105.9 FM

The Amazing Radio Frequency Race: 4 Rising Networks Eye for the Big Prize


[Requested by Stephen Mark Davether Perez]

RACE YOU TO EAST TRIANGLE. The National Telecommunications Commission (headquarters pictured) has opened up the part of the frequency spectrum that ABS-CBN once held as the now-fallen media giant lost its franchise renewal nod from Congress and any possible legal remedies. Everyone’s speculating who will succeed in owning a part of the biggest prize.

LAST SEPTEMBER 10, the National Telecommunications Commission recalled all frequencies on radio and television owned by ABS-CBN after Congress rejected their franchise renewal exactly two months before.

The eight-page order revoked all television and both radio frequencies owned by the once media giant.

Eliseo Rio Jr., the former Department of Information Communications and Technology (DICT) undersecretary, remarked that this is the first time the regulatory agency has ever done so; hence, no precedent.

This consequence from the ongoing saga of the demise in Mother Ignacia has incited radio enthusiasts and speculators to bet on who will walk off with the precious prize. As of this publication, six to seven entities are applying who will be the new holders of either a part of the frequencies or the whole thing but they are not publicly disclosed.

Rio said that the process of application up to the awarding will take up roughly a year and its procedures will be determined by the said authority.

While it is expensive to apply, own and operate TV frequencies, radio, therefore, is an easy target. Nevertheless, the prospective candidates can be the government itself through the Philippine Broadcasting Service for their expansion (or the Department of Education for the permanent home for DepEd Radio), another big private entity (particularly by a rich, close friend of the incumbent President), influential religious groups that lacked its FM counterparts (e.g. the Sonshine Radio of Quiboloy) or the private networks who just want to be promoted to the mainstream band.

The very last option will be the focus of this post, even though this choice will be unlikely to make it due to the prevailing weights of politicking with the loopholes not yet sealed.

Anyway, what will be the opportunities and the outcomes of each prospective private entities when they acquire the highly-coveted intangible asset? For the sake of simplicity, we will use Metro Manila’s 101.9 MHz and 630 kHz.

 

Meet the Speculative Applicants

 

Bombo Radyo Philippines

This radio network, owned by Dr. Rogelio M. Florete (who also owns Queenbank and his namesake pawnshop in Iloilo), is unsurprisingly well-known for banging of the bass drum during their newscasts.

Although there is 102.7 Star FM (DWSM-FM, the adjacent neighbor of the now-vacant frequency), there is no AM counterpart to complement despite having the national NewsCenter in Makati. Therefore, taking 630 kHz will satisfy and complete the set.

Call sign change probability: 50% (Obvious clue: Just change the suffix -FM to -AM.)

 

Brigada Mass Media Corporation

Brigada Mass Media Corporation is founded and governed by Elmer Catulpos in 2005 and is based in General Santos City. The revenue generation model is distinct from other commercial stations; their revenue comes from the sales of their Healthline products than relying on third-party advertisements.

Their Metro Manila station (DWEY-FM) is currently on 104.7 MHz — sitting between 104.3 Capital FM2 and Q 105.1 (the former Crossover). While their National Broadcast Center is indeed in the metropolis, the current transmitter is situated down south in Batangas.

Before this deliberate fallout, speculators wished that this station would be given to DWLA-FM 105.9 as a result of their inability to click any fanbase that ended up with four (or five) rebrandings-cum-reformats within the last decade. In 2018, the franchise of its legal owner, Bright Star Broadcasting Network, was renewed.

If they’re lucky this time to grab 101.9 MHz, then the news FM monopoly that Radyo5 92.3 enjoys for nearly a decade now will come to an end. (Kabahan ka na, Manong Ted and DJ Chacha!)

Call sign change probability: 100% (Do we need to know the call sign?)

 

Halo-Halo Radio

Created by Viva Entertainment in 2014 as Oomph! Radio, this radio network serves pure OPM. As of this publication, they have radio stations in Cebu City, Davao City and Zamboanga City.

Having their own Manila counterpart would mean breaking away from 95.5 Pinas FM (DWDM-FM), the de facto Metro equivalent but de jure owned by Eagle Broadcasting Corporation (the media entity owned and under the influence of Iglesia ni Cristo).

Kapamilya artists who are also Viva talents might be heard again but then, some listeners of this prospective radio network are concerned about the priority just like the frequency’s previous occupant.

Call sign change probability: 40% (If Boss Vic sees nothing wrong to preserve the call sign of the last owner, then why bother?)

 

Radyo Bandera

Founded in 2015, this Palawan-based media entity (headed by Elgin Damasco) will be another competitor of Brigada in vying for the second news FM station in the nation’s prime metropolis. One concern is the use of the frequency in defending one local politician while vilifying another (similar to our fellow media blogger from his hometown of Iligan City); but because this market area is essentially nature of centralization, it may not happen.

Call sign change probability: 50% (Let’s wait and hear from him.)


Did I miss anything out? Do you want to share your insights on who will take the revoked radio frequencies in your media market? Leave a comment below.

May the odds be ever in your favor.


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Photos courtesy of PhilStar.com / Wikimedia Commons / Facebook pages of Brigada News FM National, Halo Halo Radio and Radyo Bandera Philippines

If There Is No More ABS-CBN Again (Part 2): How Will Their Competitors Respond?


[WARNING: This post contains insights that are whimsical; if you have different points, feel free to comment your differences. Read at your own risk.]

 

ABS-CBN Soundstage

One of the concerns if ABS-CBN stops broadcasting is how to maintain their Horizon soundstage in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Will they open up for their competitors to rake in potentially lost revenue?

 

IN THE FIRST PART, we determined the background behind their hatred against Mother Ignacia and the sacrifices and the ethical questioning behind their programming operations that lead to their success for the past 10 years.

The hanging question remains unsolved: What if the keyboard and mobile chauvinists have it their way?

The short answer: FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano would finally end at last after four years. No more It’s Showtime and no more GGV and that means, no more lollygagging from Vice Ganda.

But the long answer is somewhat complicated.

Despite the rise of video-on-demand platforms, traditional TV remains the most dominant medium for information and entertainment. In other words, the loyal Kapamilyas and even avid viewers of their selected programs will have to enter cold turkey instantly.

Without a mode of exposure, artists (especially, the fresh ones) will lose an opportunity to build their careers in their resume; as a result, there will be an oversupply.

Hundreds of exclusive artists will all be, in theory, freelancers but some personalities have backup agencies. For example, Anne Curtis, Vice Ganda and Sarah Geronimo are all VIVA talents and with that, VIVA’s boss Vic del Rosario has the right to ink a deal with any remaining network and they would still get TV exposure. Those talents who don’t have a backup agency would be out of luck unless they planned ahead to take up entrepreneurial ventures like KathNiel with their barbershop business.

Thousands of employees from news and sports departments could get reassigned or get the pink slips. Newscasts, including regional ones, would undergo as exclusively digital akin to Rappler.

Current multi-year contracts with this network when it comes to sports (e.g. MPBL, NCAA and UAAP) and entertainment (e.g. Miss Universe and PMPC Star Awards) will really need to find a new home.

Sure, there is iWant to carry over the remaining episodes and some of their finished programs are ready for syndication to their soon-to-be-former rivals.

The over-all analog switch-off might be delayed and the Full HD progress would be stalled. The network have done both feats very seriously and had they continue to operate, they will be the frontrunner in testing 4K UHD.

In terms of the TVPlus’ functionality, their encryption should come to an end and the apparatus would be treated as a regular DTV converter box or it would longer be useful.

It’s not just the TV frequencies that would be gone, so too would be their radio stations under their ownership like — in the case of Metro Manila — MOR 101.9 and DZMM 630. (No more DJ Chacha for advice and no more Dos por Dos for engaging commentaries for motorists in the afternoon rush hour.)

Other non-broadcast ventures like Star Cinema, Star Music and ABS-CBN Publishing will continue to operate. Their promotion would need communication of consent with other rival TV networks.

Their facilities outside Mother Ignacia like the new Soundstage in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan could be opened up to their competitors for rentals or for lease in order to make up the lost revenue.

Competitors’ Response

With Mother Ignacia suddenly disappeared, Kantar’s and Nielsen’s database for measuring TV ratings would change drastically and so are its entertainment reports in both broadsheets and tabloids.

Losing ABS-CBN for good (or for at least two years) can make a significant difference in the Philippine TV landscape.

Before their very eyes, what will happen to the rest of the competitors? Will they replicate the silver linings or successes in certain aspects that Mother Ignacia currently enjoys?

In a short answer, three rival entities (with four VHF channels) will have an individual, significant response; CNN Philippines is out of the picture and sectarian UHF networks are barely affected.

GMA

For the simpletons, the possibly-former rival will be the undisputed winner in the new TV ratings game as it would hold the virtual monopoly on general entertainment.

Financial-wise, this media company generated 15.236 billion pesos in revenue in 2018 (which is 38% of ABS’) with the asset composition being 62% equity compared to 42% equity from Mother Ignacia. Net income was 15.1% of revenue compared to ABS’ 4.7%.

When it comes to broadcasting divisions, GMA has almost everything that ABS-CBN has except for a full-time sports department.

As this year celebrates itsĀ  70th corporate anniversary, a grand homecoming would happen. Will GMA repatriate Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez and Ryza Cenon? Assuming they have returned, will the entertainment department give the displaced talents more exposure and better roles on their upcoming projects?

In the past decade, Timog Avenue’s reality competition shows tend to be “original.” Without ABS-CBN, their mindset should be changed gradually but let’s not be surprised if they are contented with status quo.

In terms of technical aspects, GMA has a varying, inconsistent application in Full HD. While their selected shows on mobile and online are in high definition and on 16:9, TV remains at 4:3. (To borrow Nadine Lustre, ano na, 2020 na!)

 

The 5 Network

In the eyes of its apologists, the Network from Reliance is perceived as a safe harbor for the displaced artists just because it’s on the nearest neighboring frequency (if you skipped PTV). This would help Jane Basas’ intention of reinstating entertainment programs. The only threat to this opportunity is the ire for insistent, immature anime fans and loyal sports aficionados in social media.

For the time being, TV5 will be No. 2 when Deuce is suddenly gone since entertainment programs have to be pitched first before getting the green light.

A network fan pitched a comprehensive overhaul of Big Brother if the current right’s holder is gone. To be honest, that program franchise is nearly at the declining trend (although we can still continue) but his favorite show, The Amazing Race, is already at that stage. Maybe it’s time to get a new, rising franchise competition show like Lego Masters or to live on the legacy, The Masked Singer.

As of this publication date, the best of Face to Face is airing in the afternoon after Aksyon sa Tanghali. Without Dos, Tiyang Amy Perez can resume her stint and it should be aired on their last timeslot in the late morning so as not to offend the current iconic personality of the network, Raffy Tulfo.

While ABS-CBN currently enjoys the two aforementioned technical advancements, 5 has yet to undertake them very seriously (In addition, their channels are not scanned consistently or at all in DTV set-top boxes — not even on TVPlus).

 

Government-Owned Media Networks

In aggregate, PTV and IBC generate a bit more than 250 million pesos in 2018. Comparing that to ABS, they need to exert 160 times more effort to earn the level of revenue. When it comes to net income, it’s in the negative (without PCOO subsidy).

While PTV can open up commercial advertisements in the amended charter, they haven’t been that successful to keep up. Why? Public’s reputation, internal network culture, and restrictive mindset. Let’s face it, both GOCCs are not successful cash cows; they are not like PCSO or PAGCOR.

We published a proposed license fee mechanism back in 2017 to generate stable levels of revenue since home shopping, long-time infomercials, long-time blocktimers and part of Lotto games are too varying and not enough to recoup the deepest costs but we admit that it wasn’t a popular measure.

An avid viewer of this network wants to put displaced talents who happened to be a VIVA talent into the network just like in the 1990s. But with this jammed default mindset, it’s asinine, impossible, since Vasra always prioritizes the old man in Malacanang.

Special Case for IBC

Under the governance of the Kabayan’s (Noli de Castro) daughter (Kat) last year, she inherited Old Balara’s financial position under the capital deficiency territory — which means that the measured liabilities are more than its measured assets. (This is much worse than the total assets of which the majority of it is in debt that ABS currently stands.)

Throughout the period, they started to improve its programming (thanks to SMAC Television Production) but the financial performance is yet to be seen.

Last year, two Star Magic talents starred on that channel: Ritz Azul acted in the teleserye Bukas May Kahapon and Heaven Peralejo (the niece of Rica) became the co-host performer of weekend variety show SMAC Pinoy Ito. This year, Awra Briguela (Makmak of FPJAP) will join in the Gen Z-casted noontime show, Yes Yes Yow.

When it comes to Old Balara’s technical aspects in digital television, they take their tests seriously than her sister network amidst a 480i (standard definition) resolution.

That being said, for the time being, Channel 13 cannot be replicated as the #1 network as it was claimed during the first shutdown half a century ago.

Radio

Without 101.9, the newest member, DJ Chico, could come back home to Energy FM 106.7. Their loss could also mark 105.9’s opportunity, which means, it’s going to be another rebrand and reformat.

Without DZMM, Radyo Patrol reporters will be scattered to other AM radio stations or create an independent media production.

Final Thoughts

Sure, there are moral lessons in this worst-case scenario of such intervention to glean on — there is a time to swallow on one’s pride and greed.

Shutting down the major media entity’s core business segment will never be enough for their satisfaction; it’s rather a beginning set by these vengeful keyboard nationalists of a bloody battle.

For the die-hard fanatics of this embattled network, their life is now facing danger.


The financial data that was used in the calculation were from their 2018 audited financial reports that are downloadable from their investor relations page (for ABS-CBN and GMA) and from the Commission on Audit website (for PTV and IBC). The 2019 figures are not yet available as they are currently under audit.


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Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN.com