Mass Media and Economic Development
Mass media has always been one of the pillars of modern society. With its wide range and base, it is indubitably, the most effective and efficient way of mass information dissemination. Yet, instead of mass media being a primary tool for education, it is mostly being used as a medium for entertainment; to show bland, superficial products with little, or no educational value. So, attempting to connect mass media with economic development would seem as disjoint as climate change and my inability to make good analogies. Surprisingly, this is what the last speaker, from 'The Public Sphere' talked about. The forum cites economic literacy as the main contribution that mass media can make to economic development. Defining economic literacy as 'the ability to identify, analyze and evaluate the consequences of individual decisions and public policy,' the speaker, Mr. Omar Dumdum of NEDA, goes in to explain the ineffectiveness of economic education in secondary school; therefore, mass media should take the primary responsibility of promulgating economic literacy, to promote economic development. This can be done, according to Mr. Dumdum, through better economic news writing and reporting, making economic news understandable for the general population, and information dissemination campaigns. There will be some difficulties encountered, of course, as Economics is wrought with technical terms that cannot be easily simplified, but, if information campaigns are done in tandem with better reporting, results can be achieved. Personally, I do think it is possible and feasible. Being someone who believes in the power of mass media to reform society, I think mass media could enhance the net economic literacy of the Philippines, which would, hopefully, increase Filipino participation in crucial economic activities, resulting in inclusive economic development. But of course, mass media has internal flaws that prevent this from happening. For one, it bears the inability to make economic news/information exciting, or even understandable. If not for my privileged secondary and tertiary education, I would not know anything about our country's economic status, as I regularly skip the Business section of the papers, because it is simply boring. Economic reporting tends to be too technical, or elitist, so much so, that for the average Filipino citizen believes that the economic opinion of his/her neighborhood barber is more valid and believable compared to the TV guy in a suit. I am not dismissing the opinion of Manong Barber as incorrect or irrelevant (he might be an economist, who knows), but this points out the preference of Filipinos to opinion-based economic information, over rigorous, empirical economic reporting. And, so I have mentioned, we Filipinos are not entirely at fault. We cannot be blamed for giving more importance to comprehensible information than jargonic 'gibberish.' Also considering the fact that public opinion greatly influences economic policies in our country (i.e. sin tax bill), this, all the more makes the media's role in promoting economic development crucial. I do agree with Mr. Dumdum's proposed approach of information campaigns being conducted simultaneously with better news reporting, because better enws reporting alone would not fulfill the expected impact of mass media in the economic literacy of our society. In conclusion, I think that the mass media, is indeed, an important element in aiding the development of a Philippines as a globally competitive economy. It is not enough, however to merely educate people about the Economics and the economic condition of our country at present. Public policies, political will, exhaustive analyses and correct decisions are also parts of the solution to the enigma that is Philippine development. And, in these, mass media can only contribute so much; mass media cannot improve the Philippine economy alone.