House panel uncovers PH publishing and print industry problems

There are glaring problems hounding the Philippine publishing and print industry in the country.

The House of Representatives, through the Committee on Creative Industry and Performing Arts under its chairman Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher "Toff" De Venecia, uncovered printing and publishing issues as it continued its inquiry into the state of the Philippine publishing industry and other related industries on Thursday, October 21.

The Lower House hearing, conducted through House Resolution 2137, seeks to address the issues affecting the Philippine publishing and print media industry.

Topics tackled during the hearing include marketing issues and opportunities, intellectual property issues, regulation affecting the publishing and print media industry, and concerns.

Philippine Educational Publishers Association (PEPA) president Jose Paolo Sibal talked about the textbook publishing process. Sibal cited the Philippines' low ratings in mathematics and science as well as in reading and he pointed out the low quality of self-learning modules (SLMs) which are being made by teachers and the curriculum standards that are not up to par as the root causes.

Filipino Copyright Licensing Society, Inc. (FILCOLS) executive director Alvin Buenaventura tackled the issues on royalties, remuneration, fair use, piracy, and intellectual property.

Buenaventura noted the need for a collective reprography licensing, enforcement of intellectual property laws and the abuse of fair use under the Berne Convention. He also slammed the Department of Education (DepEd) for issuing a Department Order that repeals a law protecting the rights of authors.

Meanwhile, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Eduardo Menez, one of the resource speakers during the hearing, discussed the government agency's programs to promote Philippine literature aside from providing institutional support for Filipino authors and publishers.

Menez noted the publication of Filipino books overseas, the translation of Philippine books, partnership with publishing houses, and the hosting of book launches. He also pushed for the Philippines, with the National Book Development Board (NBDB) leading the way, to participate in more book fairs and markets, giving additional funding for the translation of Philippine books in local languages, and to explore opportunities in e-book publishing.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), on its part, gave a presentation on the state of Philippine publishing and print media industry. The DTI presented the issues affecting the local publishing and print media industry such as the loss of sales in printing, dwindling print advertising revenues, copyright infringement, and the disrupted growth of community newspapers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It noted the P3.6 billion loss in revenue of the book industry and the printing industry's 53% drop in sales due to the pandemic.

The DTI also talked about the publishing and print media industry's need to pivot to the digital publishing market, audiobooks and podcasts, social media engagement and self-publishing opportunities.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), on the other hand, disclosed its national broadband program (NBP) which focuses on building digital infrastructure. It talked about its completed International Cable Landing Stations in Baler Aurora and San Fernando, La Union; ongoing implementation of the National Fiber Backbone Phase 1, and the NBP Design Phase which is already 94% complete as of August 26.

The DICT also cited its activation of 10,966 sites under its Free Wi-Fi for all Program with 9,165 sites established in public places and 1,801 sites found in state universities and colleges, and TESDA buildings. (Melvin Sarangay)