Shock, anxiety grip staff as ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo set to go silent

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Shock, anxiety grip staff as ABS-CBN�s TeleRadyo set to go silent
Employees and supporters light candles at the gate of the the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City on May 5, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — All workers of ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo consisting of around 70 employees are set to be laid off by the end of June as the former media giant’s Filipino language news channel is set to cease operations due to financial losses brought about the network’s shutdown over three years ago.

This was what the management of ABS-CBN told staff during a general assembly on Tuesday afternoon just hours after the company broke the news on the local bourse that TeleRadyo would go off air, according to insiders.

Insiders told Philstar.com that workers who will be retrenched are mostly TeleRadyo producers whose employment with ABS-CBN will end on June 29 when all the shows of the pioneering hybrid radio and TV station will be terminated.

Promised jobs, but no assurance

With ABS-CBN’s notice that TeleRadyo will shut down was another announcement that it will be entering in a joint venture with Prime Media Holdings Inc. owned by House Speaker Martin Romualdez for content production.

ABS-CBN, which has a minority stake in the joint venture, said in its disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange that this will give former employees “a chance to find job opportunities” and “a way to continue providing accurate and balanced news and information to the country.”

This was reiterated during the general assembly, where ABS-CBN management assured employees that they will push for them to be hired.

But even then, insiders said there is no assurance they will get jobs in the joint venture which is said to air on ABS-CBN’s former 630 AM frequency and all TeleRadyo channels.

“We hope that the company will give its media workers affected by these corporate decisions the assistance and support they will need in the transition,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement.

“They should not be abandoned now as the network seeks ways forward from the franchise troubles that it has been weathering since 2020.”

Blurred lines

Sources also told Philstar.com that the joint venture will have an editorial body that is separate from other verticals of ABS-CBN, including TV Patrol, the English-language ABS-CBN News Channel and its digital platforms which will remain under the control of the former media giant.

But there is fear among staff that this line may get blurry.

An insider said journalists voiced concerns that independence may be limited even if the joint venture will be a separate entity from ABS-CBN News as Romualdez is a partner of the network. 

“We were assured of separate operations, but what if Romualdez doesn’t like our reportage?” the insider said.

ABS-CBN lost its broadcasting franchise in 2020 as former President Rodrigo Duterte went on a warpath against the broadcaster, initially triggered by the network’s failure to air his 2016 presidential campaign ads.

Duterte's allies in the House of Representatives, including Romualdez, voted to reject ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise which would have allowed it to continue broadcasting on free TV and radio.

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