The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and also provides free access to records, documents, and papers pertaining to official acts. Government officials, however, tended to be leery of reporters, who sometimes ran stories gathered from a single source or based on hearsay. Libel suits were frequent in the 1980s.
Traditionally, major newspapers published in Manila have been owned by elite families. Prior to 1972 Philippine newspapers were freewheeling, often publishing unsubstantiated stories, but willing to expose wrongdoing in high places. When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he confiscated the assets of newspapers owned by families not part of his coalition. From 1972 to 1986, although newspapers were not officially government-owned or government-supported, they were controlled by Marcos's relatives, friends, and cronies. After the August 1983 Aquino assassination, newspapers gradually became more politically independent. When Marcos fled in 1986, the Commission on Good Government confiscated the assets of crony-owned newspapers and the exuberant Philippine press revived quickly; in many cases newspapers were operated by the families that had controlled them prior to martial law. In 1991 there were approximately thirty daily newspapers in the Philippines. Twelve mainly Englishlanguage broadsheets provided serious news. Fourteen tabloids, mostly Tagalog and Cebuano, offered sensationalism. Four newspapers were printed in Chinese. Only one newspaper, the Manila Bulletin, had consistently shown a profit. Another, the Inquirer, began to show a profit in 1990. Most other newspapers were losing concerns used by the businesspeople who owned them to influence government policy and officials.
Television stations in Manila were very profitable to the wealthy investors who owned them. They also emerged as a significant political factor, and coup attempts often featured assaults on television stations. There were very few television stations outside Manila. Radio reached people in remote areas, even villages without electricity. Radio stations in the provinces tended to be owned by wealthy local families involved in politics.
|Country Studies main page | Philippines Country Studies main page|