ABS-CBN to shut down TeleRadyo, announces deal with Romualdez firm

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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ABS-CBN to shut down TeleRadyo, announces deal with Romualdez firm

ABS-CBN. Media groups gather outside the ABS-CBN headquarters in Quezon City to mark the first anniversary of the broadcast giant's shutdown, May 5, 2021.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) ABS-CBN's board approves a joint venture deal with Speaker Martin Romualdez's Prime Media Holdings Incorporated, which has a congressional franchise

MANILA – Philippine media and entertainment company, ABS-CBN Corporation, announced on Tuesday, May 23, that it was shutting down its news channel, TeleRadyo, by end of June. 

In a disclosure, the former media giant cited TeleRadyo’s financial losses since 2020 after the Duterte administration ordered the network to cease its broadcast operations.   

TeleRadyo has been incurring financial losses since 2020. Since ABS-CBN can no longer sustain TeleRadyo’s operations, ABS-CBN is left with no choice but to cease the operations of TeleRadyo effective 30 June 2023 to prevent further losses,” the publicly-listed company said.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered ABS-CBN to cease its radio and television broadcasts on May 5, 2020, after its congressional franchise expired. ABS-CBN had no choice but to shift to digital, with its news and entertainment channels, including TeleRadyo, available on YouTube, Facebook, and other digital platforms. It also went into content partnerships with Manny Pangilinan’s TV5, Brother Eddie Villanueva’s A2Z, as well as streaming platforms such as Netflix.

Advertising revenues from these platforms, however, have not been enough to sustain ABS-CBN’s news channels. It has another news channel, ABS-CBN News Channel or ANC, which is also shown on cable television aside from digital platforms.

A business deal between ABS-CBN and Pangilinan’s TV5 that was meant to help ABS-CBN financially and improve TV5’s ratings was terminated in September 2022 after SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta and other lawmakers criticized the transaction and vowed to probe the deal.

Joint venture with Romualdez firm

In a separate disclosure, ABS-CBN announced a joint venture with House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s Prime Media Holdings Incorporated (Prime Media), a deal that was approved by its board on Tuesday. 

After the approval of the deal on Tuesday, ABS-CBN and Prime Media will form a joint venture company with an initial capital of P100 million. Prime Media will have a controlling 51% stake in the joint venture with ABS-CBN’s stake at 49%. 

After the joint venture is incorporated, the company will have nine board directors – five from Prime Media and four appointed by ABS-CBN.

“The JVA [Joint Venture Agreement] entered into by Prime Media and ABS-CBN is primarily for the purpose of developing, producing, and financing content, programs, and shows for distribution by other broadcast networks, channels, or platforms, locally and internationally,” ABS-CBN said. 

In its press statement, ABS-CBN said the joint venture with Prime Media would allow it to “find ways to continue providing news to the public.” 

“The new company will produce various programs, which will be supplied to broadcasters and other 3rd party platforms, including Philippine Collective Media Corporation,” ABS-CBN said. 

For its part, Prime Holdings said in its disclosure that the joint venture with ABS-CBN “formalizes the agreement to develop, produce, and finance content, programs, and shows for distribution to local and international networks, channels, and platforms.” 

“This will expand Prime Media’s business segments and provide streams of revenue such as equity investment and share in future projects,” it said. 

Prime Media Holdings is a subsidiary of RYM Management Corporation, a holding company of the Romualdez family.

In July 2021, Prime Media entered into an agreement with Philippine Collective Media Corporation (PCMC), which allowed PCMC’s shareholders to own 70% of Prime Media. A year later, Golden Peregrine Holdings Incorporated, which is 100% owned by PCMC shareholders, acquired PCMC. 

PCMC was founded by Romualdez in 2008. It got a congressional regional franchise in 2009 and began radio and television (local station PRTV) broadcasts in Eastern Visayas. In December 2020, Congress amended its franchise from being regional to national, and included the operation of a digital television system. 

ABS-CBN said on Tuesday that the joint venture with Prime Media may give its TeleRadyo personnel a “chance to find job opportunities,” and is “also a way to continue providing accurate and balanced news and information to the country.”

It may also help address its issues with creditors following the loss of its congressional franchise.

ABS-CBN had a net loss of P2.6 billion in end of 2022, although this was much less than the P5.6 billion net loss in 2021 and P13.5 billion in 2020 due to the loss of advertising revenues from free tv and radio.

The company was forced to lay off most of its 11,000 employees after the House of Representatives resolved not to renew its franchise in July 2020. 

Then-Leyte 1st District representative Romualdez was among those who voted to deny ABS-CBN a new franchise. 

Journalists’ union calls for assistance for affected workers

Media workers, within and outside ABS-CBN, expressed their dismay at the announcement of the pending closure. 

In a statement released on May 23, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expressed its hope that affected media workers would get the assistance they need. They pointed out that these workers “stayed with the company despite uncertainty and pay cuts.”

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

Meanwhile, NUJP ABS-CBN chapter, in a tweet, called on the network’s management to ensure that TeleRadyo staff are not only well-compensated, but are also assisted in looking for employment within or outside the company. – with a report from Ailla dela Cruz/Rappler.com

(Disclosure: The author is a former editor-in-chief of ABS-CBN News, the general news website of ABS-CBN Corp.)

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.