CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 29 July) – Sometimes one gets the impression from listening to local radio that we’re under assault by aliens from other galaxies. But then you snap out of it promptly as it becomes obvious that the accents, alarmist tones, atrocious pronunciations, or table thumping originate from dubious commentators who sensationalize even trivial stuff.
Still, you can’t help wondering whether these people can read or write or understand what they read. Because if they do, how come they don’t observe their own guidelines? It’s all in their bible titled, Radio Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas”.
KBP officials pompously refer to this Radio Code when appearing as guest speakers. Note what its Preamble obligates KBP members to profess:
“We believe that broadcasting in the Philippines possesses a uniquely immediate and lasting impact on the public, which demands a high sense of responsibility and discerning judgment of morality, fairness and honesty at all times; an obligation to uphold the proprieties and customs of civilized society, to maintain a respect for the right and sensitiveness of all people; to preserve the honor and sanctity of the family and home; to protect the sacredness of individual dignity; and to promote national unity.”
Further on, it states how broadcasters ought to conduct themselves:
- Language shall be polite and not vulgar, obscene and inflammatory.
- Personal attacks against fellow broadcasters and other stations are considered unethical and subject to sanctions.
- Commentaries and related programs shall not erode the people’s confidence in duly constituted authority.
- Those who handle commentaries and analyses … shall have the expertise, proficiency and qualifications for the job … and so on.
Now, how many broadcasters are there who fastidiously observe these guidelines? Do the AM stations in Mindanao apply these provisions to the conduct of their commentators?
The KBP should level up with the community and assure the listening public that its members are not taking them for a ride. When it prepared this Radio Code, did it intend its members to honor and live by its contents?
Through all the years of the KBP’s existence, since the time of the late Teodoro Valencia, I am not aware that anyone has ever been cited for violations; no one rapped for using inflammatory, contemptible, lewd, reckless, or foul language. Often the culprits are “block timers;” a mere disclaimer by the station management does not exculpate it.
The KBP claims to be a professional association and insists on regulating itself, but it is not clear that it is regulating its members, or indeed that it is capable of doing so.
There are commentators who sound like they should go back to school, take a language or speech course, maybe remedial reading too, or all of the above. Freedom of speech does not include the right to mangle language or murder pronunciation. Language is the hallmark of our civilization and culture. It deserves to be treated with care and accuracy.
Language is what distinguishes man (homo sapiens) from all species in the animal kingdom. Its proper usage distinguishes advanced societies from the primitive; it characterizes the sophisticate and cultured.
Who will tell the KBP to get its act together and serve our society as it professes to do in its preamble? It should not exist purely for the economic objectives of network owners and stockholders, or for the vanity of its putative commentators or stars.
Media networks should not trash the standards of broadcast by hiring poorly qualified commentators and announcers.
And the KBP should be more demanding of its members, monitoring them to ensure that they earnestly abide by and enforce the Radio Code.
It often seems that press freedom is being stretched to the limit by reckless or vulgar commentators; when they do, who makes up for the damage to communal sensibility?
It ought to be kept in mind by KBP members that a wrong word, an insult, a slanderous statement, or an unjustified condemnation is like a wound inflicted upon a person. The wound may heal with an apology, but a scar will remain.
There has been too much wounding and scarring in our society for too long. All the well-meaning campaigns we wage to instill decency and banish corruption are blithely cancelled out by irresponsible on-air pedants and verbal terrorists.
The need for Corporate Social Responsibility should be taken seriously by the stalwarts of the KBP if they value its standing as a corporate citizen and a powerful member of civil society. They should make sure the Radio Code resonates in the voices and words of their members and employees, not just on the paper it is printed.
Because they have an important role in public education and social progress; they should not be party to on-air impropriety, sacrificing proper, accurate learning on the altar of revenue generation.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist: now president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]]