Calls for sustainable news business model mount after CNN Philippines closure

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Calls for sustainable news business model mount after CNN Philippines closure
CNN Philippines office
CNN Philippines website

MANILA, Philippines — Following the closure of CNN Philippines due to financial losses, the UP broadcast communications department has joined calls to support a more sustainable and ethical news business model that will safeguard local media’s outsized role in keeping the public informed.

UP broadcast communications faculty said in a statement on Thursday that they were “troubled” by news of CNN Philippines’ discontinuation of its operations after nearly a decade, which closely followed SKY Cable’s announcement that it will shut down cable operations next month.

“As an educational institution that produces media practitioners, we stand with our alumni and with the media industry in calling for a more sustainable and ethical business model for local media instead of the for-profit model that continues to dominate the media industry,” the department said.

While financial troubles are behind both media developments, the department stressed that the sale of Sky Cable was “in part related to the fallout of the ABS-CBN shutdown during the Duterte administration.” News channel ANC airs through Sky Cable and has announced that it will continue airing its programs even after Sky Cable signs off in February. 

Job security at risk

The broadcast communication department also raised concerns about local media practitioners’ job security amid the shutdowns, which it said echoes the shrinking job market for media jobs worldwide amid a well-documented shift in media consumption behaviors.

According to the 2023 Digital News Report by Reuters, online and social media platforms are still the primary sources of news in the country. However, those who are not online still resort to television and radio.

“Aside from job security concerns, media people also face risks of violence and harassment from an increasing number of authoritarian regimes that seem to think that media should just be a tool for propaganda,” the department pointed out.

The UP academics also highlighted the role of the Philippine government — which, under former President Rodrigo Duterte, killed ABS-CBN’s franchise — in supporting local media to fulfill their mandate of delivering news to the public.

“We also call on the government for proactive support to ensure that local media can continue to perform its functions to inform public opinion, influence cultural discourses, and debate on critical issues that concem society,” the department said.

“We need local media to drive positive change and innovation, and through stories of local communities, continue to champion the struggles and strengths of Filipinos in the country and the diaspora,” it added.

On Monday, CNN Philippines announced that it was shutting down its operations due to “serious financial losses” — a move that affects around 300 employees. 

By Wednesday night, the news organization’s website and social media channels were wiped off its contents.

Melinda de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said that the loss of CNN Philippines deprives the public of a vital source of news, one that had a stellar record of generally "being able to choose the news they want to give."

“My reaction is one of terrible dismay because it lessens the news space that we need especially as we are facing 2024, as we have been facing in recent years, a real need for citizens to know what is going on,” De Jesus told ABS-CBN News.

“Losing CNN is a little bit more darkness in terms of…how are we going to proceed? Where is journalism going to go if we’re in a small part of public exchange?” she added.

De Jesus added that there is a need to "regroup" amid financially troubling times for the media industry. "We are unable to do just that because there's so much less of us that will hold the conversation.”

Similarly, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) has called on the public to support "the practice of balanced journalism to ensure delivery of factual information” in a statement issued January 31 — the last day of CNN Philippines' operations.

“Today is a stark reminder that the search for a just and sustainable economic model for independent journalism is as much an existential threat to the media industry as press repression,” FOCAP added.

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