The Philippine media landscape is rife with contradictions. On one hand, digital communication is steadily becoming ubiquitous, as shown in the surge in Internet use and mobile activity figures. However, the widening socio-economic inequalities and the gap between urban and rural infrastructure maintain the digital divide. Hence, while the urban Philippines, particularly the youth, is expecting a future reality enabled by the "Internet of Things" and artificial intelligence, legacy media – with the exception of the newspaper – remain as prime sources of information outside the cities and for the entire nation in general.
Nevertheless, Internet and mobile activity pervade everyday life in a pace unprecedented, so much so that groups and individuals, many of which working under political parties, exploited the technology for political agenda. This resulted in the documented systematic misinformation campaigns (proliferation of fake news) and deployment of "troll armies" aiming to sabotage online discourse, which lead to the "weaponisation" of the Internet to serve political interests.
Internet as a source of information also sped past print media, which is losing its relevance for much of the general public as current figures suggest, albeit community and regional newspapers have seen tremendous growth over the years. Print media, as well as radio and television, invested in online presence to expand reach obviously for relevance and profit, to an extent that we see news outlets that are purely online or more active online. If these trends continue, it is likely that national newspapers and magazines may either merge with others, diversify into other platforms (especially online), cease publishing and set up an online platform, or worse, cease operating. The forecast may be different for community and regional press, most of which operate in areas where the Internet is not yet an indispensable part of everyday transactions, or where the Internet and mobile connectivity infrastructure is sorely underdeveloped. It is in these areas where legacy media, particularly radio and community newspapers and magazines, remain as tools for social cohesion.
Digitalisation in the Philippine media landscape, like in other parts of the world, clearly ushered new business models and transformed the media economy. Unfortunately, these changes often include unjust rationalisation schemes, such as depression of wages for entry-level journalists. If the Internet penetration rate continues to rise and if the private sector-led telecommunications industry continues to invest more in infrastructure development, the greater access to the Internet may generate more and more rigid competition for a highly distracted audience. This competition – as well as the delegitimisation efforts that discredit mainstream media as source of information – may urge firms to create more aggressive profit-maintaining schemes, which may lead to journalists being overworked and underpaid. These conditions are at the root of unethical practices, media corruption, and lagging professionalism.
The current administration has so far maintained an antagonistic stance toward mainstream media, which pro-administration online influencers routinely describe as "biased." The current administration has issued strong warnings against some media outlets, including the threat of not renewing the operating license of one broadcast network. These statements can contribute to a climate of distrust in which people view reports critical to the administration as merely false or "biased", especially because this latter continues to enjoy a high trust rating. The mainstream media is not exactly a clean slate – there are documented cases in which commercial interests take precedence over public service, which the pro-administration forces were quick to use as an excuse for legitimising measures and statements detrimental to media freedom. If the efforts delegitimising the media will succeed in the time of intense competition in the industry, there is a possibility that outlets will have to deviate from the watchdog orientation that has long characterised Philippine journalism.
Although government agencies are making efforts to close the digital divide and increase information literacy, the current contradictions in the Philippine media landscape will persist if the structural dilemmas are not addressed. These are rooted on the massive socio-economic inequalities, heavy concentration in the media and telecommunications industry (the duopolies), and inadequate investment in science and technology research and development. The income disparity that continues to rise is in fact the mother of poor information literacy, a tool that one can gain from access to education and a must in the time of fake news and troll armies.