18th Congress of the Philippines

[Pre-SONA Special] Can PTV really be editorially independent?

[Requested by MJH]

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: In the run-up to President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, we will tackle one of the legacies between him and the media. This blog post is dedicated to Howard Johnson, a BBC correspondent in our country and Jules Guiang, who is now in Rappler.]

PLANTITO-STYLED SONA. Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte personally delivered his penultimate (5th) State of the Nation Address in Batasang Pambansa with limited attendance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

FINALLY, the last SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte is upon us. After this, there will be no more rants that come from his bruised ego heart, right? (SPOILER: Not quite, he has more every week after this.)

His valedictory SONA will be a verdict to judge his legacy but the people had already decided before that and they knew who will succeed him for next year’s election.

Before he will deliver his last annual speech to the 18th Congress this Monday afternoon inside Batasang Pambansa, I would like to share an excerpt of his maiden SONA on July 25, 2016 (with ad-libs):

To better manage public information, a law should be passed – I’m addressing Congress– to create the People’s Broadcasting Corporation, replacing PTV-4, [applause] the government-run TV station, which now aims to replicate international government broadcasting networks.  Teams from these international news agencies — I’d like to mention those interested BBC — are set to visit the country soon to train people from government-run channels to observe. Ito ang gusto ko — tutal pera naman ng tao — to observe editorial independence through innovative programs [applause] and intelligent treatment and analysis of news reports, as well as developments of national and international significance.

The government’s Bureau of Broadcast Services, better known as the Radyo ng Bayan,  shall undergo upgrading to make it financially viable and dependable for accurate and independent, and enlightening news and commentary. Radyo ng Bayan will be integrated with the PBC.

As we are presently setting up a Presidential Communications Satellite Office in Davao City, PBC will also put up broadcast hubs in the Visayas and Mindanao. [applause] Davao City will also be the first site of the first Muslim channel, to be called Salaam Television, [applause] and the first Lumad channel. [applause]

Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte (July 25, 2016)

Well, he fulfilled about the Salaam TV which took off a year later as the People’s Television Network (PTV) digital subchannel but the Lumad channel didn’t and became a TV program. He got the Mindanao Hub at his bailiwick in Davao City — which was opened last year — became fully operational since last March. (This is going to be used as a weapon for its remaining die-hard supporters in their interpretation of his legacy.)

Legislation regarding the People’s Broadcasting Corporation remains pending in Congress. By now, the chance to make it will be slim as the 3rd Regular Session of this current Congress will have the shortest number of session days on account to the filing and campaigning of politicians for May 9, 2022.

But look at a specific passage of text earlier, what does editorial independence mean? Did they ever try to uphold it?


Saving Mother Ignacia

[REQUESTED BY Miggy Tapuyao]

The franchise renewal of ABS-CBN must be discussed in the 18th Congress.

TOMORROW is the fight of Manny Pacquiao against Keith Thurman and it will be aired exclusively on ABS-CBN, the first to do so in 13 years.

But that’s not the focus of this post.

In fact, the following day, the 18th Congress will convene — alongside is the fourth State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte.

While it won’t be discussed by any leaders’ speech (either from the executive or from any chamber in the legislative) come that day, as we have said in our post-mortem analysis of the recent midterm election, the network’s franchise renewal is — or must be — in the agenda as the expiration on March 30, 2020 is fast approaching.


After garnering the sweeping victory of the Administration’s slate in the Senate without any from the opposition, former singer-turned-government official Jimmy Bondoc became excited that the “biggest network would close down.”

This description directly referred to ABS-CBN and Angel Locsin, one of the current talents there, fought back in the online tirade. At the end of May, the network’s former and current talents and employees joined the fray by appending their employer’s anniversary logo on their social media accounts’ profile pictures with a matching hashtag, #LabanKapamilya.

President Duterte objected the renewal sporadically over his public speeches for the past three years. Often, he accused them with promiscuous claims such as borrowing hefty loans from the government banks and not paying their dues diligently.

However, according to the corporation’s annual audited financial report in 2018, although the composition of their total assets constitutes a majority on debt, not a loan agreement is currently involved with any state-owned banks (e.g. Landbank, DBP).

(SIDENOTE: PNB used to be a government bank until it was privatized in the late 1990s and such process was completed in 2007. Their loan agreement with the Network on the said statement commenced in 2010.)

Unfortunately, this is the part of the populist-cum-demagogue’s playbook in action: threatening institutions who are deemed against them (which is refuted ad infinitum) and always accept whatever he says or from their mouthpieces (spokesperson and their media) as “gospel truth.”

We cannot discount that there are others who are self-professed to be politically moderate or not a DDS but have reservations with ABS’ franchise renewal — mainly on programming operations. But we don’t need to enumerate further; we just want to keep this post straightforward.

Though, the franchise is for legal ownership of maintaining free-to-air transmission facilities (e.g. S+A, DZMM 630, MOR 101.9). It will not affect their film (Star Cinema) and music division (Star Music) but they would lose their primary means of promotion of their wares (other than online).

Nevertheless, the cyberspace worries frantically on the big picture — the fate of Mother Ignacia’s bread and butter (specifically: the potential job loss and downsizing of operations).

Composition: It’s complicated

The components within their core business are complicated.

When their “Blip” comes, there will be loopholes regarding other forms of transmission: on cable, on TFC and on TVPlus.

Albeit, the Kapamilya network already began producing its exclusive online content to iWant and started to diversify into the food business.

Authorities’ responses

When it comes to the related agencies such as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).

They are silent about what to happen when that fateful day arrives.

Although the feared shutdown would not likely happen according to the latter organization on an interview on One News, both barely understand and exercise the meaning of contingency planning on a broadcast franchise expiration as either there are no clear, legal provisions about it or it’s a top secret.

Easy to act, hard to follow

How to avoid big uncertainty to let the President sign their renewal (or do nothing for thirty days after the Congress approve it like those from TV5 a few days ago)?

The obvious solution is divestiture of the business — either voluntary or through force.

In other words, the on-air and corporate names will be kept but the ownership would be transferred from the Lopez family to someone else.

This approach already happened in 1972 (through the Marcosian might) but as of now, they won’t budge into this. But is there another way?

Other franchise to the rescue?

This is an unorthodox approach and like the divestiture, the on-air identity and program making would continue but it’s on “guardianship” mode until the next president signs the renewal.

This is what the cunning corporate lawyers of Mother Ignacia would do if all else fails.

In the forums online, few candidates that are rumored to help the network, including:

  • Bro. Mike Velarde’s Delta Broadcasting System (DBS): Their franchise was renewed for another 25 years just last April but the news was bannered a month ago. Their television endeavor on Channel 35, as of press time, remains unknown after testing in 2016.
  • Zoe Broadcasting Network: The Jesus is Lord (JIL) -owned TV network just ended ties with GMA last June and their VHF channel frequency (Channel 11) would be open for new tenants. However, the rumor of talks with ABS-CBN began back in 2017 by Politiko and its sister site, Bilyonaryo.
  • Radio Mindanao Network (RMN). Historically, they had a tie-up with IBC 13 during the late 60s and launched Cinema Television (now BEAM Channel 31) in the 1990s. The franchise was renewed in 2016. Before this threat, they are the popular bet for the race on the ongoing privatization of IBC.
  • Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC). Putting it in temporary care would almost feel their return of TV venturing since Channel 11 was shut down in 1972. However, objections would be raised as their current radio division has a long tie-up with a manufacturing company that dominates during their commercial breaks. They feared that they would do likewise for at least two years.

Afterthought (But I Digress…)

Until this presidential administration ends, those fanatics who enjoyed at least one program from this network would realize that once they are gone for the second time, they feel that they are given a punch in their visages.

In the end, uttering remorse will not save the network; they have to accept their fate.

For the remaining competitors in television who are enjoying their status quo right now, they have to prepare for the worst. However, such things will be discussed separately in another time.


Savor the moment while it lasts.


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Photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer / ABS-CBN