Generation change
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2020 - 12:00am

It is somewhat disturbing, and amusing at the same time, how this ABS-CBN controversy is being fought not just on different levels, but in different time zones as well.

I am glad that the Senate hearings was the first step in setting things right.

The Lopezes have been associated with power politics largely because the patriarch, Don Eugenio Lopez Sr. was not shy in using everything in his arsenal, including the press, in his fights with politicians. But that was four generations of Lopezes ago.

When I joined ABS-CBN as a 19-year old cub reporter in 1969, the network was being managed by Geny, Don Eugenio’s son. The old man was basically focused on Meralco and the now defunct Manila Chronicle.

During the years I stayed with ABS-CBN up to its closure by martial law, we were never told to tilt the news coverage one way or another. We covered the news as we saw it.

Then again, a few of us young reporters were of the First Quarter Storm generation. We had no love for the Marcos administration, but we were still essentially professionals. At most, we found it comforting that the owner thought the same way about Marcos that we did.

Of course, Don Eugenio’s battle with Marcos was legendary. The old man had the Manila Chronicle to help him fight Marcos. There were stinging editorials by Yeyeng Soliongco, biting columns by Ernie Granada and devastating cartoons by the cartoonist GAT.

After EDSA, Geny returned from exile and together with Jake Almeda Lopez, his best friend and our former boss at the old ABS-CBN, revived ABS-CBN. I rejoined them years later as vice president for news and head of news operations.

 I found Geny vastly different from his father. He was operating on a much lower decibel and didn’t crave for the limelight at all. He ate at a turo-turo at the Baclaran market with some staff during a break from a planning session in the old Hyatt Hotel in Roxas Boulevard. I can’t imagine the old man doing that.

Geny wanted to be friends with everyone and no one had to remind him of the public service responsibilities of his broadcast franchise. He coined the slogan that became the network’s marching orders: In the Service of the Filipino.

News operations was close to his heart. One assignment I got from him was to organize news on cable television, what ANC has become. It was a very pioneering idea. I doubted if it was even feasible given that there were less than 300,000 cable subscribers at that time.

I did my homework and crunched my numbers and told him it can’t be done. I needed to duplicate the staff of the news department and invest on an independent studio and other facilities. Advertisers will shun it because they can’t get the kind of cost efficiencies terrestrial television brings.

Geny was adamant. He said he didn’t mind investing a substantial sum and not see any returns for years because we have to do it. He looked at me and reminded me that’s what In the Service of the Filipino means.

Gabby is a mix of Don Eugenio and Geny. Like his father, he is also a risk taker when it comes to serving the Filipino. That’s how the global network operations of ABS-CBN came to be. The highly successful Filipino Channel was a lifeline to homesick OFWs and other Pinoy expats. It brought them closer to home.

But Gabby isn’t perpetually charming the way his father was. Sometimes he rubs people the wrong way. That most likely created resentments through the years that are exploding in the open now.

But Don Eugenio, Geny and Gabby are in the past, as far as ABS-CBN is concerned. The family has transitioned leadership of the network to the younger members of the third generation. They came of age post martial law. While extremely capable professionals, they are also low key.

Mark Lopez, who took over the chairmanship from Gabby, is a digital techie. He was, for some years, in charge of the digital transformation of the network. A son of Ambassador Manuel Lopez, also himself low key, Mark is the type who works quietly, but effectively.

Carlo Katigbak, the guy who calmly answered all questions during the Senate hearing, is a finance guy. I was in the room for a SkyCable management meeting when Carlo, in his early 20s then, first reported for work.

Through the years, he impressed me as a technocrat who gets the work done. I found him humble, pleasant and highly skilled in the various assignments I saw him handle for SkyCable and ABS-CBN. He worked his way up.

When Mark and Carlo say the network will not play politics during their watch, believe them. This is a new generation and they don’t have the stomach for picking fights with politicians.

Their focus is bringing the network to the level of the great entertainment and news conglomerates in the world. They want to see their telenovelas translated in different languages and shown internationally. They want to see ABS-CBN News keep its place among the top digital news sites on the net worldwide.

Ernie Lopez, Gabby’s brother who works on the publishing side, thinks Carlo represents a new era in ABS-CBN.

“ABS-CBN is a very different company today than it was 25 years ago… For me, the biggest accomplishment of Carlo as the CEO and president of ABS-CBN is that under his watch the culture of this company has become spiritual and humbly turns to God for help instead of attacking and retaliating against its opposition…

“He has inspired ALL the employees of the company and made all of us proud of our company…  without calling attention to himself, without being self-righteous, or hostile.”

With the help of an equally young workforce, I am confident Mark and Carlo will bring the network into a new era which will do the country proud.

 Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

 

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