9 in 10 Filipinos value independent journalism – Reuters Institute survey
MANILA, Philippines – The latest Digital News Report revealed that 9 in 10 Filipinos value independent journalism and a majority want journalists to call out lying and misleading politicians.
The results from the 2020 Digital News Report conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism were presented by Yvonne Chua, associate professor of the University of the Philippines Diliman journalism department, in a webinar hosted by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the Philippines Communication Society on Friday, July 10.
In the Philippines, the study surveyed 2,019 adult respondents, with fieldwork dates from January 17 to February 8, before the coronavirus outbreak flared. The results are broadly representative of those online and thus tend to underrepresent traditional media habits like watching the television, listening to the radio and reading the newspaper. It also tended to reflect urban, richer, and more connected users.
Chua said that overall, 9 in 10 (92%) Filipinos consider independent journalism important. Those who believe independent journalism is extremely important and very important comprise two-thirds (65%) of the results.
Independent journalism is less important for females (62%) than males (67%), while it is less important for those who belong to Gen Z or are aged 18 to 24 than other age groups.
It is also less important for those with low educational attainment than those with higher educational achievement. Meanwhile, it is greatly important to those with high income compared to other income groups.
In terms of regions, respondents from Mindanao found independent journalism slightly less important than respondents from Luzon and Visayas. Chua also noted that those who belong to the left end of the political spectrum are most likely to consider independent journalism of great importance.
Some prefer news aligned with their beliefs
The survey also showed that 4 in 10 (42%) Filipinos want news that is not neutral. Rather, as Chua noted, they preferred news that is aligned with their views or beliefs. She added that only one-fourth (25%) of the Filipino respondents want impartial news or news from sources that have no point of view.
"[The findings are] misaligned with what journalists are trained to do, to report news without favor... This has implications because our training as journalists is to put out news that is impartial, that is neutral. But here we are, our audience telling us that they want news from sources that share their point of view," Chua said.
That the majority of the respondents consider independent journalism important but only 25% want "news from sources that have no point of view" shows a seeming contradiction, Chua noted.
"I did point out the seeming contradiction, and said it was puzzling and worth looking into. For precision, independent should not be equated to impartial. At least that's what I think," Chua told Rappler.
"The results are based on the questions presented to respondents: on the importance of independent journalism and on the preference [for] news from sources that have no particular point of view. The findings are really open to interpretation," she added.
Most of the other media markets, Chua noted, prefer news with no point of view. She said that the preference for news that tries to be neutral is strongest in countries with a "strong tradition of impartial public broadcasting," citing the BBC in UK and NHK in Japan.
Across age groups in all markets, the preference is for news without a point of view, especially for those aged 55 and above. In the Philippines, age groups of 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 prefer news that shares their point of view.
But compared to other media markets, Chua said, Filipinos are more open to news that challenge their point of view.
Those with medium educational attainment prefer partial news more compared to respondents with low and high educational attainment. Meanwhile, those with a high income prefer impartial news more in comparison with other income groups.
Across the island groups, more respondents in Luzon preferred impartial news compared to Visayas and Mindanao. More respondents in Mindanao, however, are open to news that challenges their point of view compared to the other island groups.
The study also found that those who are left-leaning prefer news that is aligned with their point of view more than those who belonged to the center and right groups of the political spectrum.
Filipinos concerned about misinformation from politicians and government
With regard to concern about misinformation online, across all markets, 56% say they worry about what is real or fake. The Philippines scored 57% or one point above average.
Respondents were also asked which sources of false and misleading information they are most concerned about online. For all markets, more people are concerned about false and misleading information from politicians and the government (40%) than the other sectors, which include activists (14%), journalists (13%), ordinary people (13%), and foreign governments (10%).
Meanwhile, 44 % of Filipinos are concerned about misinformation from politicians and government on the web; 15% said they are concerned about misinformation from ordinary people, another 15% mentioned journalists; 11% said expressed concern over misinformation from activists, and 9% mentioned foreign governments.
Looking at the age groups, respondents aged 55 and above or "boomers" are more suspicious of misinformation from journalists compared to those from other age groups.
Compared to respondents from Luzon and Visayas, respondents from Mindanao are less concerned about false and misleading information from politicians and the government. Meanwhile, those who are left-leaning are more likely to blame politicians and the government for misinformation on the internet.
Respondents with low income, those from Mindanao, and those who are at the right end of the political spectrum are more likely to blame journalists as sources of misinformation, said Chua.
As to the channels of misinformation, Filipinos are more likely (55%) to consider social media is a channel of misinformation than other markets (40%), and are less likely (16%) to consider news sites as misinformation channels compared to other markets (20%).
In addition, 47% of Filipinos are concerned about Facebook as a platform of misinformation, more than other social media platforms.
On reporting lies by the government
Respondents were also asked what the news media should do in the event that a politician makes a statement that could be false.
Across all markets, 52% answered that media should report false and misleading statements by politicians. The number was even higher in the Philippines, wherein 63% believe it is the duty of journalists to call out lying and misleading politicians, according to Chua.
Chua said that this result was consistent across all demographics, except for male respondents belonging to Gen Z, who are least likely to expect journalists to hold lying and misleading politicians to account.
Chua added that 65% of those who rely solely on television as their main source of news say media should report politicians' lies prominently, followed by 63% for those who rely on social media, then 58% for those who rely on radio, and 53% for those who rely on print media. (READ: Only 1 in 5 Filipinos would miss local newspapers 'a lot' if these go bust)
ABS-CBN franchise denial a blow to media pluralism, press freedom
In the open forum of the webinar, a comment was raised that perhaps the reason why people avoid seeking out impartial news is because of a theory that media are not neutral.
Chua responded that she believes in media pluralism. "The more voices there are, the better it is for us. But it becomes chaotic and confusing, and that's where we really need to educate people," Chua said.
The webinar was ongoing when the House committee on legislative franchises voted to reject ABS-CBN's franchise application.
"It's unfortunate that we are losing one media outlet as we speak of pluralism... If you discredit or erase one media outfit, it's one too many," said PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino. "We condemn any act of demonizing media, discrediting media, and also curtailing press freedom at all cost," he added.
Chua added that this move would have a chilling effect to all media.
"If they can do it to the biggest media conglomerate in the country, what more the smaller ones? We were just talking about pluralism in the media, the importance of a lot of voices. Nabawasan pa 'yung voice, 'yung pinakamalaki pang voice sa industriya (There is one less voice, and it was the biggest one in the industry at that). The chilling effect is unimaginable," she said. – Rappler.com