DOJ OPINION NO. 040, s.

1998
March 19, 1998


Mr. Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr.
Chairman
Securities and Exchange Commission
SEC Building, EDSA, Greenhills
Mandaluyong City
Sir :
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. cdtai
The aforesaid constitutional mandate pertinently provides, to wit:
"SEC. II. (1) The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the
Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such
citizens.
. . ." (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 an identical provision in the 1973 Constitution,
said:
"The term 'mass media' in the Constitution refers to any medium of communication, a newspaper,
radio, motion pictures, television, designed to reach the masses and that tends to set the standards,
ideals and aims of the masses (Op. No. 163, s. 1973). The distinctive features of any mass media
undertaking is the dissemination of information and ideas to the public, or a portion thereof (Op. No.
120, s. 1982). . ." (reiterated in Op. No. 10, s. 1996).
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 involves the gathering, transmission and distribution of news, information, messages,
signals and all forms of written, oral and visual communications (see also, DOJ Opn. 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", IBP Law Journal and Magazine, Sept. 1997, p. 96). Access
to this "network of networks", 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 or 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 p. 836-838), it may be safely
said that an Internet access provider 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 the 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. cdtai
The rationale is because in Internet business, the Internet access provider merely serves as 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.
Very truly yours,
(SGD.) SILVESTRE H. BELLO III
Secretary