity, Dwindling I would use when he reaches 10% or even20% of popularity.

          Even in our bubble, let’s not lose sight of reality.

          We all like dreams, every new outlet that feeds these dreams is welcome. So 80% of the Filipinos will welcome the initiative.

          • arlene says:

            Thanks for your thoughts. A friend just said: “Duterte makes anti-Duterte people almost redundant. He just brings himself down all the time.

            The sad and awful thing is that people support him, his vile mouth, and evil ways.”

        • arlene says:

          Oh sorry for the grammar error Joeam. Mali ang tiklado

  3. Sid Bañez says:

    I think it is logical that anyone who occupies Malacanan would use a tax funded news agency, propaganda machine or government media – whatever you want to call it – to make himself look good. That is why mainstream media, with its built-in regulatory mechanism is important, notwithstanding their perceived biases. Indeed mainstream media, with its necessary online presence, is very much accessible even to readers who are critical of government. Having said this, in the midst of the voices, both in govt and private mainstream media, a mature audience, ready at all times to engage government and its supporters with facts, can counter much of government efforts to mislead the public

    • A commenter on my Facebook page noted that “credibility is king”, and I suspect that the government effort will have only a short window to prove that it has any. I’m a former journalism major and radio news reader, so I find this media drama absolutely fascinating. The unknown is the audience, and if it will lap up sensationalist, non-objective material and ignore that which is informative, or want more.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    The news agency must at least try not to spread or tolerate fake news. Speaking of which,
    At least one institution put to task( or apologizes for) its active and inactive members of spreading fake news.

    http://www.rappler.com/nation/168525-military-apology-fake-news-maria-ressa

  5. Francis says:

    I think something that’s like BBC would be the gold standard for any government media agency. Something that helps elevate the level of national culture and provides a (relatively) neutral take.

    Even if it is too much to hope for—a good government media agency would ideally be like a good army: apolitical and with a perception of oneself as a servant of the state/the people and not of the government of the day.

    I’d only trust such an agency if it had relatively independent sources of funding (i.e a tax/fee specially allotted for it) and constitutional protections guaranteeing independence (have it possess the same level of independence as COA, CHR, Ombudsman, etc.).

  6. manilapagpag says:

    I would not expect them to produce much detail or analysis.
    But it’s not too much to expect them to produce basic and useful factual information, such as facts and data pertaining to government services, revenue streams, the status of planning efforts and their implementation, weather, emergency, and transportation-related advisories, changes to previously announced schedules, etc.
    In other words, news you can use.
    https://manilapagpag.wordpress.com/

  7. Gia says:

    The function and purpose of a news agency differ in theory and for the one implementing it. In theory, its purpose is to provide information. For the one implementing it, its purpose is to conceal information.

  8. Ed Gamboa says:

    When a government, particularly one that is autocratic, starts a “news agency,” you can bet your bottom peso that it will be state propaganda no matter how information is presented. There is a reason why news media is called the “Fourth Estate” (or fourth power). It needs to be separate and independent from the three usual branches of government.

  9. madlanglupa says:

    Offtopic, but I think the military is being waken up from its stupor, as its top general wants to get rid of fake news.

    http://www.rappler.com/nation/168525-military-apology-fake-news-maria-ressa

    • madlanglupa says:

      Ontopic: The PNA in this current climate isn’t going to help but only to keep the President and his clique smelling good. Except its odor is overpowered by the stench of blood and mud. Besides, in certain places Facebook is often the sole source of news and entertainment, despite being co-opted by vested groups and noxious supporters of this regime.

  10. NHerrera says:

    Some words that come immediately to mind:

    Need/ purpose/ balance/ emphasis
    * Non-propaganda
    * Propaganda/ spin

    Credibility/ viability/ longevity of medium
    * Editorial staff quality/ credibility
    * Independent/ quality research-reporting
    * Selecting from mainstream media and given a different angle/ spin

    Funding and autonomy
    * Chempo mentioned PNA is under the OP

    • NHerrera says:

      In a PNA refresh a few minutes ago, we have these 3 items:

      * Belt and Road’s success depends on its inclusiveness

      * Australia should embrace China’s Belt and Road Initiative: senator

      * China sees tourism boom during May Day holiday

      Nothing wrong there, but perhaps some effort at selectivity to make PH familiar with or soften the harsh view of China relative to Uncle Sam? Just musing.

  11. alicia m. kruger says:

    The Malacanang News Agency is the official trumpeter that blows filtered music to many supporters ears. Just my take JoAm.

  12. karlgarcia says:

    This is about another government portal.

    http://build.gov.ph/Home/Project

    Even if the proposals were proposed during the previous admins, I will really be impressed if these all begin during this administration and completed by the succeeding admins.

  13. edgar lores says:

    *******
    Just from the top of my head:

    1. The primary attribute that a government news portal must have is independence. This independence will guarantee neutrality, if not, as in the case of Australia’s ABC, a perceived anti-administration bias.

    2.l . There are four pillars to ensure independence.

    2.1.1. A charter enacted by Congress.
    2.1.2. A structure independent of the government. As mentioned by Chemrock and Bill in Oz, the agency must be owned by the public and should not be under the President’s office.
    2.1.3. A guaranteed funding as mentioned by NHerrera, similar to the budget of the Judiciary. That is, the budget cannot be diminished, only increased, and cannot be fiddled by the ruling administration.
    2.1.4. A staff of professional media men and women with tenure that is not coterminous with the appointing power.
    2.1.4.1. To ensure balance, the ruling body must not be a single executive but a board of directors.

    3. The BBC in the UK and the ABC in Australia are public broadcasters. They are not simply news agencies, but have radio, television, and media production facilities. The BBC is famous for its documentaries, and the ABC broadcasts all types of TV fare – news and current affairs, political analysis talk shows, children’s programs, cook shows, drama and more.

    3.1. This multi-thread communication set-up ensures that government news, programs, and policies reach the farthest corners of the nation.

    3.2. The ABC has several in-depth sociopolitical analysis shows. There are (a) “Four Corners,” which does deep investigative work; (b) “Q&A (Questions & Answers)” which presents a panel of politicians and subject matter experts giving their opinions and debating issues of the day; “The 7:30 Report” wherein politicians are interviewed and grilled in an adversarial manner. There are a couple more shows which I don’t follow.

    3.2.1. It is my experience that women interviewers are sharper and more dogged than male interviewers.

    4. The line between informing the public and propaganda is very thin.

    4.1. I suppose one criterion is the question: Who benefits most from a presentation? The possible beneficiaries are:

    4.1.1. The citizens and thereby the nation
    4.1.2. A progressive government program
    4.1.3. The current administration
    4.1.4. An incumbent official or group of officials

    4.2. If the presentation is weighed predominantly for the benefit of the first two beneficiaries, then one can say the presentation is objective and neutral.

    4.3. There must be guidelines for including the names of government officials in presentations. Such as no complimentary adjectives and the frequency of naming should not be high.

    5. In Australia, there was an issue as to whether the public broadcaster should be open to commercial advertising to increase revenue. The issue was decided in the positive. I imagine the income from political ads during election campaign periods would enable the public broadcaster to produce quality fare.
    *****

    • Wonderful examination of this issue. I was particularly intrigued by 4.3 from my days of journalism school when we waded through the transcripts of news shows to score their objectivity. The process was called “content analysis”, and, after a while, one can get pretty good at finding the phrases that carry a slant. I’d not go through the trouble on the new outlet, and give them time to develop some real content on their own to see if they can actually do news or information reporting, versus political reporting.

    • Bill In Oz says:

      Edgar you missed out on the ABC’s online division.

      http://www.abc.net.au/?WT.z_navMenu=abcNavLogo&WT.z_srcSite=news&WT.z_link=ABC%20Home

      Everything that is shown,or broadcast can be accessed online as well or via podcast. And some of the programs on Radio National are available as transcripts..

      Another aspect of the ABC is that is provides news & information etc. to targeted audiences : National, major capitol cities, country & regions within states. The character of the ABC varies depending on this. Radio National is virtually a domain of the liberal left and always on the lookout to criticise governments. But country & regional radio stations are far more conservative in character.

      Things to keep in mind for when a PhBC i( Philippines Broadcasting Corporation ) is created

    • Over here, it’s PBS & NPR , two separate entities, one television; the other radio. I think though PBS is more like BBC and ABC , NPR is less dependent on public funds…

  14. It’s being billed as a wire service, like Reuters, AP, Canadian Press, etc.

    Joe, remember when we talked about you reaching out to journalism departments there, or simply college students interested in writing commentaries, news, etc.? I wonder if that’s what they’re trying to leverage here, some sort of social media based citizen reporting.

    I remember you mentioning a huge budget for some communication entity there, was that for this?

    Citizen media IMHO in and of itself is a good idea no matter how you cut it, like Reddit , craigslist, in the beginning, even Wiki i think you can lump in there. It’s great for weather reports, traffic, emergency reportings, other “objective” news, but when it starts getting political, then

    it all weighs heavily on the editing, what gets printed, what doesn’t, as personal bias/emotions will eventually prevail, then you get censorship and redactions, and eventually you get the Us vs. Them thing all going again, yay! for Us/ boooo! for Them, and you cut half of your readership—– and it becomes a big exercise of mutual self pleasuring, confirmation bias and what not…

    Take it two ways, either your much feared DU30 trolls will finally learn some critical thinking, instead of just silly memes, now exposed to all sorts of perspectives and news having personal stake; OR

    they’ll simply be upping their trolling , ie. propaganda skillz… I hope its the first and new journalists will come out of this little project, if as you’ve said a lot of money is being thrown to this whole endeavor , if done right with the right leadership , maybe this will be the place

    where Filipino journalists are borne. That’s my glass half-full take on this 😉 . So maybe a blog, since you do have a journalism background, Joe, about how to make all this better… I know you’ve done blogs on Philippines news before, but maybe something specific to this, vis-a-vis DU30 and his policies? just a thought… a Dear PNA-type blog.

    • Ah, citizen media! Trolls learning something! Raising the skill levels of those who seek to anger and mislead others! Damn! I should have looked at the positive side of this.

      No thanks on the work project. I already declined the troll’s boss for a meeting, so my bridges are burned. I grant them a glass half-full, too, and think a BBC kind of medium would be great. I’m not too keen on populating the Philippines with skilled manipulators and anger-makers though. We have quite enough of them already. I’d opt for sincere truth tellers and the solutions they inspire.

    • NHerrera says:

      The wisdom and caution of the top brass of PH military — while courteous to the President’s idea of joint PH-China military exercise — are reflected in these portions of that Inquirer report:

      Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he was open to the idea of the President but an agreement would be needed.

      “That’s perfectly fine with us, ” he told reporters. “But first we have to come up with a framework (agreement or understanding) that will determine where, what units, duration of patrol, purpose of patrol, communications between forces, etc..”

      But just like Lorenzana, the military chief said there should be a defense or military agreement like the Visiting Forces Agreement “to define the terms of reference or protocol and must be in adherence to existing agreements with other allied countries,” he said.

      I checked PNA just now. I didn’t see this news item. It certainly is a news worthy item. Is it possible the editor did not find the cautious remarks of the military top brass not to his liking?

    • edgar lores says:

      *******
      I would like to know what are the military, security, and political objectives first.

      Gen. Eduardo Año has said it’s about “humanitarian assistance and disaster response, anti-piracy, and counterterrorism scenarios.”

      Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana cautioned the need for a Visiting Forces Agreement. And I would like the Senate to ratify any agreement.

      This might lessen the tension between the two countries, but is it about China taking one step further to making the Philippines a vassal state?

      Can we use this as an opportunity to spy on China’s naval capabilities?

      Is China using this as an opportunity to spy on American secrets that we may unwittingly hold?

      Can we trust a hostile nation that grabs shoals in the WPS without so much as by-your-leave and prevents our fisherman from fishing?
      *****

      • China’s more West facing (relative to its position), than East,

        Economically, China IMHO still sees the Philippines as a back-water, even as vassal state I don’t think it wants the Philippines—- too much drama!

        The Philippines should seize this opportunity. The Filipinos’ greatest strength is in their ability to shed their identity (many times completely) and adopt another’s… why not become experts at Chinese thought and language. Then guys would be able to leverage yourselves as the Fifth column for Western powers (vis-a-vis your 2nd question, edgar, but bigger than just “China’s naval capabilities” , I’m pretty sure the US, Australia, etc. already have that covered—— spy on their minds)

        Be useful in this coming fight. Also, have the AFP reach out to Vietnam, these guys are still walking around with their chest held high thanks to the Vietnam War (we lost), maybe the Vietnamese can teach AFP some pride, and inoculate AFP personnel early on from being bought off.

        • “Is China using this as an opportunity to spy on American secrets that we may unwittingly hold?”

          I’m pretty sure they already have most, if not all pertinent info, just by going online, edgar. If they still need more, all they need to do is hack some more.

          So just focus on de-confliction , co-ordination (for these exercises), and then learn more about the Chinese. I remember meeting young Filipino who studied Japanese on their own because of anime and cosplay; then some learning Korean because of k-pop and Korean TV drama. But I don’t think there were Filipinos learning Chinese there.

          Think of the Philippines as Sacagawea of the Lewis & Clark expedition,

  15. imasecofarm says:

    Too soon to tell. But so far, I don’t see the sensationalism prevalent in mainstream media. And the “showering of glory” that you perceive is simply a report on so many positive developments lately that is mostly overlooked and unreported. That’s how it comes off to me. And I appreciate that. Disseminating info on govt projects is also what a state news agency should do, among others.

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