'Uniqueness of the industry': Why ABS-CBN has program-based employees

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 11:11 PM | Updated as of Jun 30 2020 01:10 AM

ABS-CBN executives- (left to right) former ABS-CBN Corporate Services Group head Mark Nepomuceno, group financial officer Rick Tan, chairman Mark Lopez, president and CEO Carlo Katigbak, chief strategy officer Raymund Miranda, and COO for broadcast Cory Vidanes during the ABS-CBN House of Representatives Franchise renewal hearing at the Batasan Pambansa Session Hall in Quezon City on May 26, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Programs aired by the network stay on air depending on how the audience receives them, which explains why ABS-CBN Corp. has program-based employees, an official of the company told congressmen hearing the broadcast network's application for a new broadcast franchise on Monday.

Cory Vidanes, ABS-CBN's chief operating officer for broadcast, said such category of employment is due to the "uniqueness" of the entertainment industry.

According to Vidanes, employees working behind the cameras, known in the industry as "talents", are not considered regular employees because programs do not stay on air forever.

"I'd like to explain the uniqueness of our industry. There is no program po kasi that stays on the air forever. Palagi pong may simula at katapusan. Nagtatapos po ang programa because of audience engagement. Kung gusto po ng manonood ang programa, nagtatagal po. Kung hindi po 'desirable' 'yung programa, medyo iniiksian po namin," Vidanes explained.

(I'd like to explain the uniqueness of our industry. There is no program that stays on the air forever. There is always a start and an end. A program ends because of audience engagement. When the audience likes a program, it stays on air. But if a program is undesirable, then we cut it short.)

"So, nandoon po nakakabit, kaya po may program employees because they are assigned specific programs, and these programs po do not last on the air forever kaya hindi po sila regular dahil po 'yung programa, ay may simula at katapusan," she added.

(That's where it is based. We have program employees because they are assigned specific programs, and these programs do not last on the air forever. They are not regular employees because programs end.)

Vidanes also explained that being employed as a talent is common in the entertainment industry, and it is also practiced by other companies.

By creating program-based employment, the employees were actually treated better because they have work contracts, security of tenure and benefits.

"I have been in the industry for 37 years. I started as a production assistant po. It's an industry practice, they're called talents. Hindi kami artista, but we work behind the cameras, and everybody knows this. When we move to program employment, it was actually taking care of our people, kasi ngayon po, may mga kontrata na. Noong talent production assistant po ako sa ibang network pa, nung nag-umpisa ako, wala po kaming mga kontrata. Wala po kaming benepisyo," Vidanes explained.

(I have been in the industry for 37 years. I started as a production assistant po. It's an industry practice, they're called talents. Hindi kami artista, but we work behind the cameras, and everybody knows this. When we move to program employment, it was actually taking care of our people, because now we have contracts. When I was a talent production assistant in another network, I didn't have a contract. We didn't have benefits.)

"Yung paggawa po ng program employment ng ABS-CBN ay binigyan ng security of tenure, ng benefits, at saka ng stability 'yung mga nagtatrabaho behind the camera. But it's the uniqueness of the industry po that will not allow us to regularize, everybody in ABS," she added.

(By creating program employment, ABS-CBN gave those working behind the camera security of tenure, benefits and stability. But it's the uniqueness of the industry that will not allow us to regularize, everybody in ABS.)

Earlier in the hearing, Atty. Joji Alonso also explained that the main thrust of ABS-CBN when it first started was to invest in studios and transmitters, thus, they hired people needed to run the facilities.

"What the station did was to invest in studios and transmitters, and they hired the services, or engaged the services of regular employees needed to run the facilities or stations, such as engineers and office employees," she explained.

The production of its own programs was optional and is "not the core function of a company that has been granted a franchise."

"The production of its own content is merely an option. It is incidental and it's not the core function of a company that has been granted a franchise. As a matter of fact, when ABS-CBN began, they licensed content like buying soap operas," Alonso said, adding that the company also sold airtime to blocktimers and entered into co-production agreements.

The programs and content aired on ABS-CBN stay on air depending on the audience engagement and according to Alonso, the market is very competitive.

"The company, ABS-CBN, decided to engage the services of program employees who are assigned to specific programs and who have security of tenure during the duration of the program. There are no regular working hours and it depends totally on the requirements of a program, and when the program ends, they're allowed to enter employment contracts with other companies and the work is output based," Alonso added.

Among the issues discussed during Monday's hearing were alleged labor violations of ABS-CBN.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), however, said the company complied with Philippine labor standards following a routine inspection.

ABS-CBN executives also defended the company's labor compliance record as former employees appeared at the congressional hearing to detail his supposedly illegal firing.