ABS-CBN may 'consider' retrenchment by August if it fails to resume airing: CEO

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2020 11:42 AM | Updated as of May 19 2020 12:51 PM

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MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - ABS-CBN Corp may "consider" retrenching workers by August if it fails to resume broadcast soon, President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told a franchise hearing at the Senate Tuesday.

"We continue to lose a substantial amount of money every month and I'm afraid that if we cannot get back on air soon, by August, we may already have to consider beginning a retrenchment process," ABS-CBN CEO and President Carlo Katigbak told senators.

The broadcaster earlier told employees that it "would not take away any jobs for 3 months" following its May 5 shutdown, given "the difficult economic situation" that the coronavirus pandemic spawned, he said. 

"We felt it would be very, very painful to put our employees out on the street without them having an idea as to how they can continue earning a living and continue to feed their families," Katigbak said. 

"But unfortunately, we cannot make that commitment open-ended because we are also limited by financial constraints," he added. 

ABS-CBN has been losing P30-35 million in advertising revenues daily since regulators forced it off air. 

If this "severe financial hemorrhage" continues, ABS-CBN told the Supreme Court in an urgent motion Monday that it "may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses." 

QUICKEST WAY BACK ON AIR

ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak asks for support from ABS-CBN viewers, May 5, 2020. Michael Bagtas, ABS-CBN News/File ​

The National Telecommunications Commission, under oath, told lawmakers in March that it would let the country's top broadcaster operate provisionally beyond the May 4 expiration of its license, while bills for its franchise renewal stalled in Congress. 

But days after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit, the regulator ordered the 65-year-old media outfit to stop its broadcast operations due to its expired license. 

A bill giving ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until Oct. 31 is scheduled for second reading at the House of Representatives on Tuesday. 

Senators said they would pass the bill before Congress goes on break in June, after which it would go to the Office of the President for signing. 

"It is critical from a financial standpoint and from an employee welfare standpoint that we go back on air as quickly as possible," said ABS-CBN'S Katigbak. 

"If a provisional franchise until October is the quickest way to get us back on air, then we accept, with the hopes of course that we continue hearings to grant us the 25-year franchise," he said.

EMPLOYEE WELFARE 

ABS-CBN gives its workers "pay and benefits that are above what the government has mandated and above what the industry is paying," Katigbak said. 

"We commit that we will continue doing whatever we can to take care of employees to continuously better their compensation as the business improves," he said. 

"It’s just that very difficult for us to have that discussion today…given the fact that we’re facing 2 very significant business challenges. As soon as we get back on air and as soon as business normalizes it would be easier for us to have those discussions at that point in time," he added. 

The outfit's broadcast halt this month was the first since it was forced to sign off when martial law was declared in 1972.

The network has since asked the Supreme Court to block the NTC's cease-and-desist order. 

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