- Duopoly rule in Philippine media
Two giant broadcast networks dominate the Philippine media industry both in terms of economic market power and audience reach, which gives them a major potential to shape public opinion. Despite a high number of media outlets and being described as one of the most freewheeling media systems in the region, Philippine media continuous to be owned by and to depend on the economic and political elite.
- High Market Concentration Across Media Sectors
The media networks ABS-CBN Corporation and GMA Network Inc. dominate the media market economically: they together gather a market share of 79.44%, considering the revenue of the 29 biggest media companies. Both ABS-CBN Corp. and GMA Network Inc. operate across media sectors and offer the most watched, most listened to and most clicked content. Together, they reach 77.31% of the audience through their TV channels ABS-CBN2 and GMA/ GNTV, as well as 47.2% of the FM radio listenership via DZMM 630 (ABS-CBN Corp.) and DZBB 594 (GMA Network, Inc.). Both media networks also offer popular online news websites, which gain in relevance and strengthen their cross-media presence.
The print market is more evenly distributed among players due to a diversity of tabloid and broadsheet titles, with the entertainment-focused tabloid newspapers being more read compared to broadsheets.
- Media ownership is an enclave of POLITICO- economic elite
Five families in the Forbes List of 2016 Philippines’ Richest are in media, four of which made their money predominantly from media. Even though the political and economic elite are interweaved, those links have not led to targeted discriminatory actions in the recent past, with in general little political control being openly exerted. It poses, however, a potential risk to media as soon as the political elite start to exploit the vulnerability of media owners.
- Transparency Only on the Surface
Companies registered in the Philippines have to disclose their ownership structures to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where information needs to be purchased. This does not prevent the practice of layering company structures to obscure ultimate beneficial owners to the public. While those complex structures are legal and theoretically can be delayered, this requires immense investigative research for each media company.
The ultimate motives for establishing and frequently changing the corporate structures are questionable. One could be disguising foreign ownership, as it seems to be true for example for Manuel V. Pangilinan’s cross-media and telecommunication empire, which can be traced back to an Indonesian investor.
- Lega Framework
Media-specific legal safeguards that prevent media ownership concentration do not exist. A new anti-trust body has been established by the Fair Competition Act in 2014 - the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) - which still has to show that it also monitors, and prevents or otherwise breakups media monopolies.
- The Role of Religious Media
The involvement of religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church (Radyo Veritas) and Philippine-based Iglesia ni Cristo (INC TV), in the media market is unique for the Philippines. Officially, the Philippines is a secular nation, with the Constitution guaranteeing separation of church and state. However, the Iglesias ni Cristo, led by Eduardo V. Manalo, practice bloc voting and their representatives endorsed appointees to key government positions.