ABS-CBN says failure to get new franchise to impact workers’ job security

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 09:15 PM | Updated as of May 08 2020 09:54 AM

People gather in front of ABS-CBN in Quezon City on Feb. 14, 2020 to show support for the network. The network is facing a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court invalidating its current franchise filed by the Solicitor General. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The job security of over 11,000 people who work for ABS-CBN Corp. will be at risk if Congress fails to grant the media giant a fresh broadcast franchise, a network official said on Monday.

Testifying before the Senate Public Services Committee, Mark Nepomuceno, former head for ABS-CBN Corporate Services Group, said the subsidiaries of the media giant would take a hit if its broadcast operations close down.

“The ABS-CBN network itself is comprised of 5,918 employees of different employment categories, pero kung sinara po ang ABS-CBN, ang buong 11,000 empleyado ng ABS-CBN Group ay maaapektuhan,” Nepomuceno told senators during the public hearing called by Sen. Grace Poe. 

(If you shut down ABS-CBN, the whole 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN Group will be affected.)

Nepomuceno said earnings from ABS-CBN's broadcast operations support subsidiaries such as the ABS-CBN Foundation and ABS-CBN Global. The latter provides information to migrant Filipinos through The Filipino Channel or TFC. 

"ABS-CBN is a total information and entertainment group of companies. Yung nasa kalagitnaan po nito ay yung (in the middle of it is the) ABS-CBN network," he said. 

"Halimbawa po sa ABS-CBN Foundation, the network donates funds so that the Foundation is able to maintain its operation. Pag nawala po yung funding ng ABS-CBN Foundation, malamang po yung 400 employees ng ABS-CBN Foundation ay mawawalan ng trabaho."

(For example, the network donates funds to the ABS-CBN Foundation so it can maintain its operation. If the funding ceases, some 400 employees of the Foundation will lose their jobs.)

ABS-CBN, through its subsidiaries, is also into film and music production, digital publishing, live events, theme parks, merchandising, and home shopping, among others.

ABS-CBN’s current franchise expires on May 4. Congress is adjourning in mid-March and will resume session on May 4. 

At least 11 bills have been filed in Congress seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise, all of which are awaiting formal hearings. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano recently said the bills are not that urgent.

Lawmakers say the company may continue to operate past the expiry of its current franchise as long as there are pending bills in Congress that would renew its franchise. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to close ABS-CBN, accusing it, among other things, of estafa for allegedly failing to air his 2016 presidential election campaign ads. 

The government’s top lawyer has also sought to invalidate the company’s existing franchise, as well as that of its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., via a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court last Feb. 10. 

According to Solicitor General Jose Calida, the company violated the terms of its franchise and the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in mass media. 

Aside from expressing concern on the plight of ABS-CBN workers and their families and other dependents, some sectors say shutting the media company threatens the freedom of the press and democracy.

ABS-CBN was shut down when then-President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in 1972.