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Theory: media pluralism as key for democratic societies

Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power.

Generally, you can distinguish internal media pluralism which refers to how social and political diversity are reflected in media content (e.g. representation of different cultural groups, diverse political or ideological opinions). External media pluralism, on the other hand, covers the number and structure of owners also known as the “plurality” of suppliers.

Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration – the opposite of media pluralism:

  • when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration);
  • when media content is uniform and focused only on specific topics, people, ideas and opinions (media content concentration);
  • when the audience only reads, watches and listens to certain media outlets (media audience concentration).

Goal: creating media ownership transparency

Notwithstanding that media pluralism encompasses many dimensions and faces as many risks, the MOM focuses on external pluralism, and more precisely on media ownership concentration as a potential threat to media pluralism.

The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they do not know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they do not know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they do not know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?

MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?”

  • by informing about the owner of the most important media outlets of the different types of media (television, radio, internet, print) and their affiliations;
  • by analyzing the potential influence on the public opinion-forming process based on audience concentration;
  • by shedding light on the regulation of media ownership and concentration, as well as implementation of regulatory safeguards.

Means: data collection and fieldwork

In updating the Philippine Media Ownership Monitoring, two sources of audience and news consumption data were used for the research: The Nielsen Media Landscape Report for Q2 2023 and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism 2023 Digital News Report Philippines.

The report procured from multinational media and audience research company, Nielsen, provided data on television and radio audience reach, and measures of consumer access and preference for print and online news brands. 

Television audience viewing levels were measured through electronic monitoring devices that gather information on the estimated number of individuals tuned in to a television station from 6:00 AM to 12:00 MN. 

Radio listenership for AM and FM radio stations was measured by gathering respondents’ listening logs every day for seven days every month.

Consumer engagement for print and online news brands in the Philippines was measured through a survey that gathers claimed media consumption habits and usage among respondents in urban Philippines. 

For print, this deviates from the usual readership measure in terms of paper circulation. 

As a result, one tabloid that ceased circulation in 2021, still appeared in the report.

Regional dailies also emerged as having national urban readership, as these "papers" are accessible nationwide (and even internationally) online via social media and digital portals.

The research team has taken the audience perspective that regarded these outlets as “national” "print" media instead of online. This consumer point of view saw these brands in terms of content and not in terms of format or technology.

Nielsen data revealed that print readership in the country on a national level for broadsheets is at 7.12 percent and 4.19 percent for tabloids. These percentages were measured for 10,067 respondents in a given quarter. The percentage of readership for every major island, Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and for main urban areas Metro Manila, Mega Manila, Cebu, and Davao were also measured. Readership per print outlet in specific areas was measured in reference to these percentages. 

Mega Manila is a significant area for audience measurement for media outlets and communication research firms. The area comprises Metro Manila or the National Capital Region and nearby provinces namely: Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal. Taken together, Mega Manila's population based on 2021 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority is 53.15 million - close to half of the country's population which currently stands at over 110 million.

Metro Manila's population is more than 13 million. In Mindanao, the City of Davao alone has over 1 million population, while the province of Cebu in Visayas has over 3 million people.

MOM 2023 also used data from the 2023 Digital News Report Philippines by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The annual report covering over 40 markets worldwide measures news consumption trends. 

Data on top offline and online news sources in the Philippines through an online questionnaire sent out to respondents from the end of January to the beginning of February 2023 were obtained. Offline news sources included television, radio, and print media ranked according to self-reported engagement with the news brand.   

Using the numbers from Nielsen and Reuters, a ranking of top-performing media outlets per media type emerged.

Instrument: MOM-user guide

The data collection is conducted following a detailed User Guide, covering following sections:

  • Section A “Context” provides a first look into the media market and flanking conditions, such as the regulatory framework related to ownership issues, country information and media-specific data. This section allows to better understand the findings of the following sections and to contextualize estimated risks for media plurality.
  • In Section B “Media Market”, the types of media that are relevant for opinion-formation are agreed upon on the basis of the audience reach. At most 10 media outlets per media type - TV, radio, print and Internet – are selected.
  • In Section C “Ownership”, owner/ shareholder/ people with influence on the most relevant media are researched. Key media companies are defined economically (related to their revenue) and investigated concerning their ownership characteristics.
  • Section D “Indicators” explains the indicators which allow calculating an index for the risks to media pluralism caused by a certain level of media ownership control.

The User Guide is developed on the basis of already existing media ownership and media pluralism research. The indicators are inspired by and harmonized with the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence).

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