Saturday, February 9, 2008

Gov't news entities survive on old systems

News media organizations are in mad scramble to gain foothold of their readers or subscribers in an effort to generate the much-needed revenues to defray corporate overhead and other miscellaneous expenses. Of the tri-media groups, the broadcast industry is the most expensive, considering the hi-tech equipment and modern facilities that it has to maintain in order to compete in the globalized media.

Along this line, the print media is also gearing up to be at par with what the broadcast media is doing in so far as methods, strategies and modern equipment are concerned. Otherwise, there is no use being in the market if the facilities and equipment used to transmit news feeds are not updated to keep track with the latest news developments that are taking place in far-flung places. It is understandable that cellphones with cameras, for example, play a great deal in relaying news and photos to the editorial desks once a newsbreaking development had taken place. All the reporter has to do is call the editorial office at once and dictate the news to the editors manning the editorial desk. But the problem begins when the cellphone that a reporter uses is not available on a tri-band mode because there is no way that he could get through the editorial desk which he wanted to connect.

This is one of the major dilemmas that some media organizations face these days. For private news organizations, upgrading their facilities and equipment is not a problem at all. All the management has to do is to call a board meeting and discuss the telecommunications problems at hand and resolve it through any means. But if mediamen are working in a government news media organization, the usual problems that staff reporters or editors encounter is bureaucracy and too much politics inside the news organization concerned.Instead of solving the problems, media bosses are sometime enmeshed in a turf battle as who should make the proper decisions on what? And that approval of certain matters will have first to get the nod of the so-and-so boss before anything could be ironed out.

For example, there is a government newswires agency which is under the Office of the Press Secretary, whose editorial and reportorial staff are good in so far as media practice is concerned. But their efforts to keep the newswires agency at par with other foreign newswires agencies operating in the Philippines has become next to impossible. Why? Because its media operations are stymied by the existence of unwanted politics inside. And the problem is made worse by the loss of morale among the staff due to petty bickerings, lack of leadership, low salary, favoritism and the absence of further trainings that would upgrade the editorial skills of the staff concerned. Until now, the said newswires agency is using the same old computers that the government acquired many years ago, except for a couple of computers whose software systems have been upgraded already. Another funny thing about this agency is that its reporters do not have transportation allowances, when they are sent outside to cover important events as these are already infused in their monthly salaries. Loads for government-issued cellphones have to be shouldered by the reporters themselves just to make the most out their efforts in the fields. If the staff reporters are not resourceful, there is no way that he can get news but to rely on the Internet service available at designated press offices in the beats.

Despite these problems, many of the reporters stick to their present jobs. To them, these jobs are their bread-and-butter because they are assured of fixed monthly salary, rain or shine. Unlike working in the private media organizations, working in a government news or broadcast agency provides security of tenure. Of course, there are instances when some reporters are dispatched to cover events abroad, but this seldom happens. If there are, only a handfuls are sent, depending on the wishes of the top officials who have the final say on these matters.

To correct some of these problems, may be there is now a strong need to review some of the options as to whether the functions of these government media organizations are still conducive under the present political and economic conditions. Restricting the potentials of a certain news organization to gather enough momentum to modernize their facilities and systems cannot be done at this time due to established mechanisms that continue to bind them to the government's bureaucracy.

Perhaps, the possibility of transforming some of these media entities into government-controlled corporations may not be harsh enough to call for a thorough review on the matter, rather than leave the issue at it is without doing anything at all. After all, it is the staff who suffer the most and the system's efficiency is exposed to risks. It won't take a dime if some of the government officials can once and for all, discuss this important matter for a change.

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