Media and journalism issues

The politics of radio: New station DWPM Radyo 630 is born

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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The politics of radio: New station DWPM Radyo 630 is born

DZMM TeleRadyo Station Manager Marah Capuyan (left) and Anthony M. Te, chairman of Cymac Holdings Incorporated.

Screengrabs from ABS-CBN and Philippine Stock Exchange website

(3rd UPDATE) ABS-CBN returns to free radio more than three years after losing its frequencies and getting its franchise renewal rejected in 2020. DWPM Radyo 630 launches with 'Gising Pilipinas' anchored by ABS-CBN veterans Alvin Elchico and Doris Bigornia.

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MANILA, Philippines – New radio station DWPM Radyo 630, a joint undertaking between ABS-CBN and House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s Prime Media Holdings Incorporated (Prime Media), launched softly on Friday, June 30, a development that will be keenly watched on how this project will fare under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr..

As disclosed last month when ABS-CBN announced the closure of its news channel TeleRadyo due to financial losses, Prime Media has a controlling 51% in a joint venture company, while ABS-CBN owns 49% of the company. In the joint venture, ABS-CBN will provide the content, while Prime Media controls the broadcasting. 

DWPM Radyo 630 TeleRadyo Serbisyo Para sa Mamamayan (TeleRadyo Service For the People) signals ABS-CBN’s return on free radio, more than three years after it lost its free-to-air channels. It is also on ABS-CBN’s cable service, Sky Cable, and other cable subscribers, as well as ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel.

The station opened with the program, Gising Pilipinas, anchored by veteran ABS-CBN reporters Alvin Elchico and Doris Bigornia from 6 am to 7:30 am. They were the former hosts of TeleRadyo’s SRO from 8 pm to 10 pm. Elchico said the new station was still unavailable on YouTube.

In an interview on Thursday, June 29, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairperson Jonathan de Santos welcomed the rise of a new radio station, especially since it will help those displaced by the closure of TeleRadyo. He expressed hope that people running it will be able to assert editorial independence.  

“It’s partially good that there will be one more radio station, one more source of information that will be on the air,” he said on ANC’s Rundown. “But we’re wary also of how the coverage will be, so there will be questions on editorial independence and that sort of thing.”

Traditionally, radio has played an important role in discussing politics, local issues and local news, Jose Bartolome, senior lecturer on broadcast communications at the UP College of Mass Communications, told Rappler.  

He noted that unlike radio, traditional news programs on free TV are scripted, and there’s little or no discussion on issues with the audience. On free TV, many of the public affairs shows that took up national and local issues after the EDSA People Power uprising no longer exist, but not so on radio.

Bartolome said radio has been an important venue for national and local politicians who want to court voters, especially the masses who still depend on this medium for news, information and entertainment such as radio dramas.

For instance, some personalities who have had public service shows on DZMM have gone on to become politicians, including lawyers Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Chiz Escudero. 

The radio exposure of DZMM anchor Noli “Kabayan” de Castro also contributed to his successful campaign for the vice presidency in 2004, although his popularity was mainly from hosting the news program, TV Patrol, and the public affairs show Magandang Gabi Bayan rather than from DZMM. 

Who’s running the show?

On ABS-CBN’s side, the content production for DWPM Radyo 630 is being led by no less than DZMM TeleRadyo’s station manager, Marah Capuyan. She knows the ins and outs of the business, and has been through the station’s ups and downs. She joined DZMM as a production assistant after getting her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of the Philippines Diliman.

She was manager of DZMM’s program and production services department where she supervised executive producers, as well as production and technical assistants. 

In 2007, she was named DZMM TeleRadyo project manager and oversaw its operations. For a long time, she served under Peter Musngi, known as “The Voice” of ABS-CBN. Musngi was vice president of ABS-CBN’s Manila Radio Division, and led the station in its pioneering move to fuse radio with television via DZMM TeleRadyo. Most of the big radio stations have followed suit in merging television with radio after TeleRadyo was launched 16 years ago. 

The choice of Capuyan makes the transition from TeleRadyo to DWPM Radyo 630 easier than if the joint venture had chosen an outsider. A former colleague described her as a “dependable and competent station manager.” Her role is to provide the content for DWPM Radyo 630, with Prime Media handling the distribution.

Capuyan’s leadership is going to be tested as she relates with the representatives of Prime Media, and how she will handle issues and stories about the joint venture’s owner, Romualdez, as well as the administration of the Speaker’s cousin, not to mention their other siblings in other branches of government. When there were sticky political issues that DZMM had to handle, it wasn’t Capuyan who made the calls.

Capuyan did not respond to Rappler’s request for an interview.

Prime Media’s guy

On the part of Prime Media, Rappler learned that Anthony M. Te, a Philippine Stock Exchange Board director, is the one involved in the radio venture. He is now a minority owner of Prime Media via Cymac Holdings Corporation. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management degree from the De La Salle University. He has no experience in managing a radio station, and his only media experience is being a director of Romualdez’s newspaper and website, Manila Standard

However, he does have experience in the telecommunications business when he chaired Mactel Corporation. Te is also chairman of Asian Appraisal Company Incorporated. His profile on this company’s website says Mactel is a “pioneer in mobile telecommunications distribution business.” It’s initial business partners were Globe Telecoms and Islacom, and was one of the major dealers of Smart Communication from 2004 to 2008.

PRIME MEDIA POINT PERSON. Anthony M. Te (Screengrab from the Philippine Stock Exchange website)

Te was elected to the Philippine Stock Exchange Board in 2022, a nominee of Armstrong Securities Incorporated. He is also on the board of two publicly-listed companies: Benguet Corporation and Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation, two companies partly owned by Romualdez’s RYM Business Management Corporation. The Speaker’s eldest son, Andrew Julian, is also a board director of Marcventures. 

“Mr. Te is a licensed soliciting official for Non-Life Insurance with the Philippine Insurance Commission. He previously sat as director in the following companies: AG Finance Incorporated; Balabac Resources and Holdings Company Incorporated; Commonwealth Savings and Loans bank; EBECOM Holdings Incorporated; Equitable PCI Bank; MRC Allied Industries Incorporated; Oriental Petroleum & Minerals Corporation; PAL Holdings Incorporated; PGA Cars Incorporated; and Phoenix Energy Corporation,” his profile on Marcventures Holdings Company’s website reads. 

Te recently joined the board of a leading Philippine construction company, EEI Corporation, after Romualdez’s RYM Business Management Corporation bought a 20% stake in EEI from Yuchengco’s House of Investments.

This June, it was Te who raised a substantial amount of capital for Prime Media’s joint venture with ABS-CBN.

In a disclosure on June 15, 2023, Prime Media said that Angel Maple Properties Incorporated (Angel Maple) would subscribe to 125 million common shares of Prime Media, while Cymac Holdings Corporation would subscribe to 25 million common shares. Angel Maple is a new company registered on April 5, 2023. It is owned 100% by lawyer Jose Raulito Enoy Paras, a senior managing partner at Andres Padernal and Paras Law Office. Like Te, Paras is also a director in Benguet Corporation, the Philippines’ oldest mining company.

These combined subscriptions of Prime Media common shares, at P2.70 per share plus 2.97% premium, amount to P337.5 million for Angel Maple and P67.5 million for Cymac Holdings. The total amount raised is P405 million to be paid in cash before June 30. These investments will reduce RYM Business Management’s stake in Prime Media from 66.1% to 54.5%, while property investment and holding firms Angel Maple (14.7%) and Cymac (2.94%) combined will own roughly 18% of Prime Media.

In a disclosure on Monday, July 3, Prime Media said Angel Maple was “now known as Valiant Conslidated Resources Incorporated,” and that the total amount of P405 million would be paid “on or before 31 July 2023,” instead of end of June as originally agreed to by the parties. 

Te was identified in the disclosure as chairman and president of Cymac Holdings. Other officers of Cymac Holdings are: Lia Marie N. Te, treasurer; Cynthia M. Te; Felix Cesar L. Zerrudo; Cristina A. Glindro; and Blas Gilbert Z. Villaroman. The Tes own 98% of Cymac, with Anthony Te having 64% ownership. Cymac Holdings has the same office address as Asian Appraisal: MTE Building, 2735 Zenaida Street, Makati City.

“Angel Maple Properties Inc. and Cymac Holdings Corporation are property investment and holding companies, who are capable of providing financial and business support to the strategic direction of Prime Media in venturing into the media and entertainment industry. The investment will allow Angel Maple and Cymac to diversify their respective portfolio investments for future capital appreciation,” Prime Media told the bourse.

The new subscriptions, Prime Media said, would generate cash for the following:

  • working capital for Prime Media
  • future investments including, but not limited to, capital contribution to Prime Media’s joint venture with ABS-CBN
  • financial support by way of loan to the Philippine Collective Media Corporation (PCMC)

PCMC is a media organization founded by Romualdez in 2008, and is now a subsidiary of Prime Media. It got its franchise to operate radio and television stations in the Eastern Visayas during the Arroyo administration when the 14th Congress passed Republic Act 9773. On December 21, 2020, the 18th Congress amended PCMC’s franchise from regional to national, allowing it to air beyond Eastern Visayas. PCMC operates the FMR or Favorite Music Radio station, which now has stations all over the country. 

FAST FACTS: Romualdez’s Prime Media Holdings Inc.

FAST FACTS: Romualdez’s Prime Media Holdings Inc.
Prospects for DWPM

What then are the prospects for DWPM Radyo 630 as a radio station? 

On the technical side, it is using the 630 kHz frequency that is bunched with DZBB’s 594 kHz and DZRH 666 kHz in the lower frequency of the AM band, which has stronger reach than in the higher frequency. DWPM Radyo 630 is reportedly being powered by ABS-CBN’s transmitters, which means it should have the same reach as DZMM when ABS-CBN still had this radio frequency. Launched in 1986 after the Lopezes got back their media assets, DZMM was the country’s leading radio station for many years, and competed strongly with Manila Broadcasting Company’s DZRH.

The most important time slot on radio is the early morning block, from 6 am to 9 am. This time slot is the peak of radio listenership in the Philippines, which then declines at noon and gets a slight uptick in the evening. Those who still listen to radio are those in the D and E income classes, such as farmers, kasambahays (house helpers), construction workers, taxi drivers, and commuters in Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs). Most radio listeners are senior citizens who may still have radios at home, or who watch or listen via digital TV channels.

The early morning time slot is the time when advertisers place the most spots on radio. It’s also the most competitive time among the radio stations. A radio station’s strong anchors are often in the early morning shows.

Another edge for DWPM Radyo 630 is the TeleRadyo brand. According to the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2023’s study on the Philippines, ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo and GMA’s Radyo DZBB were the leading radio stations with a 13% share each in weekly use. Among the respondents interviewed in the study, 7% said they listened to TeleRadyo at least three days a week, the same as Radyo DZBB

Manila Broadcasting Company’s DZRH was third with a 10% share, and 5% listened to DZRH at least three days a week. 

Ironically, DWPM’s anchors in the early morning bloc will be up against former DZMM anchors in other radio stations and radio-TV digital channels.

In DZRH, from 4 am to 6 am, there’s Angelo Palmones, a former DZMM station manager and Capuyan's former boss. DZMM's Anthony Taberna and Gerry Baja, who brought their show TeleRadyo show Dos Por Dos to DZRH, are the hosts from 6 am to 8 am. 

In Manny V. Pangilinan's MediaQuest Holding's FM station, Radyo5, which is also on One News PH's digital TV channel, former DZMM anchors Ted Failon and DJ Chacha hold the fort from 6 am to 10 am.

In Aliw Broadcasting Corporation's radio station DWIZ, which got ABS-CBN's old frequency on Channel 23, former DZMM anchors David Oro and Jon Ibañez are the hosts from 6 am to 8 am.  

DZBB, on the other hand, has homegrown GMA anchors, although former TeleRadyo anchor DJ Toni Aquino hosts a popular noon drama show, SumasaPuso, on the Kapuso station. DJ Richards, formerly DZMM graveyard shift anchor, is likewise now with DZBB.

How DWPM Radyo 630 will fare against these radio personalities will depend strongly on whether it can put up a strong lineup, especially in the early morning. It can easily be competitive if it gets no less than former Vice President Noli de Castro, who still has a strong following among the D and E income groups. On Friday, ABS-CBN reporter Joyce Balancio announced that De Castro will have a show, Kabayan, starting 8 am, on DWPM Radyo 630, next week.

After Kabayan, it's Pintig ng Bayan anchored by ABS-CBN's Johnson Manabat and Balancio at 9 am, followed by Bernadette Sembrano and Winnie Cordero. At noon, a 30-minute news program, Headline Balita, is anchored by Tony Velasquez, Johnson Manabat, and Ahwel Paz.

Competition for advertising revenues will be very difficult in the years ahead for all these radio stations, as ad spending for radio has declined significantly, with around 75% of free-to-air ads going to television, and ads and ad campaigns on digital media rising. Making these ventures profitable is now a tall order.

But making money may not be the real reason behind many Philippine radio stations after all. As UP's Bartolome told Rappler, radio's main purpose now is really "political". –

‘Wag kayo bibitiw,’ ABS-CBN show Sakto hosts tell supporters prior to TeleRadyo closure

‘Wag kayo bibitiw,’ ABS-CBN show Sakto hosts tell supporters prior to TeleRadyo closure

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

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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.