Amid extensive franchise hearing, ABS-CBN talents take pay cuts
STAR CIRCUIT - Ricky Calderon (The Freeman) - July 1, 2020 - 12:00am

ABS-CBN announced that it is now reducing talent fees for its artists who have resumed tapings as one of its cost-saving measures, a foreseen development given that the network has been losing P30 million to P35 million a day since its shutdown.

Even with the introduction of the well-received Kapamilya Channel, which airs ABS-CBN programs on cable and satellite TV, current revenue is likely to be diminutive and hardly enough to support production costs and sustain the job of the network’s 11,000 workers.

It has been almost two months since ABS-CBN artists and workers have faced  uncertainty, after the cease-and-desist order issued by the NTC followed by the prolonged franchise renewal hearings in Congress. There have been 90,215 Filipinos who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this franchise matter should have been resolved by now for the sake of the thousands of families depending on it.

The network shutdown has already shaken the entertainment industry in the country, hurting workers, advertisers, and the audiences who rely on its services while its application for franchise remains undecided.

Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza referred to the franchise deliberations in Congress as thw longest in history, appearing to be a fishing expedition with no plan of arriving at a conclusion anytime soon. “Unfair, to say the least. Unfair to ABS-CBN, unfair to the employees of ABS-CBN, unfair to the Filipinos who are dependent on ABS-CBN for their accurate news delivery, information, entertainment. Hindi tama ang nangyayari," he voiced out.

Human rights advocate Beth Angsioco said that the hearings are actually showing Filipinos how desperate some solons have been in blocking the network’s franchise renewal. “The antics of those opposing the ABS-CBN franchise bill (some bordering on the absurd) are actually convincing more people that the franchise should be granted,” she wrote.

Apart from protecting jobs in this time of back-to-back retrenchment, the immediacy of the franchise resolution is crucial as the Philippines shifts to distance learning while face-to-face classes are not feasible in the new school year commencing in August.

As what veteran journalist Julie Yap Daza said, there is already a solution to easily bridge students to remote learning: by providing them a transistor radio and allowing them to listen and learn. She penned, “Fortunately, Mr. President, ABS-CBN has the widest, farthest reach to teach, with five AM and 18 FM radio stations (plus 42 TV stations) covering the archipelago’s most far-flung barrios and barangays.”

If ABS-CBN’s franchise will be renewed now, children living in various parts of the country can readily access learning modules through the network’s broadcast stations, millions of audiences can once again have better access to news and entertainment, while thousands of jobs will undoubtedly be secured.

After weeks of deliberations in Congress, Kapamilya workers deserve to know by now where the network stands. Will they still have work in the midst of a trying period? Or will they be part of the sizable statistics who lost their source of livelihood this 2020? And perhaps, the succeeding question will be: will there be job opportunities left for them knowing how badly the entertainment industry has suffered these last few months?

The franchise hearings have been extensive enough and it is time to wrap it up as time is running short and it’s not just the network’s business that is getting extremely hurt in the process.

The workers are in distress, too.  The head of ABS-CBN employees union described their ordeal at the Senate hearing before, saying it is "torture" not knowing if they will still have jobs or not and worrying about their family’s future.  The government can spare these people from the prolonged agony and decide on ABS-CBN’s franchise without delay.

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