Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free government media from bureaucracy

Government media agencies have continued to lag behind in so far as dissemination of information to the public is concerned.

Unexpectedly, they have not been doing what they are supposed to do as mandated in their assigned tasks and responsibilities. If they had, these were not commensurate to public expectations.

Currently, the Office of the Press Secretary maintains the Philippines News Agency (PNA), under the News and Information Bureau; the Philippines Information Agency (PIA), People's Television 4, Channel 9 and 13, Radio ng Bayan and so on. This is not to mention the existence of the Presidential News Desk (PND) and the Presidential Press Monitoring Division.

What is so funny about these government media entities? Well, the answer lies in the way bureaucracy is slowly creeping into the systems and tasks that they are supposed to undertake. In most instances, everything is controlled in these media agencies. All reports--both written and for broadcast purposes--have to be cleared first before they can be dispatched for public consumption.

Consequently, the officials and ordinary staff could no longer function properly and effectively. Let alone the antiquated facilities and equipment that these media agencies use at the moment. And the reason is pointed to lack of budget so that modernizing these media agencies is far-fetched from reality yet.

Multi-talented officials and employees are running these media agencies. But their grips on the rein of power are limited such that they can only do so much beyond the positive expectations of their bosses.

If there is really a big problem modernizing these government media agencies, why can't the government just allow them to become self-liquidating, rather than constrict their chance of survival and growth? All of them have remained under the direct supervision and control of the Office of the Press Secretary. Take for example the Philippines News Agency, which has been operating for more than 30 years now, yet it remains under the bureaucratic pangs of the News and Information Bureau's administrative control. In the pre-Martial Law period, then Philippines News Service (PNS) is a kind of news organization to reckon with.

I believed in the potentials of the PNA as a separate government entity, which can be operated by the board, so that it can exhaust all means to improve its image and efficiency free from the peering eyes and claws of the Office of the Press Secretary. At the moment, it can't. And one of its biggest problems is to modernize its facilities and equipment. If it is allowed to enter into an agreement with other international organizations that are willing to give it a boost, there is no doubt it can compete with other foreign newswires agencies in Asia, if not worldwide.

But from the way it looks, PNA and the rest are being used only as propaganda machinery of the government. If not, what else is there to think that it isn't? Better dissolve these media agencies, if only to save so much money for the government. At least, transforming them into government-controlled corporations will, perhaps, do the tricks. In this way, they will have the opportunity to maximize their potentials.

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