Radio continues to be a significant source of information for Filipinos, as it reaches even the ‘remotest’ areas, as noted by the Media Ownership Monitor or MoM (2017). There is no recent data on audiences’ attitudes toward radio as source of content; the most recent publicly available data indicates that as of 2013, it is the second most used medium (see Philippine Statistics Authority, 2013). About two out of five – 41.4 percent – listen to the radio at least once a week. Radio reaches 85 percent of Philippine households, based on 2012 data (National Commission on Culture and Arts, cited by Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities Network, 2012, p.13). There is indeed a need for up-to-date empirical studies exploring the role of radio in urban areas where online media news reach is rapidly increasing, as well as in rural areas where internet infrastructure remains wanting.
The CIA World Factbook (2015) pegs the number of radio stations in the country at about 1,200 as of 2015. However, citing 2016 data from the National Telecommunications Commission, the MoM puts the number at about 1,500 (416 AM stations and 1,042 FM stations). More Filipinos listen to the FM stations; the MoM noted that Filipinos listen to FM primarily for music 90 percent of the time. The AM stations, on the other hand, put emphasis on news and public affairs and public services.
Audience share is heavily concentrated: four stations (DZMM Radyo Patrol, DZBB 594 Super Radyo, ‘Radyo ng Bayan’, and DZRH) have a combined audience share of about 84 percent, according to data from a Nielsen Co. survey in 2016 (cited by MoM, 2017). More than 90 percent of the stations are privately owned and commercial (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities Network, 2012, p.24), although the government-owned station, DZRB 738, ranks second in terms of audience share.
In terms of ownership, seven broadcasting groups dominate the market (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities Network, 2012, p.24), and most of these, such as ABS-CBN and GMA, have television networks as well. Some radio programmes have television ‘spin-offs’ or also aired in television programmes simultaneous with the broadcast. A coordination in content production or appropriation of content in these two platforms can be observed quite often.
Because the radio is described as the most ‘pervasive’ medium (MoM, 2017), it is not surprising that hundreds of regional and community radio stations operate in the country. Not much empirical data is publicly available when it comes to professional practices and consumption habits for community radio, but advertisers see radio, particularly local outlets, as the most effective means of reaching consumers (Rosales, 2006, p.149).
Community radio is also seen as a venue for educational programmes especially those under government agencies, such as those discussing nutrition and other grassroots issues. At the same time, some ethnic minority groups, as well as belligerent and insurgent forces, use the radio to supplement their face-to-face organizing. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance, for instance, occasionally runs radio programmes as a medium for cultural activism (Soriano, 2016, p.355).
Radio journalists, more than print journalists, ‘bear the brunt of violence against media workers’ in the Philippines (Rosales, 2006, p. 148). Rosales (2006) attributed this to interweaving factors such as a ‘a post-Marcos legacy of all-powerful and well-entrenched military and politicians’, ‘weak judicial system’, ‘lack of professionalism among newsmakers’ (see also Shafer, 1990; Tiglao, 1991), and a ‘lack of aid and protection for journalists from the station owners, who comprise a small, powerful oligarchy in the Philippines’ (p.148).