SOMEBODY asked me a few days ago if I saw the video showing a man who claimed to be a media practitioner berate a traffic enforcer who accosted him for a traffic violation. I said I didn’t and I won’t, noting that I have heard many stories like that since I became a journalist in the early ‘90s. The erring “mediaman” was later identified as Roger Cimafranca.

I don’t know the man and, judging from the photos, I say I must not have met him in person yet. But these people’s bling can be generic: vest, big ID card, “media” sticker. The way they look when I see them on the street used to amuse me. But I have gone past that. I have accepted the fact that this profession has people like them at the periphery.

To be fair, Cimafranca does handle a block time program on dyLA. If one is liberal in his definition, Cimafranca is indeed a media practitioner. Whether he goes on air only once a week or not doesn’t matter. The setup in the broadcast industry is that you can be a broadcaster without being hired by a legitimate media entity. Buy airtime and you can wiggle into a media outlet.

I used to criticize the block-time setup that allows the proliferation of what legitimate media practitioners jokingly refer to as “comedia” until I realized that economics dictate its existence. Radio stations in Cebu are a dime a dozen ensuring the division of the advertising pie into very thin slices. Many radio stations do not even get a share of this advertising revenue. They survive by other means, including the selling of airtime by block.

There are many types of block timers. Religious groups clog the air lanes on Sundays. Government entities, whether they are national government agencies or local government units, buy airtime to inform the public of their programs and campaigns or, in the case of elective local government officials, to promote themselves or defend their acts.

Another group of block timers are those selling herbal and other forms of alternative medicines. Their number hs grown in proportion to the growth of this kind of business. They fill their programs with testimonies of people claiming they were healed of their illness, including serious ones like cancer.

The ubiquitous ones are the commentator-blocktimers. They are adjuncts of the political/ electoral system, meaning politicians prop them up. They buy airtime and have themselves hired by politicians, their method meriting the label AC-DC (attack and collect-defend and collect). They defend whoever hires them and attack their employer’s enemies.

Not all commentator-blocktimers are showoffs or, to use the Cebuano term, “manigbasay.” Some do their “business” on the level. Others are good commentators. But because they are hired guns, they are bound to the agenda of their bosses. In this sense, politicians can also be blamed for promoting this setup.

As for Cimafranca, I think the attention given to him is too much. As I said, what he did wasn’t unique. Stories abound within the media world about practitioners who, when arrested for violating traffic rules, would try to wiggle out of their predicament by boasting about their being in the industry. The difference is that Cimafranca was caught on camera.

My favorite has this dialogue:

Enforcer: Lisensya bi.

Mediaman: Taga (mentions the media outlet) ra ba ko.

Enforcer: Maayo nuon. Makadakop na gyud ko’g taga-media.

Cimafranca should be rightly criticized for what he did. But to say that only his kind does it is to be dishonest. Even some legitimate media people are influence-peddlers. The difference is in the degree of use.

(khanwens@gmail.com)