THE sharp decline of the public trust in media based on the findings of the 2019 Philippine Trust Index survey is not surprising but something to be concerned of, not only by those in the profession but also by the public.
Media is essential in a democracy. There is no democracy where and when media is not free.
Media strengthens democracy by informing the people of what is happening as truthfully as it can be ascertained. In doing so, the people can hold accountable the officials for all their actions and decisions.
Media plays a vital role in making democracy truly a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
That’s why it is important that media is trusted by the people. Trust, being the attribute of being believed to be good, honest and can be depended on.
The PTI survey, conducted by the EON Group every two years nationwide, looks into levels and drivers of trust among Filipinos on six institutions – the Government, the Business Sector, the Media, Non-Governmental Organizations, the Church and the Academe.
The result of the survey conducted from March to April 2019, before the May 2019 elections, saw trust in all the six institutions declining, with Media and NGO sustaining the biggest drop, 22 points for the NG0 from 59 percent to 37 percent and media, nine points from 78 percent to 69 percent.
It would be interesting to find out the reasons for the decline on the trust on NGOs, an important institution in a country like the Philippines, where government presence is not felt in many parts of the country.
On media, PTI’s survey showed that the two major reasons cited for the decline of trust is the competence of journalists and the quality of reporting.
The third reason where media is failing is, “Reports only the Truth.” In this time of fake news, it is understandable that the public is unsure if what they read or hear from news outlets is really the truth. There is also the issue of bias.
The biggest drop is on the issue of integrity. On the quality of “Cannot be bribed,” it dropped to 59 percent this year from 74 percent in 2017.
The perception is not exactly false.
One heartening finding of the EON survey is that “Traditional media such as newspapers and radio still remain as the main sources of information.”
The PTI’s online component, where the researchers monitor online conversations, covered a longer period – June 2018 to March 2019. Distrust of media is high, 62 percent.
“In colloquial conversations, terms such as ‘biased media’ and ‘fake news’ have become buzzwords – further reinforcing the prevailing theme that many users believe today’s media is allegedly influenced by political leanings,” the study said.
This is a wake-up call for media to shape up or be rendered irrelevant.
EON had five competent panelists to discuss the survey: Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan, political analyst Richard Heydarian, businesswoman Pacita Juan, Jess Lorenzo, executive director of SEAOIL Foundation, and Ramon Cualoping III, assistant secretary, Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Cualoping sports the title of “Chief Brand Integrator.”
I had to rush back to the office for a meeting so I was not able to wait for the open forum and ask this question to Cualoping: “Your title ‘Chief Brand Integrator’ sounds like someone selling a product – soap, soft drinks, a cellphone, a fashion line – that is being commercially marketed. As ‘Chief Brand Integrator’ in the PCOO, what brand are you promoting: The Republic of the Philippines or President Duterte? Has the PCOO reduced the Office of the President to a brand, just like selling soap?