The shutdown of CNN Philippines highlights the business interest behind newsrooms and implies the importance of writing stories that make money, the chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said on Saturday, Feb. 3.
NUJP chief Jonathan de Santos said that newsrooms in the country are affected by business interests, not just in CNN Philippines, and thus affect the quality of journalism as it prioritizes stories that will gain high engagement from its readers.
“You do [not] go into journalism to make money. The fact that there are monumental losses parang expected kasi ‘yon. When you do the news, it’s public service, mas ganon yung orientation mo dapat,” de Santos told TomasinoWeb.
He added that the closure “speaks a little bit” about how the owners give value to the freedom of the press.
The station confirmed on Monday, Jan. 29, that the Philippine franchise of CNN is shutting down after almost nine years on the country’s airwaves.
Two days after the confirmation, on Thursday night, Jan. 31, the media organization's website and social media platforms are no longer available— including almost a decade's work by journalists.
Meanwhile, Mikaella Veraces, a journalism sophomore at the University, said that removing such work is disturbing in this time of disinformation.
“Kailangan natin ng various information na hindi centered towards a lone perspective made by a single entity. Malaking kabawasan po sa recorded information ang pagkawala ng mga work nila,” she added.
Veraces added that journalistic work is not just simply writing but instead goes through an in-depth process that needs the heart and brain for writing. She said, “sayang.”
CNN Philippines first aired on the country’s airwaves in 2015 using the frequency of RPN-9.
CNN PH finances
The media organization’s president, Benjamin Ramos, said that the organization ceased operations due to financial losses.
GMA News Online reported on Jan. 28 that Nine Media Corporation (NMC) — the company that operates CNN Philippines, suffered a P239.7 million net loss in 2022.
NMC’s revenue in 2022 rose to P407.3 million. However, it is still not on par with the cost of running the business of P514.88 million in the same year.
In 2021, Nine Media’s cost of services amounted to P482.7 million and only earned P389.3 million.
Furthermore, it is also reported that the company accumulated a total of P5 billion in losses.
In a statement, CNN Philippines said they are thankful for having the privilege of telling the stories of the Filipinos.
“We are forever grateful for the stories we’ve shared, the audience we’ve served, and to our dedicated team for their commitment to uphold the values of truth, accuracy, fairness, and accountability,” the television network shared in their social media accounts.
Keeping the newsroom alive
With years of experience in the newsroom, de Santos said that most editorial decisions favor business interests. He said, “Sometimes, you can't write objectively about a subject.”
The NUJP chairperson explained that such decisions are not mainly because of the media organization owner but also because of advertisers that might pull out from the company.
“Kunyari may isang fast food joint na advertiser sa dyaryo mo, sometimes they can exert pressure for you to not report (an issue) about it,” he said.
He added that some newsroom editors will still pursue the story but opt not to identify the advertiser involved to maintain goodwill.
“You saved your relationship with your advertiser, that means, probably [maglalagay] sila ng ad sayo ulit. But that also means sinacrifice mo yung giving accurate information for these ads, so parang, it’s still a disservice to your audience,” de Santos continued.
In addition, these also lead to giving less priority to the communities affected by certain policies, according to the NUJP president.
Meanwhile, NMC inked a deal with TV5 and MediaQuest Holdings a week after the CNN shutdown and launched RPTV, in replacement to CNN Philippines.
Continuing the service
To future journalists, de Santos is hopeful that people will still choose the profession.
He said that there is a negotiation between journalists and their audience because of the distrust in the news.
In 2023, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reported that the overall trust score of Filipinos on news only sits at 38 percent.
“Ayokong sabihin na you should still go into journalism kahit magulo siya, ang masasabi ko lang, we’re trying our best to make it a better environment for our future journalists,” he said.
“Sana tumuloy pa rin kayo,” de Santos said.
NUJP was founded in 1986 to advocate for the interests of Filipinos working in the media industry.