ABS-CBN cannot invoke freedom of speech to secure franchise

"The right of the individual is far different from the rights of corporations."



As usual, ABS-CBN and its horde of patrons are raising the defense based on that worn-out libertarian precept of freedom of speech and of expression. They take that political tenet as immutable, and not subject to political persuasion or influence. They insist that such is enshrined in our Bill of Rights. Section 4, Article III of the Constitution provides, to quote: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or the press, or rights of the people to peaceable assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.” The owners of ABS-CBN in their battle to stave-off the non-renewal of their franchise, claim that this would result in curtailing their right to exercise freedom of speech and of expression to weaken the very foundation of our so-called democratic institution.

Taking this particular issue of freedom as their primordial defense, one could not help but mention that this particular industry, commonly known as mass media, is owned and operated by a rather notorious oligarch that one cannot exactly see as a model for society to imbibe. One must note that the owners of ABS-CBN is not fighting for their rights, as individuals fighting for their rights, but one seeking to secure an extension of their rights through a franchise to operate. They are fighting for their propriety right as owners and/or stockholders of a behemoth corporation. The right of the individual which is wholly circumscribed to the rights of the citizens enumerated in the Bill of Rights is far different from the rights of corporations seeking a franchise to operate.

The right of an industry like ABS-CBN is definitely not the same as the right of an individual seeking to protect his liberty, viz. his very existence. ABS-CBN is seeking to extend its freedom over and above the rights of the individual. ABS-CBN being engaged in mass media accords it the privilege to broadcast news and disseminate information and opinion with the end goal of influencing public policy and worse, in promoting and even undermining the credibility of the governments that refuses to give in to its demand for extra accommodation.

This means that the exercise of freedom using the instrumentalities and facilities of modern mass media to reach millions of listeners and viewers to far-flung areas of the archipelago is totally different from the exercise of the individual demanding freedom of speech, of the press and expression.

It is this delineation between the rights of the individual and that of a corporation why the rights of the individual is embedded in the Constitution as Bill of Right while the rights of the corporation, circumscribed to protecting public interest, are limited and prescribed to its franchise. They can never be the same because owners of corporations have enormous capital while individuals only have their sweat and their labor to be heard. The focus of the individual liberty is circumscribed to their freedom of speech and of expression which is basic to his existence as human being. Meanwhile, a corporation is anchored on their proprietary rights to disseminate news and information to the masses. The consequence of their exercise of that privilege is to reduce the individual taken as public to mere listeners, digesting views fed unto them by the factory known as mass media. Often they equate their opinion as the view of the majority of the people and not of the stockholders.

Mass media in layman’s language is a specialized venue to allow corporations to extend their freedom of speech, of the press and of expression which we all know is further specialized to different fields such as broadcasting, television and print media.

A deeper circumspection of ABS-CBN, which is the leading in the industry, would clearly indicate they are not exercising their freedom, but are doing the work to mould and influence the public to accept the views of the corporation rooted on their interest as owners. There is no way for the general public can rebut or object what they are saying.

In fact, allowing one’s view to be published, aired, or shown on television is like a gift from God because their pre-examination of its contents is not considered by them as censorship but a prerogative by their editor or management. The franchisee as owners think it has every right to censor and or reject any view opposing or dissenting that of the management. The public is thus reduced to mere audience accepting every conceivable trash dished out by demagogues as thought lifted from the Holy Scripture. The unwary public can only swallow hook, and sinker lies, propaganda, or disinformation, and the government is often placed on the defensive for the fact that owners of the franchise easily hide behind the curtain of freedom of speech, of the press and of expression to confuse the general public.

(To be continued)

Topics: ABS-CBN , Bill of Rights , Constitution as Bill of Right , Holy Scripture
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