A troubled TV network

Orly Mercado

Posted on March 12, 2007

Clinging to a shred of hope

Would you accept a job as chair of the board of directors of a sequestered TV network that is practically on its deathbed? I just did. In the 70s, during the martial law years, the Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC 13) was one of the largest.

Today, it is just a crumbling shell of its former self. The first board meeting I chaired was a depressing experience. The briefing I got confirmed what I suspected all along. The network’s sequestration after the People Power revolution of 1986 has failed. Its assets have dissipated. It is deep in debt, and has serious labor problems. It is mired in legal squabbling. Its ownership is still in question. This is unbelievable after more than twenty years of sequestration. A fine mess I got myself into, I thought to myself.

To be transparent, I disclosed that I have no commercial interests in any TV production ventures. I made it clear that as a policy I will not recommend any co-production ventures or block airtime buyers. My long-time involvement with GMA Channel 7s public service program, “Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko,” is all pro bono. Considering the financial state of Channel 13, I expect this to be no different.

I have no illusions of being the knight in shining armor that will miraculously save the network. I told the board that I may be a realist, but I fancy myself as a fighter. The reality is that Channel 13 has the lowest audience share in the Philipine market. An unbelievable 0.5%! This is not surprising considering that the prime-time hours are airing fillers. A television network worth its transmission should always have something to air during prime time.

To solve the problem, at the instance of Philippine Information Agency Director General Dodie Limcaoco, we approved a programming schedule that would immediately air Filipino movies in our inventory. At least there is something the marketing group can sell.

This is a bandaid solution to the many problems of the network.

In the end, privatization is the way out. But what is there left to sell? IBC 13 is a television station that continues to bleed. The hemorrhage has to be stopped. Drastic cost cutting is long overdue.

When I entered the board room, I found it too chilly. I turned up the thermostat of the air conditioners and proceeded to listen to a report that included details of the millions we owe in electric bills. I do not think they get it yet. At my instance a comprehensive cost-cutting program was to be implemented. I went home wondering if all these were too late. In the many years I have interviewed indigent patients for our public service TV show, I have seen terminal patients who clung to the slightest shred of hope. My meeting reminded me of these patients.

No Comments

Leave a response