Dr. Roland Tolentino, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, said the shutdown of ABS-CBN implies a message regarding the country’s present administration.
Tolentino explained how the closure of the media giant has affected the media culture in the country.
ABS-CBN went off the air on May 5, 2020 following the expiration of its franchise and the issuance of a cease and desist order from the NTC. On July 10, Congress announced its denial of the media giant’s application for a franchise renewal.
Although there are still several operating news outlets in the country, the former dean noted the importance of ABS-CBN in delivering information, especially to far-flung areas. ABS-CBN has now left a cultural vacuum which cannot be easily filled.
“[ABS-CBN has] iconic shows and stars. It’s also a platform of news and opinions. They’re so vital in coming up with a very informed and culturally sensitive population, which means that there’s a gap now.
“Many areas are not serviced by all major broadcasting companies. In some areas, GMA is stronger. In others, ABS is stronger. Mawawalan ng access to information ang ilang areas (Some areas will not have access to information),” shared Tolentino.
“The government has forced a kind of killing off information flow in these vital areas,” he added.
For Tolentino, the shutdown of ABS-CBN happened due to its unconformity with the “tyrannical” government.
“The media should really be an outlet for good governance, public opinion, and public action…. What [ABS-CBN’s shutdown] is saying is that if you do not toe the line, if you do not accede to the opinion of the tyrannical government, then you can be shut down,” he said.
He also explained that “If they could do it to a media conglomerate such as ABS-CBN, then they can do it to a smaller yet critical outfit such as the alternative press or online platforms.”
“All of this is meant to create a conformist kind of culture – a very fascist kind of culture to everyone who disagrees with the government. Then we also have the Anti-Terror Law bringing all of this to the grassroots level, weaponizing the NBI and other agencies to file cases or subpoena people,” Tolentino added.
Tolentino said, “This idea of media freedom, this will take time to recover again.”