Last Sunday, there was an article in the Philippine Star’s Lifestyle section about fixing up Metro Manila. The author, a well-traveled sort, presented ten changes he would like to implement to make the city better, as compared to foreign locales. While I agreed with many of his points, such as cleaning the waterways and lessening the excessive number of PUVs, I raised my eyebrow at one of his appeals, namely, shifting local FM radio to a Filipino-based OPM-centric format. Though the local media should do its best to “project the city and its people more realistically and with more dynamism” and “feed the cultural soul of its citizens”, does changing the local radio format actually effect a positive contribution to those goals? Should Filipino be seen as the ideal medium of communication in local radio?
Of course, one factor that must be discussed is the widespread criticism on the currently popular Filipino-based radio format. The incessant tag-lines, the awful music, and the tired jokes that currently pervade radio formats in Filipino are all warning signs that making Filipino the required medium in radio may not be all well and good. After all, hearing that love radio theme song is not a pleasant experience, especially when it is battered into one’s head over and over and over again by repetitive play. All (almost?) radio stations that are delivered in Filipino fall under the “masa”, Love Radio-styled format that can be considered annoying and unintelligent. While it does cater to a large demographic, it does so while also festering a lack of sophistication in a considerable portion its listeners. How many times have you cringed in hearing somebody imitating those idiotic slogans that masa stations use? Of course many also have the sense to not try emulating the radio jocks on air, but just as many will propagate that drivel without much (or any) thought. One amusing story I recall a priest telling in our grade school graduation mass was about a woman how got pregnant after listening to a radio station’s slogan “Just do it!”, and called the station to air her story. Though I cannot really prove the veracity of the tale, I can see the tale as plausible, quite sadly enough, especially when I consider all of the green jokes and other forms of sexual innuendo that get aired on these masa stations that dominate the airwaves, compounded by some people’s sheer gullibility. When reviewing that author’s goal of improving Metro Manila, I really cannot say that the current Filipino-based radio format would be conducive to positively projecting the city or feeding our cultural soul. Rather, I see it revealing something that we should be ashamed of, a country that is unappealingly fertile population-wise, full of unrefined people without the critical thinking to discern things heard on the radio. Is that realistic enough?
Another subject worth discussing is the use of English in local radio. A main criticism of the Star author is the use of the US format in a country that wishes to stress its independence and global viability after being colonized by the same country. This is also the country that stresses our increasing performance against the dollar as progress while not mentioning that the US economy that is collapsing and that the dollar’s value is dropping globally. That aside, the author also criticizes local jockeys for “trying to hard to sound like their LA counterparts”. While some jockeys may find difficulty in speaking English, the best ones can always do so well, and can provide insightful comments while doing so. One must also remember that the LA Radio format is emulated because it is a format that can provide educated opinions and information as well as decent music, which is better than you can say for other stations. The use of English can also draw in and keep listeners, as they are probably comfortable with it, with music stations on TV making use of English in their delivery as well. An issue with the use of English though, is its tendency to float over locals who don’t know the language. Of course, many natives can’t speak Filipino either, but then that is really a socio-political issue. Mostly though, the main strength of the English format in local radio is that the stations rarely put out a bad product with the use of the language in the delivery. With many respected benchmarks and formats to emulate, stations have little difficulty in not screwing up as the English format usually results in a bearable listen at the very least, as they are innately less annoying than what Filipino-based stations have devolved to.
Now, are English-based radio formats just plain better than their Filipino-based counterparts? Not really. In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the use of Filipino in radio. The problem is that radio stations for some reason cater Filipino-based formats to the lowest possible demographic. On the other hand, most of the English-based radio stations cater to the upper class. Is that racist? No, but it should be noted. Filipino is far from an “unintelligent” language, though the language’s music-oriented vocabulary may be a little limited (as is its general technical vocabulary in general). However, radio stations seem to believe that what Filipino-speaking people want are green jokes and endless uninspired cover songs. Is that what they want? Maybe, but it’s not like the media didn’t have a hand in telling them what they want either. An educated, informative, Filipino-based radio station is very possible. A good, if limited in scope, example would be NU107’s Sunday segment RockED radio. There are certainly enough fluent speakers of the language, and if a station will allow jocks to display at least some sort of intelligence on air, we could hear Filipino be used better than just a medium for crass humor and marketing tag lines. In the end after all, language, whether it be Filipino, English, or Slovak, is just a medium, and it is content that is king. Of course, Filipino is the language with the widest reach here in the Philippines. Filipino can be a very viable medium of communication in radio. Most people understand it, and its use can help humanize a visual-less format. The language can help serve intelligent communication to the masses, though it will have to be utilized correctly for that to happen.
Although it might be because of the ideas recently implanted by education, I have come to believe that the Filipino language can be effective for the country, local radio included. But as I have mentioned, it is still content that matters. One of the big reasons why radio is down is because many have been turned off by the inane content that masa stations put on the air, and the stigma of such stations hopefully won’t doom the Filipino language as one that is dumbed-down and/or unintelligent. Our national language doesn’t deserve that. And that’s coming from someone who has been struggling with the subject since grade school. The Filipino language can most definitely be used in a solid, pleasing format for radio, just not in the way it is being utilized right now.
As for Filipino music in radio? That’s next.