ABS-CBN shutdown not merely a legal issue, but a social and moral one, says sociologist


Posted at May 06 2020 08:27 PM

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MANILA—Shutting down ABS-CBN Corp.’s broadcast operations goes beyond just being legal issue, a sociologist said Wednesday, a move that was “suspicious” given the media giant’s important role in helping to mitigate the national coronavirus crisis. 

Dr. Jayeel Cornelio of Ateneo de Manila University said the forced closure will not sit well with a public that still believes television and radio are the most reliable sources of information.

“The first point, I think, is that TV and radio are still the most credible sources of news and information for the public, and ABS-CBN is right at the helm of it. So shutting down ABS-CBN at this point in time when people need good information, solid information for all the talk that ABS-CBN is supposed to be peddling fake information, is really a bad move,” he said.

“It’s a credible institution, credible source of information.”

Cornelio said that people could be wary of the timing of the shutdown, because it could be taken as a “smokescreen” by a skeptical public. 

He added that, in the face of what is perceived to be an insufficient response by government to help people affected by the lockdown, ABS-CBN was made a “scapegoat.” 

“Judging by the information that we see on social media and so forth . . . the people find it very problematic that much attention has been given to the shutting down of ABS-CBN at this point when in fact all the resources of the state must be given instead to solving this (COVID-19 problem,” he said.

“So in a way, I really cannot help but question the merits of this move at this point in time. 

“To be honest, the state could have done really a lot of interventions before arriving at this point. But obviously the congressmen did not, obviously NTC did not, obviously the Office of the President did not. So, what are they trying to hide?

“Obviously, really, the incapacity and the inability of the state to prepare enough, long enough for the pandemic . . . is unfortunate. (ABS-CBN) ang naging scapegoat, parang ganoon, sacrificial lamb.” 


Cornelio said those affected by the ABS-CBN shutdown should not fall into “toxic positivity,” and instead use their grief and anger to shape public opinion on the issue.

“This is an opportunity for us to take advantage of what we can, mainly social media, to shape a public opinion,” he said.

“To be honest, ang tingin ko kasi is that they are trying to frame this as a legal matter. We know that this is not, so we have to counter that. So in the absence of a street protest, the most important and strategic thing to do at this point is to counter that discourse.”

Even when detractors have taken over social media networks, Cornelio said ABS-CBN employees and supporters should elevate the discourse with the critics.

“So every opportunity to challenge fake information, news that defends this attack on democracy and any public opinion for that matter, has to be challenged intelligently,” he said.

“I think this is the time for us to just say no to toxic positivity. This is not about saying, ‘Hey, everything’s going to be all right soon. This is the time when we have to say enough is enough, we have to express our grief and our anger.”

Cornelio said he believes what happened to ABS-CBN is just “not about implementing the law per se.”

“This is why many academics rally behind ABS-CBN as an institution because we feel that, ‘Hey, this is not just a legal matter, this is a moral, social, political matter,’ ” he said.