TeleRadyo to end 16-year run, ABS-CBN in new venture with Romualdez firm

THREE YEARS after the closure of ABS-CBN broadcast platforms, the network continues to contract its cable programs due to financial losses. On May 23, the company announced that TeleRadyo will cease operations by June 30.

TeleRadyo, formerly known as DZMM TeleRadyo, is a Philippine pay television channel founded in 2007 that broadcasts programs of ABS-CBN’s flagship AM radio stationDZMM 630. Its programs are currently airing on cable TV and ABS-CBN’s online streaming platforms.

Expired Franchise

ABS-CBN’s TV and radio stations went off air on May 5, 2020 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order when the station’s 25-year franchise expired on May 4.

ABS-CBN had applied for renewal of its franchise at the start of the Duterte administration in 2016. The House Committee on Legislative Franchises failed to take it up before the end of 17th Congress. ABS-CBN applied again in 2019. On July 10, 2020, after 12 hearings by the same Committee, its regular and ex-officio members denied the application with an overwhelming 70-11 vote. Before thevote, Duterte kept talking about how he wanted to close down ABS-CBN, and said so in several public speeches.

Since cable channels do not require a franchise, ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) and TeleRadyo continued to air their programs. ABS-CBN also strengthened its online subsidiaries including its websites, social media pages and streaming services.

ABS-CBN and TV5 announced an investment agreement in August 2022, but mutually ended the deal in September after some lawmakers and the NTC questioned the plan’s legality, following the same strategy that denied ABS-CBN’s franchise.

Political Interference

Even in its strained state, the network continued to be hounded by political interference, preventing any possible partnership that could provide opportunities to air its programs. 

In October 2020, ABS-CBN Corporation announced a blocktime agreement with A2Z Channel 11 of ZOE Broadcasting Network founded by religious leader Eddie Villanueva. The agreement included the free TV airing of several programs of ABS-CBN, both analog and digital, including the digital TeleRadyo. But in November 2022, the two parties decided to terminate the licensing agreement after a lawmaker called on the NTC and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to investigate the deal for possible legal issues.

TeleRadyo, which airs on Channel 26 on Sky Cable has 575,000 subscribers on Youtube, 2.7 million followers on Facebook and 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

Business Losses

ABS-CBN explained that the move to close TeleRadyo was to “prevent further business losses” as it “can no longer sustain its operations.” Around 70 employees, mostly TeleRadyo producers, will be laid off by June 29, Philstar.com reported.

ABS-CBN’s statement read, “The company is deeply saddened by this closure and having to part ways with the many passionate and committed people who have made TeleRadyo an important source of news and information for many Filipinos.”

“This is heartbreaking. I’m thinking of my #Teleradyo team today. You all did everything you could — to keep delivering news & information in the face of monumental challenges. Don’t let anyone or anything crush your spirit,” former ABS-CBN news chief Ging Reyes said in a tweet.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) released a statement saying the employees “should not be abandoned now as the network seeks ways forward from the franchise troubles that it has been weathering since 2020.”

NUJP’s ABS-CBN chapter has also called on the broadcast giant’s management to “ensure not only that the TeleRadyo staff are given the commensurate benefits due them but that they are also assisted in looking for employment within or outside ABS-CBN.”

Prime Media

ABS-CBN also announced on the same day the joint venture with Prime Media Holdings owned by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, first cousin of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Romualdez is one of the 70 legislators who voted against the franchise renewal of the media giant.

ABS-CBN said in a statement that the new company will produce several programs on various third party platforms, including the Romualdez-founded Philippine Collective Media Corporation.

“This gives some of our former personnel a chance to find job opportunities. It is also a way to continue providing accurate and balanced news and information to the country,” ABS-CBN added.

Journalists’ groups stay hopeful that ABS-CBN will “remain independent and committed to reporting only the truth,” despite TeleRadyo’s demise.