This page features the full text of
March 19, 1998
Mr. Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr.
Securities and Exchange Commission
SEC Building, EDSA, Greenhills
S i r :chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
This has reference to your request for a “definite ruling” on whether the Internet business constitutes mass media which should not be given to foreign investors pursuant to Section II (1), Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution.
The aforesaid constitutional mandate pertinently provides, to wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
…” (Art. XVI, 1987 Constitution) (Emphasis supplied)
The request, it appears, is raised in connection with the implementation of the Second Regular Foreign Investment Negative List (E.O. No. 362, s. 1996).
In Opinion No. 24 s. 1986, this Department, construing and identical provision in the 1973 Constitution said:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
An almost identical definition of “mass media” is found in the Rules and Regulations for Mass Media in the Philippines adopted by the Media Advisory Council and approved by the President of the Philippines (See De Leon, Textbook on the Philippine Constitution, 1994 ed., p. 579) . According to said RR, the term “mass media” embraces means of communication that reach and influence large numbers of people including print media (especially newspapers, periodicals and popular magazines) radio, television, and movies, and involved the gathering, transmission and distribution of news, information, messages, signals and all forms of written, oral and visual communications (see also, DOJ Opinion No. 163, s. 1973)
Upon the other hand, the “Internet” is a “giant network which interconnects innumerable smaller groups of linked computer networks" (American Civil Liberties Union vs. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824,830, cited in “Purging Pornography in the Internet”, which virtually covers the entire globe, can either be through the use of a computer or computer terminal that is directly (and usually permanently) connected to a computer network that is itself directly or indirectly connected to the Internet, or through the use of a “personal computer” with “modem” to connect over a telephone line to a larger computer network that is itself directly of indirectly connected to the Internet (id., at p 97).
Considering the nature and function of an Internet and the fact that it offers three broad types of services, i.e., (1) electronic mail (e-mail) which is the computer version of the post office as it can transmit both text and still or moving visual messages to an addressee or multiple addresses in a mailing list; (2) Bulletin Board System (BBS) which emulates an ordinary bulletin board and; (3) World Wide Web (WWW) which consists of documents (with their respective addresses) stored in the Internet containing varied information in text, still images or graphics (see, ACLU case, supra, at pp. 836-838) , it may be safely said that an Internet access provided is one engaged in offering to the owner of a computer the services of inter-connecting the latter’s computer to a network of computers thereby giving him access to said services offered by Internet.
Construed in light of the earlier definition of “mass media” which involves not only the transmittal but also the creation/publication, gathering and distribution of the news, information, messages and other forms of communications to the general public, it appears indubitable that the Internet business does not constitute mass media. Accordingly, it cannot fall within the coverage of the constitutional mandate limiting ownership and management of mass media to citizens of the Philippines or wholly-owned and managed Philippine corporations.
The rationale is because in Internet business, the Internet access provided merely serves a carrier for transmitting messages. It does not create the messages/information nor transmit the messages/information to the general public, as mass media do, and the publication of the messages /information or stories carried by the Internet and transmitted to the computer owner, thru the access provider, is decided by the sender or the inter-linked networks.
The foregoing considered, your query is answered in the negative.
SILVESTRE H. BELLO III