The country’s largest broadcast network ABS-CBN Corporation may be forced to lay off some of its employees in August if its franchise to operate is not granted soon, President and CEO Carlo Katigbak revealed on a senate hearing on Tuesday, May 19.
Katigbak made the statement in response to questions from Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who asked about the network’s commitment to pay the salaries of its workers for a limited time even after ABS-CBN went off the air on May 5.
Carlo Katigbak said ABS-CBN has a made a commitment to all its employees to keep them for three months after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) handed down a closure order on May 5.
“When we were taken off the air on May 5th, we made a commitment to our employees, given the difficult economic situation following COVID-19, we made a commitment to them that we would not take away any jobs for three months,” Katigbak said.
“But unfortunately, we cannot make that commitment open-ended because we are also limited by financial constraints. We continue to lose a substantial amount of money every month. I’m afraid if we cannot get back on air soon, by August, we may have to consider a retrenchment process,” he added.
Katigbak is banking on Congress to give it a provisional franchise just to get back on air and stop the bleeding. ABS-CBN is losing as much as P35 million a day from advertising.
ABS-CBN has at least 5,000 employees under the ABS-CBN Corporation and 11,000 more under the ABS-CBN group of companies including regular and contractual workers, according to Katigbak.
But there are other allied workers who are providing services outside of the company that depends on news and entertainment programs of the 65-year-old radio and television giant.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved on first and second reading a measure granting ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020. It was initially projected to pass the lower chamber’s third reading on May 18.
However, the bill was withdrawn on Monday, May 18, after lawmakers raised the 3-day constitutional requirement before another reading approval. Under the Constitution, private bills, such as a franchise bill, must originate from the lower chamber.
Katigbak said that while ABS-CBN’s ultimate goal is to secure another 25-year legislative franchise, it would be amenable to the 5-month provisional franchise proposed in the House of Representatives, just to be able to get back on the air and generate revenues.
“At this point, the most important priority for ABS-CBN is to return on air as quickly as possible. We need to do this so that we can again start earning revenues so that we can continue paying salaries of our employees,” Katigbak said.
“Our end objective is hopefully to secure a 25-year franchise but yes, if securing a short-term franchise is the fastest way to go back on air then we have no objection to that,” he added.
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