Many of us recognize the critical role of information and communication in nation-building – its role in governance and as a resource in linking functions of government through continuing engagement with sectors, increasing people’s capacities to understand, negotiate and take part in decision-making.
The new information technologies, with their attributes of speed, interactivity, and connectivity, are facilitating such functions.
With the onset of the pandemic, information is recognized as even more crucial as government is expected to act with a greater sense of urgency. Our success in beating the deadly epidemic depends to a great extent on the delivery of timely, trustworthy, and adequate information.
This is the reason given by Communications Director Martin Andanar when he proposed the ₱1.5-billion budget for the Philippine Communications Operations Office (PCOO) for 2022 which he said would focus on communicating the nation’s recovery.
PCOO will continue to deliver the truth, and information is our best weapon against fear-mongering and public anxiety. The budget will go to building the Government Strategic Communication Academy in Bukidnon, a training hub for government officers of national and local government units which will also house the government TV and radio centers and housing facilities for personnel.
A criticism by some senators was that a large portion of the budget is allocated for personnel costs and not enough for equipment. And the office is over-staffed with many undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and general managers. It is more prudent to postpone the projects for 2023 and give priority to the COVID-19 requirements, they noted.
A thought that has the support of some sectors, and communication experts is that every country must have what is now known as the Public Service Broadcast (PSB) system, which is independently owned and run by board representing business, NGOs representing women, farmers and fisherfolk, labor, academe and educational institutions, indigenous groups, OFWs and other major stakeholders.
A possible concept is to have the initial requirements – a channel and production center, and operating budget coming from sin taxes. This will be complemented by contributions from local and international foundations, business groups, and private foundations. This enterprise shall focus on the preparation of content which is not easily available from government information units or commercial media.
While we believe in the need for government to own and operate its own communication system to serve its functions and especially during crisis times, citizens in democracies have seen the need for an alternative to government and commercial media. This is why a PSB exists in many countries of Europe, US, Canada, Australia, and some countries in Asia. In the more developed world, parliaments are asked to give priority to this concern.
We are at a crossroads. The deepening crisis can be attributed to causes that most of us already know. The search for solutions can only happen if we stop thinking that this can only come from one sector. It is a team effort that requires deep and focused reflection by our best, brightest, and most patriotic. And they need a partner – a communication system that is free, open, inclusive, independent, and credible .
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