ABS-CBN head stands firm on media independence

By Chi Almario-Gonzales

Posted at Feb 02 2013 10:43 AM | Updated as of Feb 03 2013 03:46 AM

Eugenio Gabby Lopez III, Chairman of ABS-CBN Corporation, admits he “personally” supports President Aquino but this will not stop the news organization from calling out what is wrong with the government even if it “hurts” the Aquino administration.

Speaking before the 8th Pinoy Media Congress (PMC), Lopez said ABS-CBN is willing to be partners with the administration in promoting good governance by reporting on corruption, assessing public service and checking on the use of resources.

“Our duty is to call these things out, tell the President whenever it is needed that some policies or actions are not right,” he said.

Aquino has criticized several media organizations, including ABS-CBN, for negative reporting and sensationalism.

Lopez admits that ABS-CBN may have committed mistakes but “this is the price we pay” in the practice of freedom and democracy.

“There are times when Malacanang will accuse us of sensationalism, unwarranted criticism and negativism. And some of it will be accurate. This is not to excuse any excesses but it is to recognize that those very abuses are part and parcel of democracy in our society,” Lopez said. The solution, Lopez proposes, is an open and continuing dialogue between government and media.

Despite the friction between media and the Aquino administration, Lopez also took time to praise the changes in the nation under the leadership of President Benigno Aquino III. He said that under Aquino, “I see a nation so different from what it was, just three years ago.”

“I see a nation that is more confident of its direction, more determined of the strategy it is taking and more imbued with the moral conviction of its actions. I see a nation about to break out from the debilitating clutches of the past. I also see a nation divided between the old centers of power and a new civil society fighting hard for much needed social change,” he said.

According to Lopez, media independence has allowed ABS-CBN to weather the changes in several administrations, including the rule of Martial Law.

“The strong drive to serve the Filipino has often caused enough misunderstanding with the political powers-that-be. In the nature of our personalistic society where one is either a supporter or an enemy of the President of the Republic, taking the side of the people is not always easy,” he added.

In describing the role of media, Lopez said he tends to “go back to the basics” and the traditional view that media should provide “information and entertainment to the people in a convenient and cost effective manner.”

He said providing excellent and quality content is the service that “commercial media” provides to its viewers. “The day we lose their trust and fail to entertain them is the day our bottom line starts bleeding,” Lopez said. But Lopez added “it isn’t always just about money.”

Lopez said, “taking the side of the people in supporting a free society and fighting oppressive entities” is the essence of being in the service of the Filipino People, the ABS-CBN motto passed on from his father Eugenio Lopez Jr.

“It makes us take bold stands on public issues at great risk to personal and corporate survival,” he added.

Lopez delivered the speech before hundreds of communication students who attended the PMC with the theme, “Media: Beyond Information and Education.”

This was the first time that Lopez made remarks on President Aquino’s criticism against negative reporting of media.

Lopez likened the role of media to the child in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale story The Emperor’s New Clothes where the child was the only one brave enough to tell the truth.

“We need media to be like the child who will exclaim for all to hear that the Emperor is in fact, naked,” he said.

“We don’t aim to win friends or even keep them in this business. The role of media as we see it in ABS-CBN is to serve the Filipino…no matter who in the government or the private sector gets hurt,” Lopez said.