Podcasts as election campaign tool: Who benefits?

Senatoriable Loren Legarda has said that podcasting levels the playing field for candidates.

For the uninitiated, podcasting is a method by which video or audio files are made available to the public or set of subscribers through streaming or downloading to an electronic gadget (e.g., computer and mobile phone). Many news organizations are now providing podcasts to their subscribers. Likewise, YouTube.com, Google Video, and vodpod.com are few of the popular sites that enable sharing of videos among their members.

Now, let me go back to Legarda’s claim that podcasting gives equal breaks for May elections candidates, whether they are Administration or Opposition. She said that podcasting is a non-expensive way of packaging and showing a candidate to the public.

She’s right and wrong. Right because podcasting reduces corruption or the temptation for the candidates to seek financial assistance from entities that anticipate financial and political paybacks when the former get to power. Wrong because the public she’s talking about is just those with access to the Internet (only six of 100 Filipinos). Perhaps she’s referring only to the young population who often visit the Internet cafes, office workers with access to the Internet, and middle to upper classes who can afford to have fast Internet connection. (Video files are streamed, downloaded and played much slower in low-end machines and under small bandwidth.)

For sure, the proliferation of campaign podcasts will mean sustained, if not increased, business for Internet cafe owners as well as increased ad sales for podcast providers. Campaign podcasts will definitely make many happy, but not all. Excluded are the poor who have to depend on the tri-media for the latest on the elections.

While we’re still struggling to make ICT useful for the poor, particularly in the countryside, the traditional media (TV, radio and print) must be ensured to be encapsulated against the elite politics so that the poor (yes, even a poor family now has a TV and radio sets, thanks to the surplus production of electronic manufacturers) can have access to real and real-time information about the candidates, from among whom they will choose their representatives in the legislature and local governments.

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