People’s TelCo

>> Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ike Señeres

Different countries, different cultures—in the United States, public broadcasting is owned by the people, and not by the government. As a matter of fact, the government is prohibited from engaging in the business of broadcasting within U.S. soil, and that is why Voice of America (VOA) could only broadcast abroad. I really do not know the reason for that, but I surmise that it is based on the legal fiction that the government should not have a bigger voice than the people, backed up perhaps by yet another legal fiction that the people are more powerful than the government.
Things are really different here in our country however, because over here, public broadcasting is owned by the government, and the people, even through non-government organizations (NGOs), could not even engage in the business of broadcasting. In other words, it is very clear that over here, the government has a bigger voice than the people.
 Fast forward to the present times, perhaps it is providential and it could even be a blessing in disguise that the technology for public broadcasting has shifted from being frequency based, to being internet based. What that means in real terms is that the playing field has been levelled, so much so that anyone could now broadcast, and the people could now do what the government could do, broadcasting that is, without the use of expensive transmitters and towers.
Yes, what that also means is that even NGOs could go into the business of broadcasting just like any other small and medium enterprise (SME) or even a multinational corporation (MNC). Looking at it from another perspective, we could now say that competition has now shifted from having the best infrastructure, to having the best content. As it is now, even the smallest SME could produce better content than the biggest MNC.
 As it was before, broadcasting was a separate business from telecommunications, and companies in one business would not normally compete with each other. For the lack of a boundary between one business and the other, it could be said that broadcasting is one way, while telecommunications is two way.
It is very clear however that that is no longer the case, because broadcasting companies are now in the business of telecommunications, and vice versa. In a manner of speaking, it could be said that broadcasting belongs to the realm of information, hence it could also be said that broadcast and telecoms became part of what became known as the convergence of the two technologies into information and communications technology (ICT). As it has turned out, ICT could now be used not only for broadcasting, but also for communications.
 Now that anyone could digitally broadcast even without the use of frequencies, who could rightfully make the claim that they are into the business of public broadcasting? I suppose that a group of NGOs could do that if they could put their act together, but it is perhaps a group of cooperatives that could do it, simply because they could be more financially capable than the NGOs, at least in theory.
Either way, it would be good if either the NGOs or the cooperatives could do it, but the more important question really is what content it should produce. Surely, it could not be the views of big government or big business, so it seems obvious that the content should be for the good of the people, in whatever way we could define that to be. It could be said that what is good for big business might even be good for the people, but we could hardly say that what is good for big business is good for the people.
 If it is a good idea for a group of cooperatives to go into the business of public broadcasting, it may also be a good idea for them to go into the business of public communications, perhaps by way of partly or fully owning a telecommunications company. I had an opportunity to talk about this idea in a public forum attended by a group of cooperatives, and the concept was well received by them. I explained to them that based on the present consumer behavior, the customers are actually the ones funding the telcos, because they are the ones advancing the money to pay for the cell phone load. Again in a manner of speaking, it is already as if the consumers are actually investing in these telcos or to put it another way, the consumers are advancing the money so that the telcos can use it for their operations.
Aside from being the investors, the members of the cooperatives would in effect become the customers of the telco products and services, inclusive of call, text and data services. As it is now, most of the customers are still using the regular call and text services, but more and more people are now shifting to messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp where they could also calls and texts, the latter in the form of chats.
In order not to sound too unrealistic, the coops could actually just start entering the business by investing in any of the companies that are positioning themselves to become the third major telco player. By the way, it is wrong to say that the government wants a “third telco”, because as it is now, there are actually more than two telcos. In other words, it would be more correct to say “third major telco player”.  For feedback email or text +639083159262 


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