Equal media access

April 10, 2019

Democracy is about opportunity, not success.

It is opening doors to everybody but not promising acceptance or admission.

Ideally, democracy offers a level playing field for all those who want to join the game.

But life and the world, as we know them, are not fair.

Quite unfortunately some players do not stick to the rules.

And since a few of them have enormous capacity to play the political game, those who have less resources are consigned to the margins.

Consider candidate’s access to media.

And so Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III is seeking to amend Section 6 of the Fair Elections Act to ensure equitable media access for all electoral candidates and political parties.

"Senate Bill No. 1991 intends to put all electoral candidates on equal footing by amending Section 6 of said law," Pimentel, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, said.

"Instead of promoting fair elections as originally intended by the Fair Elections Act, the present rules on airtime limits tilted the political balance in favor of candidates who can afford to purchase more airtime on television and radio as opposed to the financially challenged but qualified candidates," Pimentel said.

According to Pimentel, Section 6 of RA 9006 originally states that each candidate or political party for a nationally elective office is entitled to not more than 120 minutes of television advertisements and 180 minutes of radio advertisements.

Locally elected officials and political parties, meanwhile, are entitled to not more than 60 minutes each of television advertisements, and 90 minutes of radio advertisements, whether by purchase or donation.

Senate Bill No. 1991, or the Equitable Media Access for Electoral Candidates Act, amends Section 6 by stating that each national candidate or political party would now be entitled to not more than an aggregate of 120 minutes of television advertisements and an aggregate of 180 minutes of radio advertisement in all radio stations whether by purchase or donation.

Local candidates and political parties would also be entitled to not more than an aggregate of 60 minutes of television advertisements and 90 minutes of radio advertisements.

Pimentel's amendment further states that whenever two or more candidates or political parties are mentioned or played together in an election advertisement, the length of their appearance will be deducted from their individual airtime limits.

"By clearly defining limits on a candidate's time in broadcast media, all those who are aspiring for an elective post will be given equitable access to use broadcast media for their campaign platforms," Pimentel said.