Philippines Mass Media Law and Foreign Ownership Rules

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The total prohibition against foreign ownership of Philippine mass media exemplifies a broader polemic on nationalism - as a legitimate priority for constitutional protection, as opposed to being an appealing mass strategy for political rhetoric. Within this theoretical setting, I propose a differentiated analysis of the issue of foreign ownership prohibition in mass media. I draw three (3) brief lines of critique against the total prohibition of foreign ownership of Philippine mass media. First, I dispute the traditional "public interest" justification for barring any form of foreign ownership in mass media in the Philippines, showing that the fear of "foreign influence" over media content is dependent on an asserted political truth that is in no way self-evident, much less materially relevant from apparently (and already) "internationalized" Philippine media practices. Second, I question the implicit assumption that foreign ownership restrictions improve economic growth through wholly-owned Filipino companies, showing that there is no strict causal nexus between total exclusion of foreign ownership and the improvement of shareholder value of Philippine mass media companies. In fact, as many empirical studies affirm, at least some degree of foreign ownership, even in media sectors, has tended to improve domestic economic growth in developing countries, through the infusion of necessary capital and the dismantling of monopolistic structures.

Third, and most crucially, I argue that the constitutionalization of the complete prohibition against foreign ownership merely creates a convenient ideological cover that locks in specific and entrenched oligarchic interests which have long since dominated Philippine mass media. Instead of being a significant constitutional policy, "nationalism" acquires disutility through its reduction to mere inflammatory political rhetoric, as in the case of the foreign ownership prohibition in mass media. The latter not only stifles...
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