Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Limping Lumps: Characteristics of Political Broadcasts in OCM
Both our two rival political groups in Occidental Mindoro lump together “communication” and “propaganda” in their separate respective radio programs and stations. And as a result, relevant and important messages mostly fall on deaf ears if not hardly sink in and only taken for granted. The developments and the accomplishments of their bosses that they want to convey, no matter how realistic and commendable those accomplishments are, have been ineffective and irrelevant as far as educating majority of our people on political matters. I assume that the only ones who are intensely and “intelligently” following such radio programs are - though respective production people and anchors may deny it- partisan “hardliners” from both political fences, few “politically- interested” observers like me and thousands of those who just want to listen for cheap entertainment. Or a breather while in the middle of something in their homes and workplaces. This pointless political war make us limp in hardships as a people than sprint towards our common dream of political maturity.
To start with, this reflection paper focuses only on a specific means of media communication but the most potent here in our locality, the radio. This little endeavor is hoped to initiate discussions among local radio practitioners on how to generally transform our current situation from this extremely sad political reality.
We have two main radio entities in Occidental Mindoro with direct control of politicians: Two DWDO FM stations which are operated by the Provincial Government headed by Gov. Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato broadcasting from Mamburao and San Jose and another two FM stations owned by the local political leader and former congressman, former governor, now San Jose mayor Jose T. Villarosa. They also had studio and transmitter sites in the capital town of Mamburao and San Jose, the most progressive town in the province. These companies practically covered all of Occidental Mindoro and parts of MIMAROPA provinces. The biggest trouble with FM stations is that they are hardly accessible to rural areas and upland communities where majority of people who are in dire need of information resides. Where FM radio, usually electricity-operated, is very rare. The common people, the farmers, fishers and the indigenous peoples, prefer to listen to AM stations rather than FM stations because of the former’s mass appeal. If our leaders really want to empower the masses through information, why did our politicians prefer FM stations than AM? Why they targeted the few politically conscious midtown citizens and its nearby areas (which are FM followers) than the much wider but voiceless rural communities that are hungry of hearing good, apolitical news- aside from basic services such as health and livelihood- from their LGUs? But that’s another story.
How could they, in their respective ways, rightly empower the people through mass media if their PR teams fail to convey public information and communication that would stir the interest of the masses and the general public? If the only thing they could offer are same old issues and concerns and communication approaches, techniques and methods? Programs of such kind becomes senseless as far as educating the public is concerned and irrelevant due to poor selection of stories and items to be presented on air. Most of the topics that they like to discuss can right away be predicted in each episode: from irritating praises for their (political) patron /patroness to personal attacks against fellow but rival broadcasters. Not properly elaborated and discussed are the pressing concerns and burning issues that general public or the majority of the people wanted to know or ought to be informed of. Not to mention other political stunts that these self-acclaimed media people chronically employ. This is because, primarily, their patrons-principal are both guilty of lumping communication and propaganda together like what I have premised above.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels in 1931 said, “Even the most brilliant political theories will have no impact unless they are put in a form that the people can understand.” And I couldn’t argue more because nobody in his right mind wants to understand humiliating words coming from supposedly public servants such as politicians and broadcasters. But before we go further to my suggestions, let us first distinguish “communication” from “propaganda”. Communications aims to empower the audience by giving them information that they themselves can weigh and act upon. On the other hand, propaganda aims to influence, often subvert, the thinking of that audience. Their patron-principal have to decide which of these two is to be prioritized based on their objective in relating to the public. In short, “communication” here deals with two-way process of sending messages and getting feedbacks while “propaganda” is persuasive talking (or writing). Concretely, communication is what the politicians usually do in press conferences while propaganda is what they talked about onstage during political rallies and other campaign sorties.
Thus, it is annoying, if not disastrous, to put the communicator and the propagandist in one radio talk show like what we are hearing in most programs (and stations) nowadays. More so, if the hosts are in a dilemma whether if s/he going to be a communicator or a propagandist. In short, separate these two tasks and delineate these two functions. I am saying this from the point of view of apparently non-partisan listeners which compose the majority of their audience. Especially if they (the anchors or hosts) have two different or opposing intellectual standpoints on issues, other than their partisan political views, due to their different experiences before they jumped in to the job, much more great differences in beliefs and ideology. But it would be good if they adjusted themselves to such reality in gradual manner but it’s not an assurance that their listeners who are privy to their backgrounds would easily understand that. The people will just be confused between “developmental” and plain image-boosting, the kind that utilizes persuasion towards a desired political gain.
Needless to say, the communicator and the propagandist work hand-in-hand towards a common goal. Their loyalty to their patron-principal is ideally second only to their loyalty to God and country, to truth and to the citizenry. To paraphrase Goebbels, the communicator is nothing without the propagandist, but the propagandist is also nothing without the communicator. Having mentioned these, I would like to take off to my second point.
My second observation deals with their means of presentation. Both political camps are confined only to political talk shows or a public affair programs without taking into consideration the fact that majority of the listeners are already tired of talks about politics (or hearing politicians talking) and truly hates programs of this kind. This includes their target audience in far-flung communities and villages. All of their paid or sponsored programs only employ such overused broadcast type and format. I must agree that there’s nothing wrong with the talk show, but why not toy with the idea of trying a new approaches? In our modern world, stereotyping and complacency are considered mortal sins. To many, talk shows, no matter how light when presented, to common people, are overly intellectual or political thus so annoying and disinteresting. Another way of making the talk shows more interesting is to bring them in public places where the setting is similar with that of a press conference and hold it with live audience where they could participate live. By so doing, we already have a captive audience of our own. We must also conduct a sort of research or survey on what topics are closest to people’s hearts and minds in terms of immediacy and relevance. Do not just impose topics or covertly selective. We get our topics from the non-aligned listeners and not just from our avid supporters or party members. We may get it also from events unfolding right at our very eyes. Presenting a sincere and balanced news selection is what the people ask even from a politically-partisan broadcast practitioner. Every broadcaster of whatever political line is duty bound to present factual reports as informative and formative as possible.
Drama is still, no doubt, the most followed type of radio presentation in provinces like us. Advocacy spots also gained momentum lately in national media. All we need is a sustained funding, considerable amount of creativity and a great deal of hard work with our objective of minimizing the boring, non-empowering and the nearly passé talk shows we have in mind.
If the local media war is inevitable might as well humanize it, so to speak. Allow me to conclude by way of saying that we can humanize this media war by way of these simple steps (that I guarantee you are very familiar of): First, by putting into action ethical standards that I need not elaborate for they are already in the KBP Code of Ethics. Secondly, by learning not only from our patrons-principal but even perhaps from their (and our) mortal enemies and remembering that in this world, much with politics, nothing is permanent and no one is indispensible. If we lack intellectual capacity and we are too lousy when it comes to thinking capability. A good communicator or propagandist needs brain than voice, unequalled wit than brute force, credibility than ability. Without those traits, you can easily fall prey to narcissism of your patron-principal.
A principled communicator or propagandist need not to bootlick his/her patron-principal redundantly and wantonly in the entire duration of his program. Without noticing it, we in the process are giving away our own identity, principles and whole self. On the other hand, our being propagandist or communicator is not a license of going overboard. We should always be reminded of our limitations to remember that ours is distinct realm and be aware that our work is a little apart from our principal’s governance and administrative functions. As free and unique individuals, we all have the right to show a little discomfort whenever our patron-principal does something detrimental to dignity of others by, say, being folksy or to convey whatever remarks or gesture of objectivity and levelheadedness, if not moral uprightness. This is to make them feel that we have principles of our own and it’s up for us how to make our patrons-principal understand us. We maybe paid propagandists and communicators but we remain human beings and not worthless puppets. With regards to our enemy, ignoring them more often is still our best option. Shoot the message and completely ignore the messenger. Beyond this is stepping down to their level and if I may add, allowing ourselves to be treated as mere puppets.
In addition, rude remarks and bullying in whatever form is intolerable regardless where it came from and whoever uttered those. Arrogance, as I am mentioning time and again, usually defeats the purpose of awareness-raising propaganda and genuine communication. Arrogance contributes nothing in this particular learning process, in the holistic development of man and in keeping his dignity intact, no matter how demonic that man is. Somehow it would put into jeopardy all the good things we are presently doing and bound to do, especially if our bullying and arrogance became habitual that even the Revised Penal Code and Jesus’ teachings cannot control. Even the bravest knight cannot morally defend an arrogant king unless the former conspire with the latter for mutual gain or in exchange of privileges or favor. In this sense, the communicator and/or the propagandist became slave not only to his/her earthly lord but more so to Opportunism and its evils.
As communicators or propagandists, we are tasked to say what we like so long as we are forbearing. Again, avoid anything that would be vulgar, and try to remain essentially sincere to all our audience or listeners, whether they come from our side or elsewhere….
(Photo: Nazi propagandist Dr. Joseph Goebbels on a radio show in the 40s in Germany. Image from Google)