Media Overview

The Philippines’ media is rowdy, vibrant, diverse and hugely profitable.

There are nearly 1,000 radio stations across the country, broadcasting on FM and Medium Wave, according to Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) - the Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines.

The KBP also lists more than 200 television stations.

There are 28 daily newspapers published in Manila. Dozens more daily and weekly newspapers are published in provincial cities.

However, the media ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few large privately owned groups. Their radio and TV stations and their newspapers command the highest audiences nationwide.

Most independent provincial broadcasters are affiliated to one of the big national radio and TV networks and relay large chunks of their programming.

The state media is very weak, partly because it is banned from supplementing its budget with advertising.

Radio is the most reliable channel for distributing news, information and entertainment in the Philippines’ rural interior, where mountains often get in the way of TV signals.

However, TV is popular in the main towns and cities and satellite dishes are increasingly bringing television to remote rural areas. TV signals beamed down from space are less affected by the mountainous terrain.

According to the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, radio reaches 85% of households in the country, whereas television reaches just under 60%.

Broadcasting is dominated by six powerful radio and TV networks which command massive audiences nationwide:

ABS-CBN is the Philippines’ biggest media group. It dominates local television. Its flagship ABS-CBN TV network broadcasts from 25 content producing stations around the country and eight affiliated TV stations nationwide. ABS-CBN’s second channel, Studio 23, broadcasts entertainment programming aimed at the 16 to 35 age group. The group also owns several cable and satellite channels, some of which are targetted at Filipinos living overseas. The group’s main Medium Wave radio network is DZMM, a talk station also known as Radyo Patrol. It is one of the biggest news providers in the country. ABS-CBN also owns the My Only Radio (MOR) network of 14 FM music and entertainment stations. In addition, the group has interests in film production, publishing and internet services. ABS-CBN is controlled by the influential Lopez family, which also owns the fixed line telephone company Bayan Telecommunications.

GMA Network owns the popular and influential television channel GMA-7 in Metro Manila and its radio counterpart DZBB. The group controls a network of 60 TV stations and 23 radio music and entertain radio stations across the Philippines through its Campus Radio network. GMA Network is owned and managed by the Gozon, Duavit and Jimenez families which founded the media group in the 1960s.

Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC), is the biggest radio group in the Philippines. It controls over 200 radio stations across the country and a chain of TV stations. The group’s flagship Medium Wave radio station, DZRH, focuses on news, current affairs and discussion programmes. Its’s morning news progragammes are relayed nationwide by the group’s Radyo Natin and Hot FM networks of local FM radio stations. Radyo Natin is the single largest radio network in the Philippines. It consists of more than 100 radio stations. Each one produces some local content, but also carries about 10 hours per day of national network programming.. The Manila Broadcasting Company owns several other nationwide chains of music and entertainment radio stations. These include: Akyson Radyo, Love Radyo, Yes FM and Easy Rock. The news and current affairs radio station DZRH provides most of the programme content for MBC’s news TV channel RHTV.

TV5, formerly known as the Associated Broadcasting Company (ABC), owns several TV stations in Metro Manila, including DWET-TV, DWNB-TV and DWDZ-TV. It also owns the popular radio news station Radyo5 News FM. The group was acquired in 2010 by Manuel “Manny” Pangilinan, a powerful businessman who also controls Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the country’s main telecoms operator. PLDT operates most telephone landlines in the Philippines and two of the country’s three mobile networks; Smart Communications and Sun Cellular.

Radio Mindanao Network (RMN), owns more than 60 radio stations in Manila and the southern island of Mindanao under the RNM and iFM brands. Its flagship radio station in the capital is DWKC FM 93.9, a popular music station with a big youth audience. The group’s TV portfolio includes the UHF channel in Manila, and TV-8 in Cagayan de Oro, on Mindanao.

Bombo Radyo operates 43 radio stations nationwide through its Bombo Radyo talk radio network and its Star FM chain of music stations. There are 22 Bombo Radyo Medium Wave radio stations and 21 Star FM stations across the Philippines. Bombyo Radyo is owned by the Florente Group of Companies which also has interests in banking and pawn shops.

Although commercial broadcasting has flourished in the Phillippines, state radio and television command relatively low audiences.

The public sector broadcasters suffer from low levels of government investment and are banned from carrying advertising. This prevents them from topping up their budget allocations with commercial revenue.

The state-owned Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS) runs a nationwide network of 32 Medium Wave stations and a handful of FM stations. It also broadcasts on Short Wave.

The state-owned People’s National Television Inc (PNTI) operates three television channels, but only one of them Channel 4, its news channel, commands a significant nationwide audience.

TV has begun to displace radio in many rural areas as people increasingly turn to satellite dishes to overcome reception problems.

Radio, on the other hand, has gained a new lease of life in the towns and cities with the spread of mobile phones.

According to the Philippines’ National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), an increasing number of people in both urban and rural areas listen to radio on their mobile phones rather than a conventional radio set.

Mobile phone penetration – the number of active mobile telephone lines per 100 people - reached 92% of the population in 2011, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Globe Telecoms, the second largest mobile network in the Philippines, said there were 93.7 million mobile subscribers on all networks at the end of 2011, giving a mobile penetration rate of 97%.

Nearly everyone can get a mobie phone signal.

The GSMA, the global association of mobile network operators, claimed that by the end of 2010 the Philippines’ mobile network covered 99% of the population and 84% of the country’s geographic area.

Text messaging has developed into a Philippine cultural trait. The country has one of the highest SMS usage rates in the world.

According to global mobile industry analyst Chetan Sharma, the average Filipino cellphone user sent and received about 400 text messages per month in 2011.

Text messages are used for everything and by everyone.

Over half of all government agencies offer SMS-based services to the public.

The banks offer mobile banking, farmers receive market prices by SMS and text messages are widely used by viewers voting in TV talent shows.

SMS messages are even used to start and develop romantic relationships.

There is a national joke that in the Philippines you can even send a text message to God and get a response.

Newspapers remain popular in the main towns and cities and web editions of the main dailies are increasingly read online.

Most of the “quality” newspapers in the Philippines, such as the Philippine Inquirer the Philippine Star and the Manila Bulletin, are published in English.

However, they are outsold by popular tabloids such as Abante and Pilipino Star Ngayon. These specialise in sensationalist stories, celebrity and show business news and crime stories. Most of the top-selling tabloids are published in Filipino.

In early 2012, there were 28 daily newspapers which claimed to be national in circulation.

However, newspaper circulation is declining under pressure from television and new media.

There are no authoritative and regularly published newspaper circulation figures. However, the most popular national dailies, such as Abante and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, claim to sell more than 250,000 copies each.

Many newspapers were founded by journalists with a political and nationalist agenda.

However, most have been taken over by powerful families linked to strong commercial interests.

Each of the main English language broadsheets has a sister tabloid in Filipino to cater for downmarket readers.

The standard of journalism is generally high. Nevertheless, journalists are dangerously exposed to the corruption, intimidation and violence that constitute the dark under-belly of Filipino politics.

According to local human rights organisations, 147 journalists were killed between the restoration of democracy in 1986 and the end of 2011.

In December 2011, the international press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) listed the Philippines as one of the 10 most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work in.

The worst ever atrocity commited against Filipino journalists occurred in the southern province of Maguindanao on Mindanao island in November 2009.

Fifty eight people travelling in an election convoy, including 32 journalists, were killed by a private militia linked to the Governor of Maguindanao, Andal Ampatuan.

Three years later, in early 2012, none of those indicted for the massacre, including several members of the Ampatuan family, had been convicted.

Politically motivated murders, undertaken by hired killers, private militias and the state security forces, are usually linked to investigations into local and national politics, corruption, and business.

Few perpetrators of such crimes are ever brought to trial.

RSF ranked the Philippines 140th out of the 179 countries listed in its 2011-12 World Press Freedom Index. It identified the cities of Manila, Cebu and Cagayan del Oro as particularly hazardous places for media professionals to operate in.

The first radio station in the Philippines started broadcasting in 1922.

By early 2012, some 600 privately owned commercial FM stations and 375 Medium Wave radio stations were on air across the country.

They broadcast a wide variety of music, news, talk-shows, dramas and religious programming.

Television first came to the Philippines in 1953, but TV only took off in a big way following the overthrow of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

At that point the sector was liberalised and thrown wide open to commercial competition.

By 2012, there were 228 privately owned television stations broadcasting across the country, according to the KBP.

According to the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, there are 57 million TV viewers in the Philippines.

Many channels, such as the ABS-CBN News Channel, GMA News TV and AksyonTV5, broadcast only news and current affairs programmes.

There are also several Christian TV channels, including the powerful Catholic Media Network’s flagship TV station TV Maria. Other popular Catholic TV channels are EWTN and Familyland.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos seized the assets of media organisations that did not support him when he declared martial law in 1972. These newspapers and radio and TV stations were either given to his friends or closed down.

But when Marcos was overthrown in 1986 many of the confiscated media outlets – including ABS-CBN - were returned to their original owners. At the same time, the former president’s draconian curbs on press freedom were lifted.

These moves prompted a boom in commercial television and the formation of the big media groups that have come to dominate broadcasting in the Philippines today.

Internet usage is growing rapidly from a low base, especially amongst young people.

According to,  29.7 million Filipinos were using the internet by the end of 2011 – nearly a third of the the population.

The internet analysis website,, said in May 2012 there were 27.2 million Facebook users in the country. More than half of these were aged under 24.

Increasingly, young people in urban areas are turning to the internet for news. All the large news organisations have invested heavily in their news websites to meet this demand.

According to the internet traffic analysis website,, the most popular news websites in the Philippines in May 2012 were those of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s largest circulation broadsheet newspaper, and broadcasting giant ABS-CBN.

Blogging has become an important part of social and political life.

There are thousands of bloggers in the Philippines, many of whom participate in the country’s annual blogging awards.

In May 2012, listed two blog aggregator sites among the 10 most popular websites in the Philippines.

Cyber-crime legislation under consideration by Congress in 2012 would allow the government to block websites or blogs that were deemed ‘obscene or indecent’.

However, these draft laws have been widely criticised by press freedom advocates for being too vague. Media watchers fear that the proposed legislation could be used to shut down any blog or website deemed to be subversive or politically inconvenient.