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The Influence of Religion on the Media Landscape in the Philippines

Religion remains an influence in Philippine media. Given how fierce the competition among media outlets in the Philippines, it is a testament to the strong influence of religion that several companies affiliated with a religious group or sect operating a television or radio station, would land among the top-ranked in audience share.

As in 2016, the Catholic Church, the tight-knit religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo, and the Christian church Jesus Is Lord retained or even gained viewers and listeners via their media outlets across different platforms - television, radio, and online. 

How they have been able to maintain significant audience share can be related to the level of  influence they have among their flock. 

Iglesia ni Cristo, with a membership of 2.8 million in the Philippines alone, and hundreds of thousands more across six continents around the world, broadcasts not only nationwide via television and radio, but also through cable, satellite and the Internet.

Jesus is Lord has two television stations: one a commercial network (A2Z), the other devoted to religious programming (Light TV). Unlike the INC, which imposes rigid standards on its members, JIL is more liberal in terms of tending to its congregation. 

With 78.8% of the predominantly Christian population Roman Catholics, the church-backed DZRV 846 radio station that played a historic role during the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution still managed to land among the top 5 most-listened-to stations in the country.

There are smaller Christian denominations with their own media companies which also had a fair share of following, based on Nielsen’s Consumer & Media View for the second quarter of 2023.  

Except for Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva, founder of the JIL church whose name appears as owner of ZOE Broadcasting Network through various Jesus Is Lord foundations, ownership of other church-affiliated media entities does not rest on any one person or family.

Radyo Veritas, owned by Radio Veritas Global Broadcasting System, Inc., lists the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila as its parent company. By virtue of his position, Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Jr. is listed as the majority shareholder of the broadcast company. The position is appointed by the Pope and is not permanent. 

Iglesia ni Cristo, founded by Felix Y. Manalo, is the ultimate owner of Eagle Broadcasting Corporation, which owns and operates the TV channel Net25 and radio station Radyo Agila. As present executive minister, Eduardo V. Manalo, grandson of Felix, is the church figurehead but is not listed as an owner. 

Far East Broadcasting Company (Philippines) Incorporated, is a non-profit, non-commercial Christian network of radio stations and owner of 702 DZAS. The station was put up by American missionaries, and is run by a Board of Trustees composed of church leaders.     

Even the most controversial media outlet to have emerged in the last several years, SMNI News Channel, associated with televangelist Apollo C. Quiboloy of the Davao City-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJOC), has a muddled ownership on paper. 

The parent company of Swara Sug Media Corporation (SSMC), owner of the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), on legal documents, is the Executive Pastor of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name, Inc. 

Quiboloy, the self-proclaimed “appointed son of God” has always been referred to in public as the executive pastor of KJOC, and remains so, as stated in the church’s website, despite recent denials by the SSMC legal counsel that the infamous pastor has ever been a company shareholder or officer of the board. 

With the power of their influence, amplified through patronage of their media outlets, religious groups will continue to be a force in media regardless of who owns and controls these companies.

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