Media owners mold their journalists’ minds

THE Philippine Star last March 5 ran a front-page story titled, “SWS: 62% of Pinoys believe AFP can’t defend WPS.”

The Social Weather Stations (SWS) angrily wrote the newspaper’s editors, pointing out that this was the opposite of what its report said, that its survey found that “62 percent of adult Filipinos have much confidence in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in defending the territories of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).”

The Star didn’t even apologize for its mistake, and simply ran a shorter piece the next day – buried in the inside pages – that accurately reported the SWS survey, without mentioning that the same reporter’s piece the previous day was totally false.

It is astonishing that the reporter of this very erroneous piece, Jaime Laude, who has been in the newspaper for more than a decade, even expounded on it, writing: “Despite getting an excellent rating from the general public for taking decisive action on internal security issues, the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] got a significantly low confidence level in its handling of the country’s sovereignty and maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.”

It is also astonishing that the event in which SWS had released its report was hosted by one of the Star’s editors, who should have spotted the faked news as she was in that affair.

The only logical explanation for such a huge journalistic boo-boo is that it is is a classic example how newspapers and broadcast media owners manage to mold its editors and journalists’ minds to conform with their biases and levels of journalistic competence, so much so they don’t really need to tell them what to write or publish.

In time, the media owners’ ideology and biases are internalized by its staff, who even mold the events and information they are supposed to objectively report according to that ideology and bias. I know this for a fact, as I worked at the Manila Chronicle, then controlled by the Lopez clan and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, whose owners, despite the fact that they profited from the Marcos regime when the so-called Mile Long commercial area was leased to them by Imelda Marcos.

Both elites had an intense anti-Marcos stand. No journalist would have lasted in these two media companies if they did not share the owners’ political beliefs.

Left, the March 5 fake news on the front page. Right, the Social Weather Stations letter; below, the ‘correction’ on page 6 the next day.

It is this phenomenon that had made ABS-CBN such an anomaly in Philippine media. Its Lopez owners were the arch-enemies of the Marcos regime, and had lost their elite status during martial law. How could they not have been so ferociously anti-Marcos. Thus the country had one of its two biggest broadcast firms creating such anti-Marcos consciousness among Filipnos that we still have to uncover the real history of that period.

This Laude case simply reflects the extreme lengths such brainwashing could result in: In this case, the reporter heard the opposite of what was said by the SWS official, since this was more in line with the newspaper’s “party line” — that we need the US to defend the West Philippine Sea against Chinese aggression.

This has been the servile thinking of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd and his intensely pro-US and anti-China foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, who has made the Philippine Star his media platform to disseminate such a view. He has done so much that everything he says or writes on the South China Sea issue and President Duterte’s foreign policy towards China and the US lands in the newspaper’s front pages, while being ignored by almost all other media.

The Star (as well as BusinessWorld and TV5) has been owned since 2003 by the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim through the holding firm Mediaquest, controlled by the Beneficial Trust Fund of PLDT, which Salim controls through Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd. He has been able to do this despite the constitutional ban on any foreign participation in media, on the legal fiction that the Beneficial Trust Fund is Filipino-owned as its beneficiaries are Filipinos.*

Salim and his top executive Manuel V. Pangilinan have managed not to draw attention to the foreign control of a media empire in the country, in violation of the Constitution, by largely having the Star adopt a neutral stand, especially with regard to politics, and even gradually shed its servility to the Yellow Cult.

Salim’s control of the Star though has become transparent, because of del Rosario’s use of it to disseminate his views.

Del Rosario was a long-time associate and top adviser of Pangilinan, and a director for more than a decade of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. itself until he resigned last July: he couldn’t’ attend its board meetings since China banned him from entering the country. This was in retaliation for the suit he and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales filed against President Xi Jinping at the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity” in pursuing its vast claims in the South China Sea. (The International Criminal Court junked the suit on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction.)

It was del Rosario who helped the formerly Hong Kong-based Pangilinan to set up a business network in the country when he started First Pacific’s investments here in the early 1980s. It was del Rosario who also recommended to Pangilinan and Salim that they take in as their top lawyer Ray Espinosa, who has become the No. 2 executive of the First Pacific conglomerate in the Philippines, and publisher of the Philippine Star.

*For details, read my book Colossal Deception: How Foreigners Control our Telecommunications Sector. Available at Popular Bookstore and in Kindle version at amazon.com.


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