Monday, June 24, 2024

Goodbye, CNN Philippines: The Message They Leave Behind

By Sarah Madison Repollo | Februarty 9, 2024

After nine years in operation, CNN Philippines shut down on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Its owner announced that the closure was due to “significant financial losses,” effectively displacing the jobs of around 300 employees. 

CNN Philippines was the country’s predominant English-language news channel, giving citizens information on global events from a localized perspective. It was launched in 2015 under a brand licensing agreement made between Turner and Nine Media Network, and throughout its broadcast, bagged awards such as the “Television Station of the Year” at the Rotary Club of Manila Journalism Awards in 2016 and the “Premier Business Best Broadcast Media Company in the Philippines” at the first Southeast Asian Premier Business and Achiever Awards just last December. 

In light of all these achievements, the sudden closure begs the question: Where did it all go wrong?

The start

During the May 2022 Philippine elections, CNN Philippines’ owner corporation Nine Media shared that the expected revenue from this major event was not met because a significant amount of the advertising budget for politicians funded social media influencers, vloggers, and content creators instead. After the pandemic, the elections were meant to be a way to bounce back income-wise, but this “did not materialize.”

Since then, CNN Philippines has only continued to have financial troubles. Nine Media implemented cost-cutting strategies like discounted airtime rates, switching to less costly satellite service providers, and halting certain service level agreements and system maintenance costs.

After taking these actions, there was a 10.35% decrease in their expenses. But even with these counter-measures in place, the whopping five-billion-peso losses for nine years could not be swept under the rug, leading to the news channel’s eventual sign-off in 2024. 

The cause

With their clear financial troubles being the main reason behind CNN PH’s closure, there is still a question as to why their income decreased in recent years.

Among other reasons, it could be attributed to the rise of social media and the subsequent dwindling of more traditional news forms. Despite many Filipinos’ continued preference for cable, online media has been on the rise and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime in the near future. In the Philippines alone, an estimated 84 million people were recorded to be social media users as of recent statistics.

The digital age has brought about a plethora of conveniences to the modern person. With just a click, news from all over the globe proves accessible to anyone on the internet. Unlike more traditional forms of media or “legacy media,” as they are dubbed, social media requires relatively less physical effort on the part of the user. There is no need to get out of bed and turn on the television, wire the radio, or purchase the morning newspaper.

Aside from the consumers, the media industry itself has realized to a certain extent the hold social media has over the world and is actively putting money into it. 

In the 2022 Philippine elections, an estimated P600 million to P1.5 billion was put aside for the funding of online political influencers who were well-involved during the campaign season. Even outside of politics, social media stars have become the face of brand promotions in lieu of typical high-budget TV advertisements. This is because of the “trust factor” that influencers bear stemming from their relatability and seemingly raw, unfiltered opinions that contrast the scripted dialogue commonplace in ads. 

The effects

This rising reliance on social media influencers and the internet for news updates has made way for the “fake news” phenomenon. With countless people and sources present on the internet, all sorts of information can be spread without proper regulations.

In 2021, Manila saw the effects of misinformation spread online through overcrowding at four different vaccination sites. Because of a rumor that entailed imprisonment as punishment for unvaccinated individuals, there were almost 10,000 people at SM San Lazaro in Sta. Cruz, 5,000 at SM Manila near the City Hall, 3,000 at the Lucky Chinatown in Binondo, and over 4,000 at Robinsons Manila in Ermita—the droves of people could have very well led to stampedes, and it ended up showing Filipinos just how fake news could inconvenience or even hurt real people beyond the screen. 

Although certain laws have been put in place to prevent the spread of misinformation, it is generally less complicated to distribute fake news online than through traditional media. In effect, a simple post could string up an elaborate lie.

Irene Khan, UN’s special rapporteur, commented on the closure of CNN PH, stating that “Even though the decision may have been commercial, a lot of factors are coming in now that will deprive people of a valid information source.”

With the death of this major news platform, journalists and normal citizens alike have been forced to come face-to-face with the loss of reliable news sources in the face of the digital age—it remains murky as to whether or not CNN PH would be the last to go. 

The solution

With more and more money being pumped into social media and its influencers, it’s evident that journalism and information dissemination as we know it is shifting form. 

As the internet has taken over, a severe lack of regulation on information spread urges citizens to be wary of what they see online. As of the present, self-regulation is the one of the most ideal solutions to the influx of fake news. In addition to fact-checking, holding the people behind misinformation accountable and subscribing to reliable news sources is vital. 

With the shutdown of CNN Philippines, a new era of the internet as the country’s, and by extension, the world’s main news platform has been ushered in—one reliant on adaptation and innovation of media to survive the changing times. Instead of an impending death sentence, CNN PH’s closure is a message to news organizations that they should see the new era as a challenge—and an opportunity—to breathe new life into an industry at risk of declining.

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