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Democracy and the media in developing countries : a case study of the Philippines

By Desmond Smith


This thesis examines the relationships between the Philippine media, class power and the state. It focusses\ud particularly on the economic and political actors and agencies, including the press, which have promoted\ud or hindered democratisation in the Philippines during the decade 1983-1993. It argues that although the\ud role of the Philippine press has been considerable, it has been inextricably bound to the interests of ruling\ud elites who have disproportionate control over mainstream media agendas.\ud \ud To explain this dominance, the study analyses some of the forces within the Philippine state which historically have shaped this Third World country's economy and polity. The thesis then examines how the role of the Philippine media, in particular the mainstream English-language press, developed through the "liberalisation" phase of the Marcos era and the subsequent periods of "democratic transition" and "consolidation" associated with the Aquino and Ramos administrations. It highlights the pressures on the\ud media that have often promoted sectional class interests, including those of media owners, at the expense of the plurality and accountability required for substantive democracy. However it also considers in detail the conduits within the "public sphere" for oppositional and "alternative" voices which have challenged\ud the status quo, and it examines their role in articulating calls for political change during the Marcos and Aquino administrations.\ud \ud The Manila press is contrasted with regional and "alternative" news sources, in a debate on the need for\ud media strategies to represent agendas of the marginalised sectors of Philippine society. The study analyses press reporting of two indices of "democratic debate" during the Aquino presidency: the issues of land reform and human rights abuses. The role of media practitioners and the tensions caused by conflicting demands of ownership, control and agenda-setting in this period of political turbulence are also examined. "Pluralist", "hegemonic", "gatekeeper" and "propaganda" models of the "Western liberal democratic"\ud media are reviewed and tested in an attempt to refine theory in the context of empirical evidence.\ud \ud The claims for the Philippine media's role in the country's democratisation are finally assessed. The "freest press in Asia" is reevaluated in relation to the economic and political interests it serves within the country's\ud polity. The thesis argues that in particular circumstances -notably those of regime crisis - "spaces" may be created in the media through political contestation and mobilisation. Marginalised voices and agendas may then be heard in the "public sphere", though with difficulty. These articulations are, however, relatively temporary and insecure, and encounter many obstacles from the powerful vested media interests of elite actors and agencies. The thesis questions, moreover, to what extent elites actually act upon these marginalised agendas, even when they can be articulated, in a "developing country" like the Philippines.\ud The media are ultimately never independent of the elites who control them economically and politically: their potential role in democratisation is severely constrained by powerful social forces within the Third World state which seek to manipulate them for narrow class interests

Publisher: School of Media and Communication (Leeds)
Year: 1996
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:733

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