Film and TV Industry in the Philippines—an attempt to explain why Protectionism and bureaucracy of MTRCB does not work.

This article contains things that are not suitable for children. Parental guidance is advised.

I remember having this annual ritual with my cousin and a friend of ours during the Decembers of back when we were younger. Usually, we’d watch the local films that’re part of the film festivals. It was our own way of expressing the patriotic virtue of “supporting local products or services”.

Well, it was Christmas break. Also, there was literally no other choice because malls and cinemas are required by law to only show these movies that are part of the film festival.

I’m not sure if it’s MTRCB or whichever bureaucracy mandated this. I also don’t know how the films and producers are chosen or what are the qualifications of joining the film festival.

Usually, it would be the big companies, the “mainstream” film productions, who are part of the film fest. And it’s interesting that the directors or secretaries and other positions appointed in the MTRCB and the film festival itself are the exact same people from these big companies of mainstream film producers! Doesn’t that give a hint of cronyism?

During Willie Revillame’s appearance in front of this regulatory board for his case of making this kid dance and cry or something like that, he argued that the council was biased because, as I have said, the directors and secretaries who are appointed, were from the big companies who were Revillame’s station (TV5)’s competitors.

“Of course,” the board argued, “we are the ones who know the industry best and so who else should be appointed?”

And now we go to Indie film producers. They are those that are independent, struggling for budget, not backed by any bureaucracy or big crony corporation. They don’t get the protectionism of the mandates that only their films are to be shown on all malls; their festivals are all private and competing (a lot of contests and film fests both big and small), no cronyism (sometimes even students, amateurs, or even hobbyists are able to join and sometimes even win!).

And they are the ones that are being internationally recognized. Brilliante Mendoza won as best director in Cannes Film Festival (what a prestige!) for his film Kinatay. The awards garnered by these independent filmmakers are so many compared to the mainstream film ones that get the annual December protectionism mandate.

In Indie, the stories are better, more creative, and more original because they have the ultimate incentive to artistically compete in a global level (especially nowadays because of new media) whereas those who get protectionism have no incentive to innovate because they have been granted MONOPOLY by the government (by the appointed crony bureaucrats!). And, as basic economics will teach us, monopolies provide bad service and/or bad prices.

And they say they are not earning. They say that piracy is killing them and therefore there should be even more protectionism and more power to monopolizing bureaucracies.

And yet when you think about it, the indie filmmakers are the ones who are not earning at all! They are the ones being killed! These big crony companies whine on profit loss to justify their protectionism while indie filmmakers sometimes don’t even earn anything. And yet, once again, they are the ones earning awards worldwide.

If they want to evolve they must be willing to compete. And no, I don’t think that this is what the “masa” is demanding. That all they’ll ever watch is the generic plot of John Lloyd getting heart broken that then leads to a happy ending. This is all they are exposed to, in films and in TV. More competition will mean more innovation and more choices for people thus more perspectives on information and entertainment.

Basically there are only three main broadcasting channels and most of the others are—yes, just as you expected—government owned.

We saw how TV became more competitive when TV5 boomed and became a threat to what used to be only a duopoly in TV broadcast. What more if there were more competitors? What more if there were less red tapes and requirements to enter the market? What more if congress’s licensures aren’t given only to those who are rich and influential cronies?

And this, as we all know the power of media, can help the people evolve intellectually and become more discerning about their preferences in both information and entertainment from different media. The art of Filipino Film and TV will flourish. We wouldn’t need to dub Korean TV shows anymore. This time we will be making our own. Art will flourish if government steps back and allows for more competition.

And do we really need MTRCB to regulate people’s choices and the policies of businesses?

All SM malls for instance, don’t show anything that’s R18. This is a personal choice and not something mandated by law. Their PR team probably wants to appear wholesome and family-oriented. No need for a regulation or mandate from MTRCB. It was a private decision.

There was a time when Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds was already showing and only Robinson’s were the ones who showed them. Other companies felt that it was too violent for them. Again, this was a private decision.

Also with people (consumers), there are those that choose to watch films like Human Centipede and there are those that don’t. No need for “Big Brother” or “Nanny State” to tell them it’s a horrifying and disturbing film. Also, you don’t have to prohibit it. People choose for themselves. That’s how it should be in a free society.

But oh no! How about the violent shows on TV that children are going to watch? And the video games that will make them go on some sort of school shooting?

This is obviously a parental issue. No matter how much we waste taxpayer’s money on debating how big the “parental guidance” sign should be on TV, it’s a parental and personal issue. There are even cable companies now that offer digital boxes that have parental control options. MTRCB didn’t have to force them to do that.

Now you see how the monopolized regulation powers and protectionism mandates of the MTRCB are more harmful than good, no matter how benevolent their intentions are.

And without transparency, we don’t even know what kind of budget these bureaucracies have and how much subsidies and monopoly they are giving to their cronies!

Take NBN (government owned TV channel) as an example. Their reception is useless and no one really gets to watch them except those with cable (I know this because I have a house in Laguna with no cable). I wonder how much budget they get to shoot a bunch of pro-government TV shows. Evidently though, it’s unnecessary and wasteful expenditure and we’re already in debt. I do believe that IBC and RPN (I think solar is only renting) is also government owned? So what’s up with this spending spree on “public TV” when as I have explained, stepping back and allowing more players to enter the market is what we need for media to flourish.

I don’t really want to derive a conclusion from all of this. It’s up to you to decide. Should we abolish some of them? Should we make their spending more transparent? Should we minimize their power? Should we start thinking about streamlining bureaucracies in other industries as well? Should we start rethinking what the real goal of government should be? Is protectionism really the way to support local products and services?

What do you think?

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